Unreal Movie Review: Whip It!


Whip It! is Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, and I have to admit, she’s not exactly making a good first impression on me by releasing a movie with a mandatory exclamation point in the title. But punctuation aside, Whip It! is a perfectly adequate feel-good flick, but fails to really deliver anything to really make it memorable.

Bliss (Ellen Page) is a high schooler stuck in a dreary town in Texas. Her smothering mother (Marcia Gay Harden) consistently enrolls her in local beauty pageants, much to her dismay, and the only person she can turn to is her best friend and coworker at the Oink Joint, Pash (Arrested Development’s Alia Shawkat).

Her life changes dramatically one day, while shopping in Austin she sees three heavily tattooed roller derby chicks handing out fliers to their latest match. It piques her interest and she drags Pash to the event, where she witnesses the glory of “Hurl Scouts” firsthand. She approaches Scout blocker Maggie Mayhem (Kristin Wiig) after the game to praise her performance, and she’s told she should come out for tryouts despite no knowledge of skating, because “most of us girls didn’t know an ass from an elbow pad when we first started.”


My roller derby name would be “Amelia Earhurt.”

In the world’s shortest training montage, Bliss goes from barely able to stand on skates to the star player of the Hurl Scouts in under ten minutes. But as the game starts to interfere with her friendships and pageant duties, she must make a choice whether or not this is a dream worth perusing.

It’s tough to say that Whip It! is formulaic because no, I don’t believe there has ever been another movie about roller derby before. But when you can recite the entire plot without having to add in a “spoilers alert” badge, you really do feel like you’ve seen it all before. Do you actually think that Bliss’ parents are going to crush her dreams and not come around to derby in the end? But despite the inevitable, when that moment does come, it is rather touching, though the entire time I felt like my emotions were being manipulated through some sort of carefully calculated formula.

Also the fact remains that even though it’s cool to watch tattooed girls in slutty Halloween costumes beat each other up in a roller rink, roller derby simply isn’t that cool to watch. Even the most precise of plays look like everyone is careening out of control, and the most dramatic move of the entire movie is when Bliss jumps six inches in the air to clear a laid-out blocker on the track. The Mighty Ducks this ain’t.

Whip It! also suffers from being about twenty minutes too long, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it weren’t painfully obvious where that twenty minutes could come from. I’m not sure why there’s a rule that any film that stars a female MUST have a love story to go along with it, but when Bliss meets the world’s most unlikable hipster, their doomed romance drags on and on and ends up quite literally having nothing to do with the rest of the film.


“When I’m with you, it’s like we’re in a completely different movie!”

By the end, it’s impossible to not be a little moved by the family’s change of heart, or excited by the prospect of a Hurl Scouts championship win, but the in-between is simply not that engrossing, and shockingly enough, I missed Diablo Cody’s teenage girl dialogue pen as there’s a distinct shortage of clever banter found throughout the film. Instead there’s just…talking, and none of it particularly worth listening to. I firmly believe Ellen Page is poised to become one of our next great actresses, but she’s not given much to do in this film besides “look adorable,” “skate hard” and “plead with parents.” She’s better than that, and it’s a shame the script didn’t give her more room to express that.

Whip It! wouldn’t be a bad way to spend an hour and a half, but unfortunately it’s closer to two. And with Woody Harrelson killing zombies and Ricky Gervais lying up a storm on either side of the theater, I just don’t think this is the best option for your buck. Sorry Drew, but good effort.

2.5 out of 5 stars


“We’re number two!” Well, tied for number six at the box office.

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  1. I jump over my team mates all the time; and let me tell you, it’s a lot more than six inches, some of these girls are…shall we say, brick houses on wheels.

    Jumpin’ Jax Smash #47

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