U.S. Release Date:
April 28, 2006
Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: Jessica Bendinger
Writer: Jessica Bendinger
Producer: Gary Barber (executive), Roger Birnbaum (executive), Jonathan Glickman (executive), Gail Lyon
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Missy Peregrym, Kellan Lutz
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (some crude remarks)
The less-than-perfect-ten girls' gymnastics movie, Stick It, written and directed by Jessica Bendinger, is just as fun and spunky as Bendinger's cheerleading picture, Bring It On. Easing up on the god-awful hip-hop recordings, adding a tomboy and a pair of goofy guys for laughs—and Jeff Bridges as the girls' coach—Bendinger scores again.
California skateboarding opens this music video-style picture with killer stunts from a group of boys, one of whom turns out to be a girl—scruffy Haley (Missy Peregrym), a rebellious child of divorce who used to be a top gymnast but up and quit, abandoning her team during the championship for some mysterious reason. When she's busted for skateboarding, Haley is sent by her dad to train at Mr. Bridges' gymnastics boot camp, where Coach simply asks that no blood be shed on the equipment.
It's like that in this communist-red training facility in the middle of Texas, and Bendinger captures a cloistered subculture of girls' gymnastics nicely, proving that the girls can twist, tumble and turn in the most incredible feats as good as the boys—in fast cuts with pop music blaring—with stage parents who make Little League look like preschool. With Mr. Bridges playing a pro-discipline coach, who is also an ex-gymnast, the focus is on four girls: hot doggin' Haley, stuck-up Joanne and two younger ones—Mina and Wei-Wei—trying to decide which female athlete to emulate.
Amid the drive to the high-stakes championship, the girls chalk it up—on the balance beam, floor, trampoline, uneven parallel bars—but no one should expect a proper introduction to this fascinating sport. A mixed plot and theme about breaking rules does not get in the way of the movie's bubbly approach.
Haley's skateboarding buddies—two boys named Frank and Poot—end up cheering her on in her new endeavor and the duo get the best laughs as they stray like clueless Bill and Ted into the ultimate catfight between pretty-in-pink Joanne and swaggering, androgynous Haley.
The competition is fierce as the girls head to the big meet. Never mind that Stick It is stuck on a point about arbitrary scoring—choosing the wrong place and time and tossing in famous gymnast cameos—and it takes a while to warm up and too long to wrap it up. Watch for the skilled moves and a lively cast—especially Peregrym, Mr. Bridges and, too briefly, Polly Holliday (Alice, Gremlins) as a judge—who hit the marks in a sporty little picture.
The zippy Stick It is stocked with cast and crew commentaries, eight deleted scenes—one reveals that Haley's arresting officer is Poot's mom—and assorted outtakes. Like most DVD features, these were obviously shot in conjunction with the movie, so the bloopers come off more staged than spontaneous.
The single disc extras are so-so, with loud rap and hip-hop music blasting over clips that blow by faster than a flip-flop. But the movie holds together a second time, especially for gymnastics fans. The highlight of the DVD is a compilation of full routines by the picture's real gymnasts, including three uneven bar scenes in slow motion.
Writer and director Bendinger has an eye for athletic ability, an ear for sassy dialog and a knack for tapping an optimistic note for wayward youths. Despite her bellyaching about exposition—less is more, Bendinger says, but that assumes less is enough—Stick It sticks best when it takes a breath between meets.
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