by Joe West, published on April 15, 2010|
Ellen Page looks like a character from a Dr Seuss book. One of the Whos. Its her nose, I think. And the fact that she will be playing teenagers until shes in her 30s, at which point Ive no idea what will happen. Praps shell instantly become a walking raisin. Praps shes going to look young forever. What it does mean is that shell be playing Juno-like roles for the next decade at least. If I have my way.
If I was being mean, I might say that Whip It is basically Dodgeball for a female audience. A rag-tag group of almost-losers take on other teams in a non-sport (this time Roller Derby-ing) and ultimately make their way towards a climactic title bout. Thankfully the comparison doesnt hold up under scrutiny, although there are some weird echoes of stereotypical underdog films which jar with this largely realistic teen drama. For example, Juliette Lewis plays an antagonistic villain who is incongruously nasty. Its like having Dick Dastardly pop up in a Mike Leigh movie, as Lewis is a caricature, not a deep character.
Whip It is generally good, solid fun. It is not a laugh a minute, and its mother-daughter sub-plot is probably more affecting if you have lived with a controlling parent, but the script is hung around a well-structured plot that drives forward predictably. And predictability is comforting.
The relationship between Pages Bliss and her lead singer boyfriend is nicely handled, showing that virginity can be lost without sacrificing dignity or innocence. And that romances can end badly in a teen movie without then needing a resurrection before the credits roll. There are hints of girl power and feminism, but these are not shoved down the audiences throat or completely hidden. Balance is basically the key word here.
The biggest flaw of Whip It is its sound track. Songs are inserted far too frequently, as if an eager indie-loving friend is trying to make you listen to a playlist they have created, and it serves to distract you. Or rather me. Its not a huge deal, but Juno and its director Jason Reitman are to blame for this ongoing trend, which movies like 500 Days of Summer have continued. It probably dates back further than that, actually, but it has seeped into advertising now, which means commercial breaks are even more breathtakingly painful than ever before. Wait, what was I talking about?
Go and see Whip It for a couple of hours of entertainment. Its an above average teen movie. And not a whole lot more.