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Still shot from the movie: Whip It.

Whip It

The small town of Bodeen, Texas doesn't have a lot to offer a misfit like Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page). But the teen thinks she has found the place where she belongs when she meets some girls from a roller derby league (played by Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig). Get the movie review and more. »

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Overall: C+ 2.5
Violence: B
Sexual Content: C-
Language: C-
Drugs/Alcohol: C
Run Time: 111
Theater Release: 02 Oct 2009
Video Release: 26 Jan 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
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Drew Barrymore’s time in front of the camera—beginning at age three—seems to be benefitting the actress in her first big screen directorial debut. In Whip It, she manages to keep the momentum rolling while incorporating several different story lines. And even with a large cast, she rounds out her characters and gives them more than one-dimensional personalities.

The main focus of her film is Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page), an average teen from a middle class family who lives in the little town of Bodeen, Texas. Her mother, Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden), is a former beauty queen who now delivers the U.S. mail. She has high hopes that her oldest daughter will succeed on the pageant circuit. Her younger sister, Shania (Eulala Scheel), is already making her mom proud by regularly bringing home the title in her age category.

Bliss’s achievements, on the other hand, are mediocre at best. Her job at a fast food joint (where all the waitresses wear aprons with pig faces on them) is equally uninspiring. Then while shoe shopping with her mother, Bliss comes across a flyer for a roller derby match. Lying to her parents about her plans, she persuades her girlfriend (Alia Shawkat) to drive her to Austin to take in the event.

From the moment she sees the group of tough, tattooed, skimpily clad female combatants racing and brawling their way around the track, she knows it is time to turn in the tiara for a pair of roller skates. Without informing her family of her decision, she deceives the coach about her age in order to make the team and fabricates all kinds of stories to delude her mom and dad while she goes to practices and competitions.

But pretending she is a grownup puts Bliss in some adult situations that involve drinking and an extended, exotically portrayed sexual encounter. Luckily Bliss’s teammates are looking out for her. The movie contains some moving moments of personal growth for the young skater when they come to her aid. The production also addresses other hard-hitting topics facing teens today, including their desire to pursue their own passions rather than fulfill their parents’ expectations.

Yet, despite the depiction of consequences for some of her actions, Bliss manages to maneuver around most of them as deftly as she jams her way through a pack of defensive blockers. For teens facing their own challenges, Bliss’s ability to Whip It past any long-term negative outcomes for her choices seems noticeably unrealistic.

Whip It is rated PG-13: for sexual content including crude dialogue, language and drug material.

Cast: Ellen Page, Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig
Studio: 2009 Fox Searchlight
Website: Official site for Whip It.

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About the Reviewer: Kerry Bennett

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