Whip It is a movie for girls -- and not particularly discriminating girls, at that.
A clichéd underdog film about a talented rookie whose ability takes her to the top, this is the PG-13 version of the kind of movie that Hollywood regularly churns out for boys. Because it incorporates a very mild grrl-power theme, it could become something of a phenomenon -- especially because it stars the aggressively adorable Ellen Page and was directed by unbearably adorable Drew Barrymore (who can't resist playing a featured role as just one of the gals).
Which makes it excruciatingly adorable -- indeed, it's right off the adorability charts. Or so it seems to think.
In fact, it's a turgid, predictable and not particularly funny sports tale. The central character -- a small-town Texas teen named Bliss Cavender (Page) -- abandons the path her mother has guided her to on the beauty-pageant circuit in favor of becoming a Roller Derby jammer, with the skate-name of Babe Ruthless.
(The skate names are the only witty element to the whole film: Bloody Holly, Eva Destruction, Iron Maven. After that, the writers apparently went on permanent hiatus.)
Do I even need to mention that the new girl invigorates a losing team, the Hurl Scouts -- and that, when they reach the league finals, the big match is the same night as a major pageant for which Bliss' mother (Marcia Gay Harden) has been grooming her?
I didn't think so. This thing practically writes itself. God knows there was no actual inspiration involved.
The script, by Shauna Cross from her book of the same name (about her own experiences in Roller Derby), might as well have been constructed from the screenwriting equivalent of Legos. It may be her story but the feel is generic and blocky. But then, so is the direction.
Page, as noted, is cute as a button - or perhaps a button factory. I think she's a talented young actor but she's ill-served by Barrymore, whose only directions to Page apparently were shrieks of "Cuter! No, even cuter!"
Calling Whip It competent is meant as faint praise -- and is barely true. The cast includes Harden and Daniel Stern (as Bliss' parents), Kristen Wiig, Eve, Andrew Wilson (a sibling of Luke and Owen), the dreaded Juliette Lewis (cross-eyed and charmless as ever) and Jimmy Fallon, still 100-percent talent-free, as the match announcer.
They all appear to be having a lot of fun -- something any discerning audience will find in drastically short supply. Fortunately for the makers of Whip It, discerning audiences will know better than to venture to the multiplex for this one.
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