The Reel Review
Most of the world’s familiarity with competitive cheerleading is limited to the gleefully fun and silly 2000 Kirsten Dunst comedy, Bring It On. Netflix takes the sport to a serious new level in this docu-series about the athletes at reigning 13-time national champ Navarro College in tiny Corsicana, Texas.
Director Greg Whiteley (Last Chance U) blends world class athleticism with all the tryout drama of A Chorus Line in his six episode series, where only 20 of the 40 teammates will “make mat” and get to compete for the national title in Daytona Beach, Florida. And while it is fascinating to learn about the intricacies of bases, tumblers, flyers and top girls, it is the personal stories of coach Monica Aldama (who bears a striking resemblance to entertainer Sheryl Crow) and her cheerleaders that gives this story such tremendous heart. The heart-wrenching, broken home profiles of some of the kids in particular, will make you cry – not just a few tears, but the noisy, can’t see due to all your sobbing, sort of ugly crying.
The adulation these kids have for their beloved coach and mentor is truly awe-inspiring. Once you are halfway into that second episode, prepare yourself for the full six hour binge as you fall in love with this masterfully-crafted, rousing story that culminates in an adrenaline-pumping, nail-biting finale.
• Navarro College’s main rival in their Division III competitive cheerleading division is Trinity Valley Community College, located just 37 miles away, in Athens, Texas.
• While fortunately relatively low, more than in any other sport, competitive cheerleading accounts for the majority of catastrophic neck and spinal injuries among females athletes, although male cheerleaders experience more frequent injuries associated with strenuous catches and lifts.
• Director Greg Whiteley found some impressively creative, seamless ways to capture the big season finale when powerful event owner Varsity Brands (recently acquired by Bain Capital) denied his crew access to film at the national cheerleading championships.