Known for his warm screen presence and sharp critical opinion, American film critic Roger Ebert wasn’t exactly the most lenient journalist, often going toe to toe with his partner and fellow film lover Gene Siskel as they took apart the biggest and best cinematic releases.
Like all expressive critics, it is the bad reviews that fans remember just as much as the good ones, with Ebert having an extensive list of disliked movies that he had condemned to the depths of cinematic popularity.
One famous moment of criticism came in 1997 when Ebert took down the movie Spice World, writing, “The Spice Girls are easier to tell apart than the Mutant Ninja Turtles, but that is small consolation: What can you say about five women whose principal distinguishing characteristic is that they have different names? They occupy ‘Spice World’ as if they were watching it: They’re so detached they can’t even successfully lip-synch their own songs”.
In reviewing such a multitude of middling Hollywood releases, such write-ups are inevitable, with his thoughts on the cheerleading movie Bring it On joining the pile of average American cinema, even if he called it “the Citizen Kane of cheerleader movies,” that boasted, “genuinely talented cheerleaders”.
Starring Kirsten Dunst in a breakthrough performance, the 2000 movie followed a champion high school cheerleading team who must come together to create a brand new routine for the quickly approaching championships. Also featuring Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union, Nicole Bilderback and Clare Kramer, Bring it On became a pertinent cultural success upon its release.
Ebert’s mixed thoughts on the movie weren’t so greatly received by those who worked on the movie, however, with screenwriter Jessica Bendinger recalling how her father reacted to the published review.
“There’s a story there. I’m from Chicago and Roger Ebert was a neighbour of my dad’s and he would see him at the grocery store,” Bendinger stated in an interview with the AP. Continuing, she added: “Apparently after that review, my dad confronted Roger in the Carnival Grocery like, ‘Hey, I’m Jessica’s dad and I really don’t like what you wrote.’ People like to quote the Citizen Kane line but my dad was [mad].”
Revealing later in the interview that the line that makes reference to Orson Welles’ iconic 1941 movie was actually put in after the conversation Bendinger’s dad had with Ebert, the Bring it On director Peyton Reed added, “Maybe your dad got through to him”.
Favouring the films of Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini and Martin Scorsese, Ebert had fine tastes, regularly coming down on subpar comedies such as the 2005 movie The Dukes of Hazzard and 2001s Joe Dirt as he developed a reputation for being one of the harshest, yet fair, movie critics in the industry.
Take a look at the trailer for the 2000 high-school movie that Ebert called “the Citizen Kane of cheerleader movies,” below.