Whip It (12a)
Dir. Drew Barrymore
Reviewed by Matt Adcock
Are you ready for a wild and wacky mixture of mini-skirted, fishnet clad roller skating babes who glory in names like ‘Jabba the Slut’ and ‘Bloody Holly’? Then step right this way for Whip It, Drew Barymore’s directorial debut that fuses teen comedy romance with brutal Roller Derby action. Whip It is the coming of age tale of feisty young Bliss (Ellen ‘Juno’ Page) your average 17-year-old with dreams of escaping from her controlling mother (Marcia Gay Harden) who is determined for her to be a beauty pageant queen.
In this odd hybrid sports drama – adapted from the book 'Derby Girl' by it's author and ex-roller derby player Shauna Cross. Bliss becomes ‘Babe Ruthless’ the unlikely newbie star player of the ‘Hurl Scouts’ a rag tag bunch of skaters whose only claim to fame is not winning anything. With speedy little Bliss in their team the Scouts somehow manage to get to the championship play offs where they face fierce rival outfit led by ‘Iron Maven’ (Juliette Lewis).
Along the way her best friend and co-waitress Pash (Alia Shawkat) shares Bliss’s joys and pains as she meets her first love Oliver (Landon Pigg) - lead singer of an so-so Indie rock band.
There are some laughs to be had, mostly from the witty Roller Derby announcer ‘Hot Tub' Johnny Rocket (Jimmy Fallon) who steals the show when he takes to the ring. But the main Roller Derby ‘action’ is poor, mostly due to it being painfully obvious that most of the actresses aren’t actually very good skaters.
What few stand out moments there are come mainly from Bliss’s father Earl (Danial ‘Home Alone’ Stern) who is brilliant in his attempts to connect with his disaffected daughter. There is also a kooky underwater love scene which at least tries to put a different slant on teen snogging. But these are minor elements worthy of what is overall a disjointed and pretty average effort.
The ho-hum climatic big beauty pageant clashing with the big playoff game is a clichéd device that has been used too many times before for us to really care.
"skirts? who needs skirts anyway?"
Overall Whip It is harmless enough fun but because it has to pull its punches in order to cater for the obvious tweenie girl ‘wannabe rebel’ target audience it turns out a bit duller than it might have.
UNSEEN DELETED SCENE:
Ellen Page goes ape in the final Roller Derby and plays it Rollerball style complete with spike studded gloves and a chainsaw...
Darkmatters rating: öööööö (6 awkward teenage moments out of 10)
Darkmatters quick reference guide: Action 6 / Style 7 / Babes 7 / Comedy 6 / Horror 5 / Spiritual Enlightenment 3