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Whip It (2009)

July 7, 2010

5/10 Broken Records

Wasn’t expecting much, didn’t get much back in return.

Whip It is about a meek girl from Bumfunk, Texas who spends her days getting walked all over at school, work and home as she enters one beauty pageant after another at the stern encouragement of her mother despite her complete lack of interest in the “sport”. Then one day she walks into the Southern version of Hot Topic, she spots a flyer for a local roller derby, she tries out for the team, makes the team and discovers a skill and passion for it that she never knew existed. She hides it from her parents since they totally wouldn’t approve, she meets a boy, and she hip checks chicks left and right while gaining a confidence of most epic proportions.

It’s the directorial debut by Drew Barrymore – which is neat, I guess – and while she ain’t half bad behind the camera, I can’t kick the feeling that I’ve seen this movie before…like, thirty times before.

With the exception of the whole roller derby thing, everything about this movie has already been done to the point of exhaustion. It’s Rudy, it’s Rocky, it’s The Karate Kid, it’s every coming-of-age-despite-the-odds movie you loved growing up and by the time you finish watching the trailer, you know exactly how it’s gonna play out. And the worst part about it? The roller derby stuff is actually kinda lame.

Yeah, it’s nice to see our girl Bliss go from pipsqueak to Babe Ruthless and I’m pretty sure the desired effect was for me to be able to dig the whole roller derby thing right alongside her, but all it did was remind me how boring and unentertaining the sport is to begin with. Double leg whips? Nope, not cool. Jumping over chicks on roller skates? Yup, I can do that. Girls with hemorrhaging nosebleeds? SO HOT.

While the concept of catfights on rollerskates definitely sounds like the coolest thing right behind naked catfights on rollerskates, it’s actually pretty tame and slow thanks to some lackluster choreography and poor buildup during the one thing that should set this movie apart. Then again, I don’t really know how you make something like roller derby look cool, maybe turn it into a life-and-death competition like in Rollerball, but something tells me that this ancient mystery may never be truly solved.

But the script isn’t exactly helping matters either.

The dialogue goes from painfully unspectacular to eye-rollingly corny, and while this here picture’s got girl power to spare, I think I would have cared a little more if the characters and the stuff they had to say wasn’t so blah. Although it does touch upon that universal desire to have our parents be proud of us even if it’s not what they had in mind or even if they don’t quite understand what the big deal is, and those parts are good. But since those scenes only roll around towards the last half hour, the pros don’t outweigh the cons. Just felt sloppy in a lot of ways, doesn’t have a very good sense of humor either.

The cast isn’t too bad though.

The great Ellen Page is fits the bill as Bliss even though she doesn’t have a whole lot to work with, Marcia Gay Harden is good as her mom, Maeby from Arrested Development is fine as her best friend, Pash, and Daniel Stern (the wet bandit himself) is arguably the best of the bunch as her dad. Most of the best scenes this movie has to offer all include him and it’s just one more example of how there isn’t enough Daniel Stern in the world anymore.

Look, Whip It does have a good message that I’m all about and it also has some decent performances to back it all up, but other than that, it’s just kinda…there. For a moment there towards the end when everything finally comes to a head (shocker), this was bordering on a 6, but since I’ve had it up to here with unoriginality in movies these days, a 5 is where it stays. Sorry to all you biker gals in the crowd, it just wasn’t my thing.

Please don’t kick my ass.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2010 12:14 am

    I actually dug this movie. Yes, it’s like a lot of movies we’ve seen but I think it was different enough that I could get behind it. The whole family dynamic and the setting in small town Texas differentiated it enough for me that I thought it was enough of its own thing.

    Also, I just really enjoyed these odd characters more than anything else. It was fun to hang out with them and I thought the film was a total blast.

    • July 8, 2010 10:56 am

      Yeah, the Hurl Scouts were a fun bunch and Drew Barrymore was actually the most entertaining of ’em all. But I don’t know, man, couldn’t shake that feeling of deja vu. Can still understand why people dig it though.

  2. nothatwasacompliment permalink
    July 7, 2010 9:45 am

    i described it as “It’s like if you put Hoosiers and Coyote Ugly into a blender, then poured the resulting combination over Days of Thunder” in my review of it, but i enjoyed it more than you did i guess. gave it a 7.6.

    i had a fun time watching it, plus i’ll watch ellen page in pretty much anything.

    i will say that my least favorite aspect of it was the needless romance. i know it’s required in movies like this, but it slowed things down too much and never really felt authentic.

    • July 7, 2010 9:53 am

      Totally agree on the romance thing. That didn’t need to be there, just made the movie longer.

  3. July 8, 2010 10:35 am

    Been wanting to see this (getting close to the top of my queue) but a 5 huh? Funny, I was expecting as much but still interested in giving it a look. Good to hear Stern pulling some weight. He was one of the best parts of Otis too by the way.

    I think its tough for Page to shed that “Juno” shroud, but I’m looking forward to see how she fares in Inception.

    Oh and having dated a Roller Derby chick for a whole season, I have to say that the sport is no joke;)

    • July 8, 2010 10:41 am

      Wow, bet you have some good stories from that relationship.

      Agree with you on the whole Page/Juno thing, but since she was so damn good in that, she will continue to kick ass. Looking forward to her in Inception, too. Looking forward to everything about Inception actually.

      Also feel like I’m in the minority with this one. Seems like a lot of folks dug it, just wasn’t my thing I guess.

  4. July 8, 2010 11:45 am

    Marcia Gay Harden has such a knack for doing a whole lot with stock supporting parts.

    • July 8, 2010 12:04 pm

      She most definitely does. Need to see more stuff from her. Only thing I’m remembering is Pollock, and she was solid in that.

      • July 9, 2010 1:42 am

        And Mystic River. The only Eastwood film I wholeheartedly loved and she’s pretty top notch in that.

      • July 9, 2010 8:35 am

        Geez, completely forgot she was in that. Looks like it’s time to revisit Mystic River.

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