Followers of the North Carolina film scene (and its diaspora) should note that the current teen-cheerleader comedy Bring It On is the first big-screen feature by Peyton Reed, a Raleigh native, now resident in Los Angeles, who's directed videos by The Connells and others.
Just over a decade ago at the Rialto in Raleigh, I programmed a mini-festival titled "Four Young North Carolina Filmmakers." Reed's "Almost Beat" was among the films in the program, and it survives in my mind as one of the funniest and most sharply mounted shorts I've ever seen.
Though in a much bigger and more mainstream setting, that film's wit and craft are plentifully apparent in Bring It On. The film's script, by former Spin writer Jessica Bendinger, never quite manages to infuse its teen-and-sports-movie formulas with the Clueless-style satire that its opening scenes promise, but Reed gives the whole a sunny comic flavor and momentum that steadily builds, to the point that the movie's climactic scenes are as engaging and satisfying as anyone could wish. He also gets spirited performances out of a cast that's led by gutsy, ever-appealing Kirsten Dunst.
Bring It On earned over $17 million in its first three days, setting an box-office record for the weekend before Labor Day. That's an accolade that will look just right on Peyton Reed's mantelpiece.