The directorial debut of actress Drew Barrymore, "Whip It" is a sweet, somewhat punky "feel good" flick starring Ellen Page ("Juno") as Bliss, a small-town Texas girl whose mother (Marcia Gay Harden) has pushed her into beauty pageants - as she was a former contestant. Still, Bliss becomes more dismayed with the contests, especially after an incident that displeases her mother greatly.
Working at a local diner with her pal (Alia Shawkat of "Arrested Development" fame), Bliss dreams of getting out of town and trying to start fresh. She gets her chance when she heads to Austin with her mother and finds out about the roller derby league. Intrigued, she watches a game and falls for the sport, eventually impressing the coach (Andrew Wilson) enough to earn herself a spot on the team.
In terms of casting choices, having Ellen Page play a member of a roller derby team (who is supposed to be...well, intimidating) is a surprise. The idea of Page in a roller derby is sort of like equivalent of having Avril Lavigne play a football player. While the intimidating part doesn't quite work, Page is certainly speedy on skates. She's joined by teammates Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig), Rosa Sparks (Eve), and Bloody Holly (stuntwoman Zoe Bell) and finds a rival in teammate Iron Maiden (Juliette Lewis, more than believable as a roller derby girl.)
"Whip It" proceeds forward from there largely in the manner that one would expect: the big game finale, the new boyfriend, the upset friend and mother and other familiar genre elements. Still, while the picture is predictable, it's also well-acted, with charming performance from Page, who carries the movie well. There's also a sweetness about the movie that's pleasing and feels genuine - the movie balances nice moments with the rough-and-tumble attitude of the sport with relative ease.
The picture does run into a little trouble with length - the film didn't need to be 111 minutes, and there's filler here-and-there (such as a food fight and the romantic angle for Page's character, which feels like an afterthought) that could have been left on the cutting room floor to keep the picture tight and the energy level high. Additionally, Page gets good support from Lewis, Barrymore, Daniel Stern (as her father) and others.
"Whip It" could have used some trims, but it's otherwise a cute chick flick/sports film that can appeal to both men and women.
VIDEO: "Whip It" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.40:1 (1080p/AVC). With enjoyable 'scope cinematography by cinematographer Robert Yeoman ("CQ", "The Royal Tenenbaums"), the crisp, clean presentation is certainly a pleasing high-def effort. While the picture does have a soft moment or two, the majority of the film looked well-defined and clean.
Aside from a couple of minor instances of edge enhancement, the picture looked smooth and pristine, with no specks, marks or other wear on the print. Light, fine grain is visible and handled well by the presentation. Colors looked pure and natural, with excellent saturation and no smearing or other faults. Flesh tones appeared spot-on.
SOUND: The film's DTS-HD 5.1 audio presentation was just fine, although - as one might expect - there's not much use for the surrounds, aside from some background ambience during the roller derby games. Audio quality was terrific, with crisp, well-recorded dialogue.
EXTRAS: 9 deleted scenes, "Fox Movie Channel featurette featuring writer Shauna Cross (whose novel the film was based upon - she also wrote the screenplay) and a digital copy of the film.
Final Thoughts: "Whip It" could have used some trims, but it's otherwise a cute chick flick/sports film that can appeal to both men and women.
The Film B