Emma Wilson (Kelli Berglund) is a cute, cocky, high school cheerleader and Air Force brat who has “already learned how to say ‘good-bye’ in six languages.”
That’s what military families face as a way of life — constantly moving, endless transfers to new bases. Dad (Terry Jones) is transferred from California to Australia, which Emma’s inner voice screams about.
“Tell him you have friends here, a life!”
Nothing for it, then, but to bite your lip and accept it. We also serve who cheer and “have a life.”
And there are worse places to land than Australia. I mean, they have cheerleaders Down Under, too.
“We’re just as INTO as you Yanks,” her new neighbor Hannah (Emily Morris) warns her.
We’ll soon see about that.
“Going for Gold” is one of those bland, generally benign teen comedies pop music montages, smiles and fresh-faced cheerleaders pumping fists and throwing down.
Ex-gymnast Emma hangs with Hannah and her shrinking gymnastics team, watching them show off how athletic, confident and competent they are.
“You guys want to see my routine?”
That leads to the girls joining in and experiencing the joys of tumbling, dancing in line, lifts and shaking your groove thing. And when events conspire — the arbitrary nature of gymnastics judging — to get the gymnastics team disqualified for the season, “Hey, I just got this really crazy idea.”
They haven’t even set up shop when Emma discovers the joys of “footie,” Australian Rules Football and they find their arch rivals — ACC — Adelaide Cheer Squad, aka Mean Girls Cheer.
Truthfully, the cheering/tumbling in this little “Bring It On Lite” is half-speed lame.
So is the “recruit the squad” sequence, beginning with Liam, the footballer who can do backflips. Hip hop dancer, belly dancer?
“Are you guys good?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“Congratulations! You just got great!”
And then there’s fund-raising…
The banter is mild-mannered and cute, the frictions and interpersonal dynamics oh-so-PG. The obstacles? Emma’s reluctance to make new friends, what with her Dad always ready to grab that next promotion and transfer.
New team member Ethan would turn Emma into a “smitten little kitten,” if it wasn’t for that next move hanging over her head.
“Blandness” is what hangs over this mild-mannered Big Contest comedy, bland characters, blase villains, bland situations, friction-free at every turn.
When Coach (Ruth Natalie Fallon) says “The last thing we need is internal drama!” she’s dead wrong. The whitest teen comedy since “The Breakfast Club” could use a little — a LOT — of drama, internal or external.
The jokes — “Coach was on a famous gymnastics team, back in, World War II, was it?” She has the manners of an emu” and the like — wilt.
There’ve been a number of “Bring it On” imitations since that iconic hit came out in 2000, but it behooves the writer-director-choreographer and casting director to at least refer back to the Kirsten/Gabrielle cheer-off when making a copy.
The cheerleading’s got to be eye-popping, pushing the envelope. The conflict has to be grounded in reality — not necessarily the class-race schism that underlies “Bring it On,” but something with some edge.
Writer-director Clay Glen has a couple of teen gymnastics pics (“The 2nd Chance,” “Raising the Bar” under his belt, so there’s no excuse for not “raising the bar” on the cheer routines. A hint of belly dancing is about as sexy as things get here, and everything plays like a walk-through rehearsal.
The leads are cute but light on screen charisma, with zero chemistry with each other. The finale is a real eye-roller. Harmless enough, but engrossing? Nah.
It all adds up to “Netflixable? Not so much.”
MPAA Rating: G
Cast: Kelly Berglund, Emily Morris, Terry Rogers, Ruth Natalie Fallon, Daisy Anderson
Credits: Written and directed by Clay Glen. A Marvista/Netflix release.
Running time: 1:28