Stick It Review
By Shawn McKenzie 04/30/2006
Stick It is being unfairly compared to 2000’s Bring It On by saying that it just swaps competitive cheerleading for competitive gymnastics. While screenwriter Jessica Bendinger wrote both screenplays, I think that they are different in their storylines.
Seventeen-year-old Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym) is a rebellious teenager from Plano, Texas who hangs out with her best friends Frank (Kellan Lutz) and Poot (John Patrick Amedori) all the time. Haley’s parents…her real estate developer father Brice (Jon Gries) and her distant mother Alice (Gia Carides)…are divorced, and she acts out by getting in trouble with her bike riding skills. Her latest rebellious act was actually an accident: she crashes her bike through a set of glass patio doors in a home being built in her father’s development. The judge, Judge Westreich (Polly Holliday), gives her two choices…go to juvenile detention or go to the Vickerman Gymnastics Academy (VGA) in Houston. Haley actually considers juvie for a second, because, two years previous, she walked out on the sport during the World’s Championship, letting down her fellow teammates, because they were forced to forfeit. She used to be a gifted gymnast, but when she suddenly walked out on the competition for unknown reasons, she vowed never to come back to the sport. Now that she is back, she has to put up with her trainer Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges), who seems to tell all of the parents of the girls he trains that they will be heading for the Olympics. Haley is also not happy to see the snobby but rather dim Joanne Charis (Vanessa Lengies), a girl who knew Haley back when she was still competing. Haley doesn’t try very hard at practicing at first, but when she realizes that the upcoming competition comes with a cash prize, she starts participating so that she can win the prize and use the money to pay off the $14,000 worth of property damage. Her team consists of plucky Wei Wei Yong (Nikki SooHoo), naive Mina Hoyt (Maddy Curley), and Lacey (Alicia Saari)…all of which aren’t nearly as critical of Haley as Joanne. Burt doesn’t choose Haley to participate in the regionals, but when Lacey injures herself doing a routine in practice, Haley fills in and really energizes the team. Once the girls realize that Haley personally knows boys, they are more intrigued than before (Joanne even begins to date Poot and wants to go to her high school’s prom with him.) Heading for the World’s Championship Finals again, Haley is confronted by Tricia Skilken (Tarah Paige), a member of Haley’s former team who is still bitter that she lost a chance at a medal because of Haley’s walkout. Haley has concerns that are more pressing though. The competitions’ judges are too strict with their rules, and they don’t allow for any individual artistic achievement, so she and her teammates come up with a way to challenge the rules that drove her from the sport two years ago.
Bendinger, who makes her directorial debut here with this movie, uses her own experiences as a competitive gymnast to show the very physical Olympic sport of gymnastics. Before I get into the differences between this movie and Bring It On, I will give you the similarities. First…both movies take their sports seriously. If I were a female, I would never want to do either sport, because they look painful. Second…the scripts for both include very funny, if slightly unrealistic, dialogue (my favorite TV show currently on the air is the WB’s “The Gilmore Girls,” which isn’t known for its realistic dialogue.) Some example dialogue: “I’m so Sure that I’m practically deodorant” (something that Haley says to Burt when he asks her if she is sure about something.) I think that, if this movie becomes a hit, it will be about as quotable as Bring It On. Third…both movies are almost gratuitous in showcasing the athletic bodies of the girls competing in their sports…but that is just a necessary evil with the outfits required by the participants of their individual sports.
Now for the differences. Bring It On was about a cheerleading squad scrambling to work up a new routine when they found out that their original routine was stolen from an inner-city squad. All of the cheerleaders were willing participants in the sport. In Stick It, the gymnasts rebel over strict gymnastics rules. While most of the gymnasts were willing, Haley was forced into the competition (even the “rebel” in Bring It On, Eliza Dushku, competed by choice.) So…why are both movies perceived as the same movie? Just because they both portray females competing in female-dominated sports doesn’t mean that they are the same movie. Is Field of Dreams the same as The Bad News Bears, just because they both contain the sport of baseball in them?
The acting all around is fun. I don’t know why Bridges always seems so laid-lack to me (it’s like he is always playing The Dude from 1998’s The Big Lebowski), but he pulls it off every time. Peregrym’s only other significant role was as Jackie in the great but short-lived ABC drama “life as we know it,” and her first lead role in a theatrical movie here is a great way to start her movie career. For a former model and soccer player, I think that she was the perfect choice to play Haley. I remember her being the ultimate “hot girl” on “life,” but it took a while for me to see her as a woman in the beginning of the movie before she took off her hoodie (heck…even the posters for the movie showing her holding up the devil horn gesture makes her look like a longhaired rebel teenage boy.) That just shows the range of her talents. I’ve also really liked Lengies so far with every role I’ve see her in. Ever since she played Roxanne in NBC’s “American Dreams,” she has been the good part of a bad movie (last year’s Hilary Duff disaster The Perfect Man) and one of the good parts of another amusing movie (last year’s Ryan Reynolds-led movie Waiting.) I look forward to seeing her play a lead role soon.
The visual style and the soundtrack were also great about the movie. Bendinger kept putting in Busby Berkeley-style routines that were unnecessary, but visually interesting. I also liked the music, which was a cool mix of pop-punk and alternative hip-hop. There is a scene in the movie where Wei Wei surprises the judges and her fellow teammates with a hip-hop balance beam routine to the tune of K7’s 1994 hit “Come Baby Come.” Again, assuming that the movie becomes a hit, I think that the song will be revived on party dance floors the same way that Fatboy Slim’s “The Rockafeller Skank” did in 1999’s She’s All That or how Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” brought back the Zombie Shuffle because of 2004’s 13 Going on 30.
I do find it funny that the ads for Stick It tout Bendinger’s screenplay work as “coming from the writer of Bring It On.” They conveniently leave out her writing flops in between those two movies, including the awful 2002 movie The Truth About Charlie, 2004’s First Daughter, and this year’s Aquamarine (the latter two I’ve not seen yet, but I haven’t heard good things about them.) Since Bendinger has never been part of a mystery caper, been the first daughter, or been a mermaid, maybe she is better off writing about things that she can personally relate to…because she obviously hits the mat right when she knows the source material.
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