Lisa Cleans Out Her DVR: Stick It (dir by Jessica Bendinger)


With our look back at Twin Peaks now entering its final week, it’s time for me to get back to trying to clean out my DVR.  When last we checked on the DVR, I had about 187 movies that I needed to watch.  At the end of March, I started in on them but then I got distracted by a number of things.  I put the clean-up on hold for a month and I even recorded some more films.

So, now, as April comes to a close, I have 200 movies on my DVR.

(The writer Derrick Ferguson once asked me just how much space I have on my DVR.  To be honest, I’m really not sure.  All I know is that I’ve got 200 movies recorded and 20% of the DVR is still free.)

If I’m going to have my DVR cleaned out by the end of May, then I better get back to watching all of this stuff.  I got things off to a good start, on Monday night, by watching a film about gymnastics in Texas, Stick It.

I think I may have actually seen Stick It when it was originally released in 2006.  I can’t say for sure because I spent most of 2006 in a daze but it seems like the type of movie that I would have gone to see back then.  The film itself felt familiar but that could just be because I’ve seen a lot of movies about gymnasts.

Anyway, Stick It is one of those movies that’s set in Texas but was filmed in California.  This leads to several unintentional laughs.  For instance, the movie opens in Plano, Texas.  Plano is a suburb of Dallas.  For some reason, Plano seems to show up in a lot of random movies.  (When Ed Helms visits his sister and Chris Hemsworth in Vacation, we are specifically told that they live in Plano.)  The movies, of course, never get Plano right.  Plano is not a rural community nor is it a junior version of the Park Cities.  Instead, it’s a typical suburb, one that is somewhat infamous for being home to a lot of people who have moved down to Texas from up north.

In Stick It, Plano is portrayed as being surrounded by mountains.  When the action later moves down to Houston, there are even more mountains in the background.  Of course, any true Texan knows that there aren’t any mountains near either Dallas or Houston.  Dallas sits on the plains.  Houston is known as the Bayou City.  If you want to make a movie about Texas with mountains, go film in El Paso.

As for the rest of the film, it tells the story of Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym), who was one of the top ranked gymnasts in America until she walked out during the World Gymnastics Championship, costing her team a gold medal and making her one of the most hated people in America.  Having abandoned gymnastics, Haley spends her time hanging out with skaters in Plano.  (I used to do the same thing.  Plano skaters are wild and rich.)  One day, Haley and the skaters get caught breaking into an abandoned building.  The judge gives Haley a choice.  Either go to military school or enroll at the prestigious but tough Vickerman Gymnastics Academy.  Haley picks military school so, of course, the judge sends her to VGA.

And here’s the thing.  It’s easy to be dismissive of a character like Haley but Missy Peregrym gives such a sincere performance and is so committed to the role that you’re on her side even when she seems like a privileged brat.  Haley’s parents are bitterly divorced and, even though they’re presented as being cartoonish caricatures, I could immediately relate to Haley.  When my parents got divorced, I acted out too.  I even hung out with wild skaters in Plano.

Anyway, Haley ends up in Houston.  Her new coach is Burt Veckerman (Jeff Bridges) who convinces her to start competing again, just so she can win enough money to pay off all of that Plano property damage.  She agrees, reluctantly.  Haley may love gymnastics but she hates all of the little rules that come along with competition.  Interestingly enough, that’s the way I’ve always felt about dancing.  Haley might as well have just been named Lisa.

Haley returns to the competition world and, while she’s obviously talented, she struggles to prove that she’s better than her reputation.  Even worse, she has to deal with judges who are obsessed with minutiae and who are biased towards their pre-determined favorites.  It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how well you compete.  All that matters is that you follow the rules and that you have the “right” attitude.

The movie ends with Haley taking a stand against the unfair judging system and humiliating the clueless judges.  It’s a great moment, even though it would never happen in real life.  For one thing, it involves convincing all the other gymnasts to give up their chance to win just so they can do the right thing.  Myself, I would never go along with that.  I may hate following rules but I love winning trophies.

But still, it’s a nice little fantasy.  Stick It is one of those films that got terrible reviews when it was released but it’s a real crowd pleaser.  This is a fun movie and, while it doesn’t tell a particularly deep story, it’s message of ignoring rules is one that’s needed in this increasingly authoritarian society.  Both Missy Peregrym and Jeff Bridges gave good performances and director Jessica Bendinger did a good job of keeping the action moving quickly.  (Bendiner also wrote the greatest of all cheerleading movies, Bring It On.)

How entertaining was Stick It?

Entertaining enough to survive mountains in Plano.

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