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Stick It (2006): ***½

Directed by Jessica Bendinger

I saw this movie with a whole group of people, and the general consensus was that it wasn't as good as Bring it On, but was still very good nonetheles.

Why would that comparison even be made? Because Jessica Bendinger is the woman who wrote Bring it On. This film marks her directing debut.

It's basically the story of Haley (Missy Peregrym), a late-teenish girl who used to be a world-class gymnast until one day she suddenly walked out of a competition (forcing her team to forfeit, by the way) and never came back. In the meantime it would seem she became a troublemaker x-treme cyclist type of person. When the film opens she gets in trouble with the law and is given a choice:

  1. Go to juvenile hall
  2. Go to the Texas Military Academy
  3. Go to Vickerman's gymnastics school thing

Haley almost immediately chooses the Military Academy, to which the judge says she'll be going to the gymnastics school thing.

And so she goes to the gymnastics school thing where she meets the hard-as-nails Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges). Will Haley be able to pull herself out of trouble and once again become a world-class athlete?

The answer to that question was actually kind of surprising. While the film does lead to the inevitable big competition climax, what happens at that competition was shocking, surprising, inventive, and infinitely more satisfying that a simple come-from-behind victory against all odds.

In the end the movie becomes kind of a fascinating commentary on conformity, competition, and judging. There, I think I've described the end of the movie while still being sufficiently vague enough not to give it away.

This is Missy Peregrym's first leading role. Haley begins the movie as all attitude and no substance, but surprisingly doesn't through the course of the movie exchange substance for attitude; by the end of the movie she is able to back up her attitude with substance without losing the essential attitude that made us like her at the beginning of the movie. I really appreciated that. Sure, she starts to get along better with the girls around her, but that's becuase the character of Haley is essentially very likeable. Who doesn't like a charismatic rebel who can back up what she says? Isn't that why everybody liked Babe Ruth and Muhammed Ali? Because of this the movie just seems to get better and better as it goes along, until it is finally Haley's independence and essential attitude that spurs the surprising solution to the climax, not her conformity to traditional "team spirit" types of athletic movies (contrast Haley to Eliza Dushku's character in Bring it On and how Eliza starts the movie very badass and ends the movie as kind of just like all the other cheerleaders).

Another thing I really appreciated in the movie was a total lack of a forced romantic subplot. A couple of secondary characters flirt with romance around the fringes of the movie, but there is no big kiss at the end of the climax or anything. It was actually rather refreshing.

This being a Jessica Bendinger script, there is much witty banter and I laughed long and hard several times. There is one kind of ditsy half-villain character who continually chooses the wrong big words in her sentences, and that I thought was a little forced.

I have to finally give mad props to the set designer. Vickerman's school looks like a masterpiece of early 20th centry Russian Avant-Garde design (look it up). It's all red and white with straight lines and huge planes of solid colors. Vickerman's introductory speech takes place in a seemingly abstract setting with an enormous red wall behind him. It actually reminded me of the opening speech of Patton. Just a little bit.

I had a really, really good time at this movie. Sure, my impressions of it were probably tainted because I saw it with a whole bunch of fun people, but that don't mean it rocks any less. \m/

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