Lifetime Film Review: Undercover Cheerleader (dir by Danny J. Boyle)

Autumn (Kayla Wallace) has just transferred to a new high school and she has a decision to make.  At her old school, Autumn was the star of the dance team but it turns out that this new school doesn’t have a dance program.  Instead, it appears that Autumn is going to have to settle for either becoming a cheerleader or working on the school paper.

It’s a difficult decision and it was one to which I could automatically relate.  When I was in high school, I was constantly told that I should follow in my sister’s footsteps and try out for cheerleader.  I was also told that, with my big vocabulary and love of gratuitous sarcasm, I would be a natural for the school paper.  Myself, I didn’t want to be a cheerleader because I wanted to establish my own identity as opposed to just following in my sister’s footsteps.  At the same time, I didn’t want to join the paper because, as much as I love to write, I hate being edited.  I ultimately decided to do neither.  However, Autumn apparently has a bit more initiative than I did at that age because she decides to do both!

That’s right.  Autumn is going to try out for the squad and then she’s going to write anonymous articles about her experience for the newspaper!  She’s going to be an …. UNDERCOVER CHEERLEADER!

Autumn makes the squad and, not surprisingly, she discovers that there’s a lot to write about.  For instance, it turns out that that high school’s cheerleading coach is kind of a fascist who forces the cheerleaders to eat laxatives and who takes an immediate and irrational dislike to the only black girl on the squad.  The coach is also obsessed with controlling every aspect of her cheerleaders’s lives and it’s obvious that she’s less concerned with their well-being than she is with winning another championship.  She even forces one cheerleader to seriously injure herself for no apparent reason.

When Autumn’s first article comes out, the entire school is like, “Ewwwww!  Laxatives!?”  Everyone on the squad is trying to figure out who wrote the article.  Why they didn’t automatically suspect Autumn, who they already know is friends with the paper’s editor, I’m not sure.  While the article does get the coach in trouble, it also leads to a cheerleader power struggle and ultimately a murder.  This is a Lifetime movie, after all.

A lot happens in Undercover Cheerleader.  In fact, you could probably argue that too much happens in the movie.  It takes forever to get to that murder, which is unusual for a Lifetime film.  But no matter!  Undercover Cheerleader is a well-acted film and one that even has a few unexpected moments of wit.  Autumn is an interesting character because, even as she writing articles about how much it sucks to be a cheerleader, she’s also discovering that she likes the other members of the squad.  Kayla Wallace does a great job of capturing Autumn’s conflicted emotions about her assignment and she’s well-matched by Maddie Phillips and Ryan Grantham, who play two cynical student journalists.

If you’re a fan of Lifetime films, you should enjoy Undercover Cheerleader.