Making the Grades
Looking in from the outside, the world of gymnastics appears to be one of poise, agility and grace under pressure. But from Stick It's point of view, it's an arena full of unethical judges, domineering sports moms and nasty competitors. No wonder Haley Graham, the film's protagonist, has such an unruly attitude.
Months earlier, Haley (Missy Peregrym) walked out on her team during the World's Competition, causing them to forfeit the championship. Now she's traded in her leotard for a trick bike and tears up the town with a couple of guy friends. That is until a stunt causes $14,000 worth of damage at a construction site and Haley, who's had previous run-ins with the law, ends up in front of the judge. After her guilt is established, the penitence options are limited: go to jail or join Burt Vickerman's gymnastic club.
Burt (Jeff Bridges) is a has-been coach who pads his facility with the offspring of egotistical mothers. Insisting their daughter is the next Nadia Comaneci, he creates visions of Olympic possibilities. With gold glittering in their eyes, the parents fork over large sums of money.
Haley, however, isn't blind to Burt's tactics. And since the court visit hasn't sweetened her personality by the time she shows up at camp, she is quick to call him on his scam. Spewing out caustic remarks aimed at the other team members, she also adamantly refuses to get involved with training until Burt gives her an opportunity to earn some restitution money by competing in an upcoming meet.
Her workout regime is intense and underscores the physical skills and stamina needed for the highly competitive sport. Falls, sprains, aches and painful injuries are par for the course. But these girls need more than calloused hands. They need a thick skin to deal with the vicious remarks from other entrants and the seemingly unjustified scores from judges.
In less than two hours, the script addresses the fallout of broken families, the strain of demanding routines and the pressure to perform in front of hundreds of spectators. It also protests the subjective nature of scoring artistic athletic events and the restraint on contestants to perform challenging and innovative moves.
Although the topics are relevant, Haley's rebellious stance and constant glower make it difficult at times to warm up to her plight. Along with her attitude, other content concerns include infrequent profanities, scatological slang and vulgar comments with some mild sexual innuendo.
Appearances by real gymnasts Tim Daggett, Nastia Liukin, Bart Conner and others add to the realism of the film. But the abrasive interactions between contestants, their parents, and judges, only promote the less attractive side of balance beams, vaults and parallel bars. Unfortunately Stick It chalks up all the negatives surrounding gymnastics and leaves very little motivation for signing your kids up--either for the movie or the sport.