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"Whip It!" Review

I have an odd connection with this movie because it was shot in Michigan (doubling for Bodeen and Austin, TX; yeah, go figure) and one Saturday night in August 2007, director Drew Barrymore and stars Juliette Lewis, Zoe Bell, Eve, Ellen Page, Landon Pigg, Marcia Gay Harden and a couple of dozen derby girls invaded a Detroit bar for a drunken party and impromptu jam session.

I'd been tipped off that they were there and was lucky enough to take videos and photos of the festivities and shots of Drew sitting behind the drums sold to People, OK!, and In Touch magazines in America and publications around the world. I made enough from the photos to upgrade my whole camera setup and tell people that "this is the camera Drew Barrymore bought me." Whip It! opened the same weekend as Zombieland and hampered by poor promotion for a sorta hard sell, didn't do much at the box office. (Admittedly, as generous as Drew was to me, I went for the zombies as well. I'm a terrible person.)

Page stars as a small-town girl Bliss (name, not emotional state) whose former beauty queen mother (Harden) has her doing pageants though she's clearly not the type. One day, she picks up a flyer leading her to the wild world of roller derby where she joins the Hurl Scouts, the worst team in the league, as Babe Ruthless. She has to keep this secret from her folks, meets a cute guy in a band (Pigg - remember when people changed their unfortunate names for the marquee?), and all the other bullet points of your typical coming-of-age/minor teen rebellion/formula story.

While the plot is pretty paint-by-numbers and predictable all along the line, Whip It! manages to float along nicely due to the uniformly strong cast and Barrymore's apt direction. The derby scenes are well shot so as to be semi-coherent, but it's the little grace moments Barrymore gives her grrl power cast that resonate best. Page is good in a decidedly non-flashy character and as the low-key love scenes show, she's finally starting to play girls after several roles as really bright young teen-aged boys. The parts with her so-called love interest are the least interesting, especially since musician Pigg is no thespian. (Which does NOT mean he's a chick who digs chicks.)

Whip It! ultimately doesn't amount to much, but it's a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours thanks to the engaging performances. As long as you aren't expecting Rollerball (the original) or hot girl action, there's no reason to say "skip it" to Whip It! (groan)

Score: 7/10


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