Wednesday, October 22, 2008

[TIFFCOM 2008 Review] Cheer Cheer Cheer! (フレフレ少女)

We Did It!

Cheer Cheer Cheer! is your typical zero to hero student based movie, as the formula never ceases to churn out stories but under different student groups. My personal favourites to date have been Swing Girls and Waterboys, and although Cheer Cheer Cheer! has much of the formula applied, it still falls short of becoming great.

Momoko Momoyama (Yui Aragaki) is a romance novel buff, and one day she got hit by a baseball thrown by star player Hideki Oshima, who's also the school heartthrob. Infatuated with him, she starts to try out for the school baseball team, and the cheerleading team to cheer the baseball players on, but unfortunately just sucks at both. Undeterred, she befriends Ryutaro (Kento Nagayama) and becomes one of two members of the traditional cheer squad in the school. Mind you this is no pom-pom girls with short skirts twirling batons. I too wasn't aware that such a curricular activity exists until this movie opened my eyes to it.

It involves some really structured shouting of slogans, foot drills, drum beats and flag waving, where booming voice is required to inspire fellow cheer members, and extended members made up of the general school population. The band of five have an arsenal of cheers to choose from, which sometimes involves very specific invocation of appropriate cheers that seem to incorporate some of the unorthodox such as the powers of Heaven, Earth and Heart.

So formula dictates that both Ryutaro and Momoko have to round up the misfits and outcast and convince them of the virtues of devoting time to their cause in a recruitment drive, before realizing that they indeed are ill-prepared for the challenge ahead. At this stage you can insert as many stereotypical jokes of geeks in school being bullied by the alpha-counterparts. The makeshift team once assembled, can't cheer to save their own lives, and get external help comes in the form of alumni cheer squad members who don't want the latest edition of the cheer squad to ruin the art, and thus enlist them in a boot camp at a beach temple, much to the school children's dislike.

While there are comedic scenes to pepper the montage of training sequences, and fun analogies on tradition and rationale behind such an activity, it does get a little too repetitive, and especially struggling through since this aspect forms the bulk of the movie, before devoting approximately 30 minutes for the finale. These long training scenes sagged the middle portion, which treaded on aspects such as walking the talk, and to find true meaning in the role they are about to perform. It's the usual building of the team spirit, and you somehow just can't wait for them to graduate so that they can show off their new found confidence and skills.

The choreographed cheer of the Sakuragi school is indeed something to behold, but there seemed to be a distinct lack of fresh ideas, thus lapsing quite frequently into things we've already seen before. The individual actors' charisma also helped to ensure that one-dimensional characters are quickly addressed, and each of the actors bring something different to the table in their respective roles. Don't expect anything special to be conjured, though the trailer did make it look as if there would be some street-fighter syled special effects that will be incorporated into the fight.

If anything, this film is recommended to those who are new to the zero-to-hero genre and storyline, or those who don't mind spending time watching the tried and tested, with little adventure outside the genre's comfort zone.

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