Roller Grrls – WHIP IT: The Film Babble Blog Review

WHIP IT (Dir. Drew Barrymore, 2009)

The phrase “the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore” may not get cineastes excited, especially as the Oscar prestige season looms, but it shouldn’t alarm or offend them either. Barrymore presents a surprisingly solid 80’s style formula film that’s cute enough to overshadow its ultimate predictability. Protagonist Ellen Page (JUNO), awkward instead of snarky, pines for a life away from the beauty pageants her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) constantly drags her to and her go nowhere job working as a waitress at Bodeen’s Oink Joint.

The answer to her angst is in Austin, Texas: a roller derby team that calls themselves the Hurl Scouts who Page immediately dubs her new heros. Without her parents knowing she takes the bus and joins up under the tutelage of “Mother Mayhem” (Kristen Wiig – so much better used here than in EXTRACT) who takes her under her wing. Page has an angry adversary in the form of Juliette Lewis as “Iron Maven” and a crush on a bed headed indie rocker (Landon Pigg).

As Page’s father, Daniel Stern appears to have the Alan Arkin part – the laid back parental figure that at first seems like an old fuddy duddy but in the end has a hip wisdom that wins the day. Barrymore gives herself a role as team mate “Smashley Simpson” who somehow isn’t as obnoxious as she’s set up to be. Rounding out the cast are Alia Shawkat (Maebe from Arrested Development) who gets to bring the snark as Page’s best friend, stuntwoman Zoe Bell (KILL BILL, DEATH PROOF) struts her stuff, and Jimmy Fallon smarms it up as the master of ceremonies.

Sure it breaks no ground as a coming of age story, the ending can be seen from a mile away and the wall to wall soundtrack of pop songs is overdone, but it’s a big hearted movie that’s hard not to like. With its wacky outtakes and bloopers over the end credits presumably to prove how much fun they all had making the movie, WHIP IT is without pretension or cynicism. It’s just a sincere display of the power of friends, family, and fun and that’s all it wants or needs to be. I mean for a first time directing effort nobody was expecting a CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND or even THAT THING YOU DO! from Barrymore, am I right?

More later…

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