I have having a discussion with fellow critics recently about movies (what else) and I went on about one of the main contradictions in my cinephilia: how I can equally appreciate a testosterone- fueled action movie and a total chick flick. This got me thinking about why I identify with female protagonists, especially young ones – older women tend to get bitter and all. No, what gets me is the naïve, idealistic girly girl viewpoint, Traveling Pants-style. Or, in the case that concerns us now, “Stick It”.
Well, I didn’t connect that much with “Stick It”, and I don’t really think it’s a great movie (it’s not). But there’s something in there that I do respond to. Now some are gonna assume that it’s the teenagers’ bodies that work me up, but you got it all wrong! Okay, Montreal-born starlets Missy Peregrym and Vanessa Lengies are hot (plus they’re both in their twenties anyway), but it’s their characters and the way they interact that I’m talking about. It might not have anything to do with real life, but this screenwriter’s version of how girls are alternately bitchy and touchy-feely is entertaining to me.
“Stick It” was written and directed by Jessica Bendinger, who previously penned “Bring It On”, that guily pleasure of guilty pleasures which managed to make cheerleaders seem cool. Bendinger now attempts to do the same with gymnasts, to relative success. The film definitely makes you understand how much discipline and physical prowess this sport requires, while also suggesting that the girls who practice it can be badass. Peregrym plays Haley Graham, a juvenile delinquent who’s sentenced by a judge to return to the world of competitive gymnastics she abandoned years ago. Her rebellious character collides with the strict methods of coach Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges), but they eventually learn to respect each other and work together, yada yada yada.
Clichés abound, both from sports flicks and teen movies, but Bendinger keeps the snappy dialogue flowing and shows surprising skill behind the camera, putting much emphasis on color, composition and various visual effects of kaleidoscopic superimposition that recall the music videos of Michel Gondry. Indeed, music plays a huge part in the picture, as punk rock, hip hop and electro-pop alternate in giving rhythm to the gymnastics scenes. The aforementioned starlets move well, but their acting isn’t all that. No Kirsten Dunst or Eliza Dushku here! This makes the presence of The Dude all the more welcomed, even though his role is a stereotype.
Hence, while I like to watch sweaty, muscular men having a knife fight, I can also get it on with girls who wish they could have control over their sport instead of those damn judges so they pull out their bra straps and — what point was I trying to make already? Um… “Stick It” ain’t particularly good, but if you share its sensibility you will easily forgive its shortcomings.