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Stick It (2006)
Stick It is an American teen comedy-drama film starring Jeff Bridges, Missy Peregrym, and Vanessa Lengies. It was written and directed by Jessica Bendinger, writer of Bring It On; the film marks her directorial debut. It was produced by Touchstone Pictures and was released in theatres on April 28, 2006. Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym) is a rebellious 17-year-old who is forced to return to the regimented world of gymnastics after a run-in with the law. A judge sentences Haley to her ultimate nightmare, attending an elite gymnastics academy run by legendary coach Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges). Haley was once considered one of the most talented gymnasts in the US. She made it to the World Championships, but she walked out of competition in the middle of the finals, costing the American team the gold medal and leaving many people hurt and crushed, making her one of the most hated people in gymnastics. She walked away because her mother and her gymnastics coach were having an affair. Haley has a talk with Coach Vickerman, who convinces her to take up the sport once again – at least until she can enter an upcoming invitational competition.
And yet, Stick It.
Whether we asked for it or not, we get Bring Gymnastics On, and it is tragically just its predecessor, only without a lot of the charm and cheese appeal. It's all about Haley (Missy Peregrym), a top-notch athlete who shocked the gymnastics world and totally screwed over her teammates by quitting the sport in the middle of the World Championships in order to fully dedicate herself to being a smart-mouth, dirt-biking hoodlum, complete with every Ramones tee/graffiti-covered room/baggy capri-wearing cliché available from the Poser Punk catalog.
After inflicting some serious property damage, she's sentenced, as Texas courts are apparently able to do, to go to a gymnastics training school for some tough-love coaching. The saddest thing of all is that Jeff Bridges has sunk low enough to be the one delivering crusty, sage truths over a balance beam (Has it really come to this? Don't those Duracell voice-overs save you from fates like this, Jeff?) and try to reign in Haley's aggressive, rule-breaking ways before she either breaks her neck or starts to corrupt the other girls into having personalities of their own.
Stick It is your basic life-lessons-through-sports rigmarole, with Haley discovering who she is through kicky floor routines and training montages. The screenplay, by none other than Bring It On scribe Jessica Bendinger (who also directed this one), is riddled with quippy dialogue that sounds like it was written specifically to be punch lines in the commercials. But it obviously clocked in somewhat shy, because the difference is made up in cheeky directorial devices and elaborate overhead shots of colorful gymnasts in kaleidoscope routines that really only want for Ethel Merman and a pool to be truly retro camp.
A lot of these show-off sequences are pretty spectacular in the 'human bodies shouldn't be capable of doing that, should they?' sense, and go a long ways towards illustrating the jaw-dropping shape a person can be in, if she spent six hours a day in hard training instead of more than that lounging in a comfy theatre seat. But unfortunately, that means casting girls more for their flexibility that acting, and man does it show. Blessedly, Peregrym is good at 'sassy,' and, well, thank God Bridges' career has come to this, because he made my 105 minutes markedly more bearable.
The problem is that they all take it so damn seriously. This is, after all, shots of girls spraying stuff on their butts so leotards don't ride up and stage moms with Olympic gold in their eyes. These are pretty young actresses racking themselves, violently and repeatedly. What is that if not inherently entertaining? But Stick It isn't hyper and irreverent and vaguely surreal enough to give it the deliciously awful feel it could cultivate. It doesn't have to be good, but it's not quite enough fun to be worth it, either. And it's hard to really root for the spunky underdog when the villain is cast as the entire system of gymnastics judging. It's so vague and nitpicky that it's hard to get into a broad buck the system message.
We in the audience are either squealing tween girls or hung-over older ones. We don't want anti-establishment, damn-the-man rebellion so much as rah-rah girl power in a spangly leotard. Bring that on, and we'll talk.
DVD extras include outtakes, deleted scenes, extensive making-of featurettes, and several commentary tracks.
Several sticky selections.