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Whip It (Rated Rated PG-13)

Whip It
C
 

“It's "Footloose" at the roller derby.”

-Richard Roeper

Whip It Review

Whip It

(PG-13)

Summary: In Bodeen, Texas, an indie-rock loving misfit finds a way of dealing with her small-town misery after she discovers a roller derby league in nearby Austin.

Genre:
Comedy, Drama

Director:
Drew Barrymore

Cast:
Sarah Habel, Shannon Eagen

The problem with "Whip It' is it's too damn cuddly and cute.

Directed by the adorable Drew Barrymore and starring the teeny-tiny-even-more-adorable Ellen Page, "Whip It" has the outer layer of an indie girl-power movie, but it's really just "Footloose" goes to the roller derby, with the same tired story about the teenager who yearns to break free of the mold her parents have created for her.

[What follows is a bit of a spoiler alert. If you don't want to know about plot developments you'll be able to guess 10 minutes into the movie anyway, go ahead and skip a few paragraphs please. Just go to the next parenthetical entry.]


You know that scene in the movies where the parent is shocked to find out the teenager has been secretly dancing/playing football/taking karate lessons/whatever? We have that scene here.

And then you know the inevitable follow-up scene, where the disapproving parent slips in while the Big Event is in progress, and is stunned and eventually thrilled to see the teenager thriving because this is the one thing he/she REALLY loves? Yeah, we might have that scene here too.

{There! You made it!}

Anyway. Page, playing the same smart, likable, adorable type she's played in three or four other films, is Bliss Cavendar, who lives in a tiny town outside Austin, Texas. Her mother Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden in a wonderful turn) is a former pageant queen who now works for the postal service and is living vicariously through her two daughters, who apparently are forced to enter every sash-and-crown competition in the state, from Miss Bluebonnet to Little Miss Texas.

Predictably, Bliss hates the pageant circuit. But when she stumbles upon the world of the all-chick roller derby circuit, something in her awakens. She was born to skate and jam!

Before you can say, "Move that plot along, baby!" Bliss is the newest sensation on the "Hurl Scouts," the perennial last-place team in the six-team league. She's been renamed "Babe Ruthless," and she's out there banging elbows with the likes of "Smashlee Simpson" (Barrymore) "Eva Destruction" (Ari Graynor) and the evil "Iron Maven" (Juliette Lewis), who doesn't take kindly to this young whippersnapper stealing her glory.

Even though the film acknowledges Page's petite frame, it's a stretch to believe this girl would last 90 seconds with bruising roller girls. Then again, neither Barrymore nor Lewis comes across as the least bit tough, either. Barrymore is working from a script by Shauna Cross, who's adapting her own novel, so there's a lot of estrogen behind the camera and on screen, and it's nice to see a coming-of-age movie where the boys are relegated to comedic relief, second-tier roles. (Daniel Stern is excellent as Bliss's pushover father, but Jimmy Fallon scores very few laughs as the announcer at the rink. There's also some dude playing a singer who has a romance with Bliss. He's instantly forgettable.)

It's too bad the movie's so...soft. I'm not even sure why it's rated PG-13, as it plays like a PG film, with just some kissing-in-their-underwear stuff, a bit of language and mild violence on the rink. Roller derby ain't much of a sport, which is more than a small problem. We get endless shots of the girls whipping around the track as Fallon explains, time and again, the rules of the game. Basically, the chick with the star on her helmet gets points by passing members of the opposing team. This hardly puts "Whip It" on the same turf as "Breaking Away" (Daniel Stern reference!) or "Hoosiers" or any number of superior teen-sports stories.

 The film is at is strongest when depicting the mother--daughter relationship. You can't help but choke up when Brooke comforts Bliss after her daughter has suffered a heartbreak, or when Brooke reads the speech Bliss was going to give about the person she most admires in the world.

But when the roller girls yell "Food fight!", when the villain confronts the heroine, when we get the obligatory musical interlude as the younger lovers frolic, "Whip It" feels like a compilation of a dozen movies we've already seen.
COMMENTS(1)
 
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Amisha said on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 5:30:42 PM
I'm glad you've given the film a good review.I've read the book (Nick Hornby auothr of High Fidelity, About A Boy) and seen the original film make starring Colin Firth, so I want to see it and compare. My only concern is the departure from the original Football (Soccer) theme to Baseball I'm just biased being a Brit football fan! Then again with there already being an original film made, maybe a change to another sport was needed?Anyway I'll now look forward to it's release here in the UK.

 
 
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