"Bring It On" screenwriter Jessica Bendinger (see also the recent "Aquamarine", which I actually thought was quite good) returns to the competitive sports well with her directorial debut, "Stick It". The picture opens with Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym) doing tricks on her bike at a construction site and then managing to crash through a window. It's not long before she's running from the cops, an activity she tells us through narration that she's all too familiar with.
Haley's given little in the way of options and takes the judge's offer to head to Vickerman Gymnastics Academy, a supposedly elite school ruled over by former gymnast Vickerman (Jeff Bridges), who ended his career after a serious injury and now teaches the rather one-dimensional Joanne (Vanessa Lengies), Mina (Maddy Hoyt) and Wei Wei (Nikki SooHoo.) Stop me if you've heard this one before: the rebel athlete from the other side of the tracks learns discipline from the tough coach.
Haley was once a star who quit before a World championship, disappointing her team and instead chosing a life of casual rebellion. The second half of the movie largely unfolds just like one would expect, with the other girls finally befriending their new teammate and Haley learning what it takes to succeed. There's also a thread that comes up in the second half about how the decisions of the judges are arbitrary and athletes are often penalized due to outdated rules. The movie doesn't propose any sort of fix, instead using the subject as the jumping off point for corny scenes where the girls intentionally "scratch" (ruin their routine) as a way to "stick it" (you know, like the title of the movie) to the judges that have denied them proper respect for so long and let themselves choose a winner instead. There's also a few moments about competitive parents, but the movie really doesn't dive into this subject all too much.
One of the film's main issue is its visual style, which is hyperactive at times to the point of being oddly fascinating. While the movie lets some conversations actually play out, other scenes appear to have been edited in a blender. The movie also throws in a pair of male goof-off friends for Haley, who provide some unncessary and rather unfunny comedic relief.
Bridges is a remarkable actor, but this role really doesn't require him to do much more than stand around and dryly offer occasional words of advice. The only real highlight here in the cast is Peregrym, who actually is rather believable as a rebel, despite the fact that the movie isn't remotely as "punky" as it thinks it is. Peregrym (who sort of looks like if Sarah Silverman was younger and lifted weights) was good in the short-lived series "Life As We Know It" and gives her character here a bit more depth than it otherwise likely would have. Overall, Peregrym rises above the overly familiar material well, but the rest of the movie doesn't bring much to the table.
VIDEO: "Stick It" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is not outstanding, but remains just fine throughout. Sharpness and detail are satisfactory, as the picture looked crisp, but never looked razor sharp, as small object detail was a bit lackluster.
Otherwise, the picture generally appeared clean, with only a couple of slight instances of edge enhancement and artifacting. No dirt or debris was seen on the print used. Colors looked lively and bright, with nice saturation and no smearing. Flesh tones appeared natural and accurately presented, while black level looked solid.
SOUND: "Stick It" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's soundtrack delivered the expected bass behind the tunes, but otherwise remained forward-oriented, with little in the way of noticable surround use. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and music.
EXTRAS: Director/writer Jessica Bendiger and actresses Missy Peregrym and Vanessa Lengies offer one commentary, while Bendiger sits down for another track with cinematographer Daryn Okada and editor Troy Takaki.
A set of bloopers don't bring too many laughs, just because the majority of the participants are trying too hard and often look like they're trying to create bloopers. "Hard Corps" is a short featurette that highlights some of the "stunt gymnasts" who did the routines in place of the actresses. We also get 8 deleted scenes with cast or crew commentary, as well as the full versions of some of the routines seen in the film and slo-mo versions of 3 uneven bar scenes (both w/commentary.) Finally, a pair of music videos round out the extras.
Final Thoughts: Peregrym rises above the overly familiar material well, but other aspects of the movie stumble. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a surprising amount of extras. Those interested should rent first.
The Film C