Review in a Hurry: In her directorial debut, Drew Barrymore decides Oscar can wait. Instead of big issues and dramatic acting, Whip It is more like an indie rock album that tween girls everywhere can relate to. Ellen Page (Juno) and crew make roller skating oh so in-your-face fun.
The Bigger Picture: Seventeen-year-old Bliss Cavender (Page) feels bored and insignificant in her tiny, truck-stop hometown of Bodeen, Texas. Feeling the need for a world bigger and badder than the endless beauty pageants her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) shuffles her off to, Bliss and her pal Pash (Arrested Development's Alia Shawkat) head to the hipster city of Austin and discover All Girl Roller Derby and last-place team, The Hurl Scouts. But ya can't be a skate punk named Bliss—so say hello to Babe Ruthless!
The Hurl Scouts all have funky thrasher monikers like Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig), Eva Destruction (Ari Graynor), and Bloody Holly (Zoe Bell). And although Barrymore wisely took a smaller role on the team, she got the coolest name: Smashley Simpson. Mostly, she's just the team brawler, but that name rocks, right?
For those that haven't seen a Roller Derby (all of us), it's basically Quidditch without broomsticks.
Of course, you need a rival skater gal to face-check Babe Ruthless, so Iron Maven (Juliette Lewis) terrorizes the shiny wooden playground. She brings a thuggish charm to her scenes, and it's great seeing Lewis back on the big screen.
While it's no surprise that a role like Ruthless fits Page like her character's old Barbie skates, she seriously impresses in the rink. Fittingly, Barrymore uses a fast and loose shooting style that makes the derby sequences rough and gritty. After every body slam Page's face reads, "totally worth it."
Only a last act attempt to invoke heavier drama with Bliss disobeying her mom feels forced.
Jimmy Fallon is on deck to crack wise as the derby's emcee, and as testament to Barrymore's ease with her cast, even those outside the rink—Daniel Stern, Shawkat and Harden—all shine.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Watching a movie that's all about loud, obnoxious behavior can get a bit tiresome. If it wasn't for Barrymore's infectious style (we might get a beat-down for saying this), maybe these gals just needed a time out?
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