Cast: Jeff Bridges, Missy Peregrym, Vanessa Lengies
Director: Jessica Bendinger
SUNY Purchase '05
"I don't compromise my values and I don't compromise my work. I won't give in." -Michael Moore
Review By: Rocco Passafuime
Typical studio movies work well enough based on either of two main factors. Either the movie has to really win you over with what it achieves technically with a believable plot, realism, or plausibility or it has to win you over by its characters, intent, overall message and spirit. The latter is definitely applied more in the case of the sports comedy/drama Stick It.
The movie deals with a rebellious young teen named Haley Graham (played by Missy Peregrym in her film debut). After her skater-punk-style hijinks with her male friends get her into several petty scrapes with the law, she is forced to pay restitution through winning a championship purse being trained at a gymnastics academy.
At first, Haley is a total outcast in the academy due to her deeply cynical, detached attitude as well as her reputation as a promising gymnast who walked out on her teammates during a championship two weeks ago. Trained under former gymnast Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges), who's injuries forced him out of the sport, Haley struggles to regain her form as she must contend with teammates who don't think highly of her (Nikki Soohoo, Maddy Curley), including a nasty, glory-obsessed rival (Vanessa Lengies).
It's later learned that her seemingly angst-ridden, out-of-control nature stemmed from her mother (Gia Carides) having an affair with her former trainer (John Kapelos), which led to divorce. Through Vick's training and good-natured encouragement, Haley soon overcomes her emotional scars. She uses her individualistic personality to inspire her teammates and even the coach that there is more to good gymnastics and really being a winner than painstaking, formulaic perfection.
Coming off the success of her sports comedy/drama Bring It On, writer and director Jessica Bendinger attempts to rewrite the prior film's mix of good-natured comedy and compassionate atmosphere for its characters into the sport of gymnastics.
Where this movie will fail with a lot of movie purists is the implausibility of some of the story, running the gamut from training in gymnastics as a form of discipline and the team messing up on purpose as a means of achieving their championship and personal goals, encouraging their competition to do the same.
The film also suffers from the typical flaws of a mainstream Hollywood film directed at a young audience. The first is a fun, but seemingly random soundtrack of pop and rock music. The second is a dazzling old-school-hip-hop-styled animated intro that totally doesn't jibe with the film. The third is pointless editing gimmicks such as speed-ups, kaleidoscopes, and slow-motion a la MTV music videos that has become the cliché of the modern day teen movie. The fourth is a now-rather tired and formulaic story that's been done to death now in teen movies, especially by the low-quality, straight-to-video Bring It On sequels alone.
However, this very flawed film does offer reason to be well-liked with the average movie viewer on
Particular praise goes to Missy Peregrym, who manages to portray a character that is rebellious and cynically sarcastic, yet often really playfully funny and good-natured. The fellow gymnasts are filled with charisma and likeability, but special kudos goes to Vanessa Lengies, who infuses a believable evolution in her character as she morphs from vindictive to sweet. Though veteran dynamo actor Jeff Bridges, at first, seems to be in the wrong environment with a mostly teen cast, his trainer character is firm, yet equally genuine and sympathetic that you find yourself rooting along for him as well.
The second thing that saves this film is its intended message. The first one being that accomplishments are not measured by how much you win and the second being that talent comes out more the less you stick to safe formulas.
This is particularly highlighted in the finale at the championships where the audience find themselves strongly sympathetic with the girls as the highly traditionalist judges downplay the merit of their dazzling and exciting routines for their unpredictability.
The DVD's picture and sound quality are nearly flawless and it contains a lot of special features. There's a blooper and outtake reel and deleted scenes that were thankfully so for a reason. Of interest, particularly to gymnastics enthusiasts, there's several featurettes, one on the professional gymnasts used as stunt doubles, another that show complete routines performed by the world's top gymnasts, and the third on three slow-motion uneven bar routines from the film.
There are also commentaries for a good chunk of the special features. There are two commentaries alone for the main film, one with director Bendinger and actors Peregrym and Lengies, who talk about the acting and creative aspect of the film. The other reflects the more technical process of making the film with Bendinger, director-of-photography Daryn Okada and editor Troy Takaki. Rounding off are two great music videos of underrated singles from the Stick-It soundtrack, including Jeannie Ortega's "Crowded"Â and the wild and eye-popping "We Run This"Â from Missy Elliott. The "directors and actors"Â commentary I particularly found a highlight as they were all in high-spirits and seemed to really enjoy making the movie as I did viewing it.
In the end, while the film's highly formulaic and occasionally implausible plot makes it of little worth to serious film buffs, the movie's great characters, great acting performances, and overall good-natured intent and funniness make it a good rental or purchase for the film's target audience, as well as fans of gymnastics and female-dominated sports films.
Movie Grade: B-
DVD Grade: A-
Overall Grade: B