May 1, 2006

Movie Review: Stick It

Here is a film that points out the clichés of its own characters, while at the same time relishing the fact that it is a cliché. Have we reached the point where pointing out the cliché is, itself, cliché? Even if you haven't handed over your hard earned money for a ticket, you've seen this movie, or at least a number of movies just like it. It seems to be happy toeing the line of mediocrity.

I found Stick It to be such a non-event that it is as if it doesn't even exist. That doesn't leave me with much of a jump off point to write about it, but there it is. It is so inoffensive in execution, that I have to wonder what the real point of it was. Granted, there are a couple of elements that seem to give more life to the film than it deserves, it still remains well within the straight and narrow confines of the teen comedy/drama.

Let us set the stage, and if you have seen the commercials, I am sure you already have a good idea of where it's going. The main character gets in trouble with the law, gets sent to an academy she doesn't want to go to (in this case, gymnastics, but that is adjustable to whatever you feel like), she resents being there, and is in return, resented by the rest of the academy students. She has personality conflicts with everybody, but by the time the climax is reached, a camaraderie has developed, and the kids show the adults what's what.

Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym) is the heroine of the piece. She is a rebel who walked away from the gymnastics world some years before, she now spends her time doing tricks on BMX bikes rather then uneven bars and mats. You can tell she's a rebel because she wears t shirts bearing band names like The Ramones and Black Flag. She has a two fronted attack, led on one end by Joanne (Vanessa Lengies), the prissy team member, who fancies herself the top dog. On the other front, Haley has to deal with the head coach, Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges). All of them hit the usual notes. The tough coach, the bitter rival, but by the end, everybody is a friend.

Well, enough with the setup stuff. I know you all want to know what I really thought of the movie. I'd be lying if I said it was a terrible movie, I would also be lying if I said it was a good movie, what it was is moderately entertaining. It doesn't leave that much of an impact, at least with this viewer, who is, admittedly, not in the targeted demographic. There are some good things about it, but not enough to make worthy of a recommendation.

The good things come in the persons of Jeff Bridges and Missy Peregrym. Bridges brings life and depth to the Vickerman character, more than the character really deserves. It is a testament to Bridges ability that he was able to make this character more fully realized, while the script is on the shallow side of things. Then we have Missy Peregrym, a lovely young actress who does a good job at trying to inject Haley with that rebel attitude, but tempered but real experience. She is failed by the script, but she could has a potentially bright future. She has this loose, relaxed demeanor, she seems to actually be having some fun with the character and it shows.

Unfortunately, that is where the good about Stick It ends. It is all downhill from here.

Let's start with something small, the music. For a teen targeted flick, it is pretty much on target, but it would have been nice, even appropriate, to have some music with a little more bite. Considering the bands advertised on Haley's wardrobe, I would have liked to here a sample or two of those bands. This is a minor quibble, but would have been a nice backdrop to Haley's rebellion.

Next complaint, the script. It does a serviceable enough job of taking us from start to finish with no egregious lapses of logic, but it sounds scripted. There are a couple of good one-liners, but they sound like written lines, they do not come across as natural. Of course, there is also the point where Haley points out the cliché of one of Vickerman's speeches, mentioning this cliché amidst the veritable cliché sea is rather funny.

On to the gymnastics performances themselves. These were pieced together in such a haphazard fashion that I did not really care about them or the talent required to pull them off. There was so much editing, and enhancement to render them pointless. An example of this is in the commercials, where you see about 5 girls on the uneven bars simultaneously, add to a downward kaleidoscope view on the mat, and the incessant repetition of the same motion from different angles (much like an explosion in an action film), it all became tiring. Why couldn't we have gotten some of these routines without the extra stuff? I know that some of the cast members are actual gymnasts, and those that weren't, I am sure had doubles. You could have shown us some of the ability they have, let them have a minute or two to do their thing without chopping it to death in the editing room.

Bottomline. OK, time to wrap this thing up. The film is not terrible, I am sure the teenage girl demographic will eat it up. Fortunately it is not too insulting on the intelligence front. But it is not terribly memorable. This would best be served on DVD rather than the big screen.

Mildly Recommended.
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Oh yeah, one more thing before I leave this behind me. Could they have come up with a better title? I get it in the context of the film, but it could also lead to so many jokes.


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