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RUNNING TIME: 103 Minutes
•Missy Elliot Music Video
•Jeannie Ortega Music Video
•“Hard Corps” Featurette
•Full Gymnastics Routines
•Slow-Mo Uneven Bars Routines
•Commentaries: Director/Actors; Director/Filmmakers
My guess is that it’s Bring it On with gymnasts.
Jeff Bridges, Missy Peregrym, Vanessa Lengies
Even with her trusty Motion Blur, Gaussian Girl still couldn’t escape the police.
Hayley (Peregrym) is a mixed-up teenager from a broken home. She’s also an (embittered) elite gymnast. After a few X-TREME shenanigans on her bike and an unexpected detour through someone‘s living room, she’s forced to get back in the gym. You know, for discipline. Cause, well, apparently gymnastics is more rehabilitating than any sort of REAL punishment. But that’s a rant for another day.
Okay, so I’ve never seen Bring it On. Or any of its sequels. I hear the original is quite good, so we’ll just go with that. I only bring that up because of the big banner at the top that says “From the writer of Bring it On,” and given the sort of attitude that permeates this flick, I assume it’s very much the same sort of movie.
It was a bold move, filming in Vagin-O-Scope, but I think everyone considered it a success.
And what sort of movie is that? Well, essentially it’s a Sports Movie. But what makes this move (and Bring it On, I assume) standout is the almost complete dismissal of the standard Sports Movie Formula. You know the routine – a ragtag group of misfits learn to work together to overcome insurmountable odds and reach greatness. That formula is why we remember the Titans. It’s why the Ducks are Mighty. It’s why it was, indeed, a Miracle (okay, so maybe the Miracle example is a stretch due to all that “true story” nonsense, but you get the idea).
Speaking of Miracle, Jeff Bridges tried very, VERY hard to channel Kurt Russell in this performance. Possibly TOO hard.
But anyway, back to the movie at hand. I mentioned earlier that Stick It almost completely dismisses the whole formula and it does. Hayley doesn’t have to prove that she can be a great gymnast – it’s established early on that she’s a great gymnast. She doesn’t have to rally her teammates to be great, as they’re also great already. In fact, one of the main reasons this isn’t your standard Sports Movie is that the sports plays a secondary character. All the drama comes from Hayley’s home life and the drama that surrounds it – and while that is a very familiar element in the aforementioned movies, rather than Hayley having to overcome her demons to excel in her sport (and subsequently learn the Big Lesson), the gymnastics and the events just serve as set pieces and backdrops in her quest for maturity.
Although that last paragraph may serve to sell the event scenes short. While this is the story of a young woman’s search for stability and someone to count on and yada yada, it also doubles as a sort of love letter to competitive gymnastics. Training sequences and event scenes are given an almost documentary-style voice over (by Hayley) in which she talks about the sort of life 24-Hour Gymnasts live (thanks to a nice little moment with Julie Warner as Joanne’s mother), the rigorous training, the insurmountable standards set by the judges and so forth and so on. It’s actually very educational and even though it does absolutely nothing to serve the story, it’s woven in near seamlessly and plays well as a sort of subplot, which actually helps to dilute the (what could have been incredibly heavy-handed) sentimentality of the main storyline.
Filming had to take a short break when Missy hit the beam a little too hard and it actually split her in two.
And as an added bonus, the two aspects of the film are blended wonderfully at the Big Event in the end in which Hayley’s “Fuck Authority” attitude (adopted, of course, by her personal strife – full circle, baby!) leads the other girls in a major revolution against the judges and their ridiculous rules (for example, after a girl twists, flips and flies her way through the air during an incredibly difficult stunt, she’s deducted several points because her bra strap was visible). It’s a nice change on the whole “Overcoming their problems to achieve victory” standard we discussed earlier. Well, yeah they did achieve a sort of victory because of Hayley, but the whole thing was turned on its ear and the victory they achieved wasn’t really about them winning the game but rather refusing to play it. Yeah, at its core it still follows the same dramatic beats as its brethren, but it’s definitely a refreshing change of pace in a genre that’s so guaranteed to succeed it’s almost become too lazy to try anything new.
