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Overall Rating
2.83

Awesome: 18.42%
Worth A Look: 18.42%
Average: 11.84%
Pretty Bad30.26%
Total Crap: 21.05%

8 reviews, 28 user ratings


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Stick It
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by Todd LaPlace

"“It’s not called gym-nice-tics.” Genius."
4 stars

I know what you’re thinking: “Wait? What? Is that star rating a typo or something? Are you really calling “Stick It” good? The movie with the gymnasts? The ones that say lines like ‘It’s not called gym-nice-tics’? Are you on drugs?” Fear not, my faithful readers, because I would not lead you down the wrong path. Yes, “Stick It,” the movie about the gymnasts, really is that good.

I actually saw a piece on Jessica Bendinger’s “Stick It” where lead gymnast Haley is called a “tough cookie.” Under normal circumstances, I would challenge that softball lob because it’s only a description that your great aunt Erma would use, but in this instance, it may be the best sketch of the largely 2-D lead. Okay, so Haley (Missy Peregrym) is basically rebel-lite, with her Ramones T-shirts and G-rated sass, but she’s a little more hardcore than Jessica Bendinger’s last stab at the rebel princess, Eliza Dushku’s Missy from “Bring It On.” While Missy would have been donning black nail polish, Haley would have been covering her backpack in the anarchy A; neither technically terrifying, rebellious or truly original, but punk enough to slide by until the next attitude adjustment.

And that’s all Haley really needs; a massive court-ordered attitude adjustment. Crashing through a new window at a model home on her BMX, Haley is offered two alternatives to a stint in juvie, a rough and tough boot camp or VGA, AKA one of the most prestigious gymnast training facilities in the country. She chooses the army. The court chooses leotards. The facility’s director, Bert Vickerman (Jeff Bridges), is a known hardass, who’s reputed to produce more injuries than athletes. Wanna guess what’s going to happen to Haley? Wanna guess whose icy persona will melt by the film’s end?

There are certain expectations when entering a movie like “Stick It,” especially when it’s clear within the first few minutes that it’s a cookie-cutter copy of the director’s previous flick, which actually means your love (or lack thereof) for this film is entirely dependent on your feelings toward Kirsten Dunst. When Haley first appears hidden underneath an oversized hoodie, we know she’ll show up the boys, and then unveil herself as a tough chick. We know Haley will face some kind of obstacles in her pursuit of freedom, at least one of which will be her own personal demons resisting her return to her past disgrace. Haley is a former phenom who inexplicably walked away during the World Championships, costing her teammates the gold, so she obviously walks in with more than a few enemies. That’s why we know she’ll eventually redeem herself through a scene of wacky girl-bonding, which will eventually lead to a greater lesson in the end, since her destined second-place win will actually “feel like first,” to quote Bendinger’s “Bring It On,” because she’ll earn her respect through her own hard work and discipline.

But perhaps what makes “Stick It” better than these clichés is that Bendinger is better than that. She makes her movies fast, she makes them fun and above all, she makes them different. Items like Vickerman’s reputation are clearly presented to foreshadow Haley’s injury, which she will overcome in the final moments, a la Kerri Strug, to help her team win gold and/or deep insight, but it’s actually a red herring. I don’t mean to ruin the movie by telling you it’s unpredictable, but I didn’t see the third act, the inevitable visually-appealing national competition, coming. I figured it would be about the four VGA gymnasts — the clueless Wei Wei (Nikki Soohoo), the naïve Mina (Maddy Curley) and the blithering idiot Joanne (Vanessa Lengies) — personally and professionally succeeding on various levels while the anonymous girls that compose the rest of the competition fail (not just because Bendinger did it with cheerleaders…well, maybe because Bendinger did it with cheerleaders), but while that’s an element of the finale, Bendinger does a great job of subverting it with a story out of left field. Maybe she wanted to showcase her personal feelings about gymnastics (she is a former gymnast), maybe she’s much savvier than we’re giving her credit for, maybe a little of both, but whatever it is, it worked.

