DVD Movie Review: Whip It

I’ve liked Drew Barrymore since I first saw her as Gertie in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) when she was all of about 6 years old.  Like many people, I found her charming and saw her in Firestarter (1984) and Cat’s Eye (1985).

I didn’t exactly follow her career as she went through her drug and rehab stints as a young girl. I did, however, take a liking to her re-rise to fame in trashy films like Poison Ivy (1992), Guncrazy (1992), and Doppelganger (1993), and her big turning point, The Amy Fisher Story (1993) when she was suddenly “back”.

She built up her modern image in light fare aimed at young girls: Ever After (1998) and Never Been Kissed (1999); I still liked her even if I wasn’t interested in her movies.  I thought she’d done well for herself, developing a production company and making it big with Charlie’s Angels (2000) and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003).

But to see her take up directing?  Wasn’t really necessary.

Whip It is a movie about girls’ roller derby, a retro sport that has gained popularity over the past several years, and stars the chipper Ellen Page of Juno (2007) fame.  It’s the sort of lightweight teen outsider comedy mixed with sports film, set to a fair amount of 1980s tunes and populated with a number of recognizable faces.  The film is about exactly what you would imagine it to be, light as a feather, shallow as a puddle, and relatively entertaining nonetheless.

Barrymore appears in it as a character that could well-be considered her self-image persona, the pretty, goofy, rowdy girl who fits right in with the brawling babes.  Also on their team, the Hurl Scouts, are Kristen Wiig, Eve, and Zoe Bell (who was last seen in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof [2007]).  On the opposing side is Juliette Lewis (who also could be argued to playing a close version of her rock’n’roll self) and mom is Marcia Gay Harden and dad is the very likeable Daniel Stern.

When the film came out last summer, some of the criticism ran against it (and Jennifer’s Body [2009] as well) alleged that the films’ supposed adoption of “grrrl power” motifs were limp-wristed and by the numbers.  I haven’t been able to take that particular slant, but I would say that this film depicts the tough-guy gals as comical but clean.   It’s just good-ol’ fun, and while Page’s mother wants her to be dressed like a proper lady, the call to the identity of the American girl individual is there.  But the world, with its under-age drinking, isn’t drawn up to be dark or scary.  The worst thing that can happen is the boy you like gives your favorite t-shirt to some other girl.

But that’s men for you.

Actually, the worst thing about this film is Jimmy Fallon who plays the announcer/party-thrower.  He’s Jimmy Fallon.  Need I say more? He’s frickin’ annoying (I’ll keep this clean since Drew kept her film clean).

Drew, I still like you but you really don’t need to make any more movies if this is representative of future projects.  Then again, it might as well be you because they’ll keep getting made by somebody, I suppose.  And God knows, it could have been worse.

For the full archive of movie reviews by Ken, please see kennelco.com/film_diary

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