Hopefully in all of that I managed to get across the point that I really liked this movie. The performances were very very good, and even though Peregrym’s Hayley felt almost a little forced and clichéd in places, the weaknesses didn’t lie in the performance, but rather the writing (however for every one thing that didn‘t work, there were 10 things that did, so I‘m willing to forgive the slip-ups). The same can be said for Vanessa Lengies’ Joanne. Her home-schooled, clueless, air headed full-time gymnast was played with a great energy that managed to salvage a lot of jokes that fell completely flat. And I also have to give a thumbs-up to Jeff Bridges. I’ve always found something sort of creepy about these gymnastics coaches and he managed to leave every ounce of that (what I thought was inherent) creepiness out of his portrayal of Hayley’s coach, Burt Vickerman.
Even closed-sets for big-time Hollywod movies won’t stop those damn crafty organ-harvesters.
I do want to add a little footnote though. Even before this movie, I’ve always been a fan of women’s gymnastics. The things these little girls (some of them as young as 11 or 12) can do, the strength and the control – impressive seems like an understatement. It’s a beautiful sport and director Jessica Bendinger certainly managed to capture that beauty while still telling a story, but if I had to make one concrete complaint, it’s that at times she almost seemed to second-guess the natural aesthetic of the sport and opted for camera and editing tricks that, while flashy in their own right, managed to cheapen the visual experience of what we were supposed to be seeing. It’s only one sequence and even though it doesn’t sink the film, it does sort of standout like a sore thumb.
In the end it’s a film that I can safely recommend for at least a rental, but if you’re a teenage girl, a fan of gymnastics, a fan of sports films, a feminist or Dave Davis, it’s worth a purchase, even if that purchase is sight-unseen.
Visual aid for a class on interjections.
In the art department, well, they must’ve hired a temp. I can never understand when a movie tat has such a creative team behind it gets released with such underwhelming marketing materials. On the cover is Hayley throwing the horns (which, honestly, she can’t pull off. She really looks stupid doing it, not just on the cover but all throughout the movie – that’s my other concrete complaint) on orange with the other three central girls stuck off in the corner, while the cute-the-first-30-times-I-saw-it-in-the-trailer “It’s not called gym-nice-tics” tagline sticks out under the big, blocky title. It’s just ugly.
However, in the features department, the guys must have been working overtime. Included are: a blooper reel (which is pretty much your standard flubbed lines, but people are suckers for blooper reels); deleted scenes with commentary; a Missy Elliot music video (fairly awesome, like most all of her videos); a Jeannie Ortega music video (a cookie-cutter video for a cookie-cutter song from a cookie-cutter artist – I’m not surprised I haven’t heard of her before or since this flick); a “Hard Corps” featurette that focuses on the real gymnasts that stood in for our actresses; full routines performed by some of the real elite gymnasts that worked in the film (great, great stuff); slow-mo uneven bars routines (shot on green screen, used in the “sore-thumb” sequence mentioned above, and oddly enough this featurette is called “The Judges’ Table) and finally we have two commentaries – one with Bendinger, Peregrym and Lengies (which is just a bunch of giggly set anecdotes and “Oh my god your hair looked so cute” and other such nonsense) and another with Bendinger and some other members of the crew that was a bit more informative but still rather bland. Bendinger isn’t the most engaging speaker, which is somewhat surprising considering her somewhat-snappy directing style.
You can keep your spandex and lycra – nothing’s sturdier or more flexible than Rebecca’s Mom.
So yeah, while it may be a stacked disc, the Missy Elliot Video and the elites’ routines are the only thing worth revisiting, and even their welcomes would be worn out rather quickly.
But still, it’s a very good movie and one that I’m happy to have on my shelf.
"I’ll fuck you."
OVERALL 8.0 out of 10