I think this is a bit redundant, but just in case, I’ll commit to writing my concession that “Stick It” is not an art film. It’s not even a meaningful one (except, perhaps, to insecure tweenage girls), but that’s why it works. It’s designed to be engaging and fun, and it succeeds perfectly. Bendinger infuses the routines with camera tricks that showcase overlapping bodies doing the same moves on different skill levels, and even though it’s a little film school cheap, it’s honestly fun to watch. Everything is choreographed well and the doubles provide a seamless transition (which we’re all thankful for), even when conducting ridiculous moves on a balance beam. The middle portions (AKA, the slow, talky parts) do get a little ridiculous, especially when a romantic subplot featuring Joanne and Haley’s unfortunately-named friend Poot (John Patrick Amedori) is enigmatically introduced, but Bendinger’s wit covers it pretty well. The woman that gave the world “cheer-ocracy” now presents “gym-nice-tics,” a pun worthy of mentioning, even though puns are red-headed tools of Satan. When Bert sells the Olympic dream to a slew of wide-eyed moms (more than there are spots on the team), Haley calls out his greed with, “What country are they going to represent? The state of delusion?” Even the requisite dumb girl malapropisms — often of the calling of mystical foresight “ESPN” variety — are funnier; Joanne gives an entire diatribe against Haley by constantly mentioning something called a “cardiovasectomy.”

I’d like to say Peregrym, a ten-year younger clone of Hilary Swank, is better than this, because if she blows up in the right indie role, she could easily be the next Hollywood It-girl (watch out, Scarlett!), but I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate. For what it is, the film is honestly witty and entertaining, and Peregrym is wonderful in it. It might be better to say Bendinger is better than this, because her narrative approach is akin to Kevin Smith, but she’s definitely ahead of him in visual style. She could easily be racking up the cult fans if her topics weren’t so light, fluffy, and, well, inaccessible to anyone other than 13-year-old girls. Smith's bigger — and ultimately better — because he can speak about more universally-appealing topics, like stoners that like dick- and fart jokes. Once she can take that step away from cheerleading and gymnastics, only then will audiences know just how well Bendinger can stick it.

I know it’s lazy criticism to end my review by saying whether the film “stuck it” or not, but I just couldn’t help it. Bendinger led us down the typical path, only to throw us off and creatively change up her third act. I threw you off from the start — there aren’t going to be many willing to “Stick It,” let alone champion it — so I figured I needed to give you something expected. I figure that final groan may keep the film in your head long enough for you to give it an honest chance.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=14493&reviewer=401
originally posted: 05/11/06 08:02:49
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User Comments

7/24/10 art it reminded me of "MAN OF THE HOUSE" with TOMMY LEE JONES! 2 stars
3/03/10 Mary worth watching twice 5 stars
9/21/09 sdfan Loved this movie. Loved the gymnastics especially. Real gymnasts doing real gymnastics. 5 stars
6/23/09 art BORING BORING BORING! 1 stars
2/14/09 love it love her book bag 5 stars
6/16/08 PAUL SHORTT UNEVEN TEEN SPORTS DRAMA 2 stars
6/21/07 loveer lotts its such a good movie hashah loverr 4 stars
4/11/07 kayla i love the movie and who dosent is just plane idiot 5 stars
2/28/07 Beau its for people with an aquired taste, but it was well made and had a resonalbly good plot 3 stars
11/26/06 Riki Witty, fast pace, and one hot chicka...I Like it!!! 5 stars
10/25/06 etcgymnast People that hate the movie just dont understand gymnastics.Gymnasts can really relate to it 5 stars
10/12/06 sxyraver i like this movie because i did the same thing i gave up the one thing i was kick ass at an 5 stars
10/07/06 jermaine I think you hit your fuckin' head on that 4-inch beam! 1 stars
10/05/06 Courtney THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME AND ITS MY FAVORITE. "STICK IT" 5 stars
10/01/06 michael AHH cheerleaders 4 stars
9/20/06 rambler Worse than Wtching "According to Jim" 1 stars
9/20/06 Jenna im a gymnast, this is hardcore. You who think it sucks, you go do flips on a 4 inch beam !! 5 stars
9/18/06 m@dd! r0x i hate gymnastics and i hate the movie it suks 1 stars
9/17/06 criddifa it was awesome stuff, loved it. all u ppl's that hated it u dont know what ur talking about 5 stars
7/19/06 TaTNaHa XapKOB Funny when it insimulates a cardiovasectomy; lame otherwise. 2 stars
6/24/06 Shelz I think this is one of the best movies ever 5 stars
6/05/06 mary barely watchable 2 stars
5/26/06 kylie if you didn't like this movie you have no idea what you are saying 5 stars
5/19/06 Staci I hate crap like this but my teen dragged me to it. 2 stars
5/11/06 SteveO Gym-nice-tics? More like Gym-nice-tits! 3 stars
5/01/06 brittany ITS MY FAVORITE MOVIE NOW. 5 stars
4/30/06 Mase Less a sassy "bring it on" more a sloppy patchwork of lite gym politics.For gym fans only 3 stars
4/29/06 kelly awesome! i loved it! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  28-Apr-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Sep-2006

UK
  13-Oct-2006

Australia
  15-Jun-2006



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