|Traffic | Weather | Your account||Movies | Restaurants | Today's events|
"Stick It": Have fun at the gym, and you don't even have to warm up
Seattle Times movie critic
"Who died and made you Nadia?" one leotarded sprite asks another. Yes, we're in the world of elite gymnastics, and Jessica Bendinger's "Stick It" is an enjoyable exercise in girl power.
Viewers of all ages will learn a thing or two while watching: that being a top-level gymnast is harder than being a Navy SEAL, that quarter-size pieces of skin can peel off when working on the uneven parallel bars, and that a mysterious substance named Tuf-Skin is routinely sprayed on gymnasts' buttocks to keep their leotards from riding up. (Come on, didn't you wonder?)
But this is a coming-of-age tale, and so the rebellious 17-year-old heroine Haley (Missy Peregrym) learns some more abstract truths as well. "Gymnastics wasn't there to judge me or dis me," she says reflectively at the end. "Only I could do that."
The great strength of "Stick It" is that it doesn't turn Haley into an angel; indeed, for most of the film, she's such a brat that you wonder how anyone can stand being around her. She's a troubled kid: Her parents used her as a pawn in their bitter divorce and she's haunted by memories of a championship gymnastics meet years ago, when she succumbed to pressure and walked out without competing.
When a dirt-bike incident results in vandalism and a visit to juvenile court, Haley's given an ultimatum: reform school or Burt Vickerman's gym, where the pigtailed denizens turn up their noses at her. She needs to prove herself, but for much of the film she doesn't seem to want to.
Peregrym, a toothy beauty who resembles the figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, looks too tall for gymnastics, but she's got an undeniable presence. On the mat and on screen, she's intimidatingly cool; you can see how the other gymnasts are both scornful and a little scared of her.
Jeff Bridges is agreeably relaxed as Coach Vickerman; Vanessa Lengies is amusing as the gym's bitchy Mrs. Malaprop ("I don't like what you're instimulating," she tells Haley suspiciously). Haley's laid-back best friends, Frank (Kellan Lutz) and Poot (John Patrick Amedori), seem to be an odd homage to "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure," but they're a nice diversion from all the chalk dust and cartwheels.
Bendinger, directing her first feature (she wrote the Kirsten Dunst cheerleader comedy "Bring It On"), crams the movie full of music-video quick cuts and loud pop tunes. But she also brings a genuine wit: In one Busby Berkeley-ish overhead shot, we see a kaleidoscope of gymnasts' legs flexing and straightening. "Dude," says Bill or Ted to the other, "how did we not know about this sport?"
Audience members might well be asking the same thing — Haley and her high-flying friends look like they're having a ball.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company