Whip It: Movie Review
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The big box office talk this week revolves around actress Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, Whip It. Based on Shauna Cross' popular novel Derby Girl, Barrymore pushes audiences into the rough and tumble world that is American roller derby.
It's no holds barred, as the movie exposes the tattooed, crass, and unashamedly fiesty characters who pride themselves as being derby girls. If it weren't for the language and sexual content, a person of faith might enjoy watching this movie. Named for a technique used in roller derby, Whip It has it all -- a romantic story, drama, comedy, but the questionable content is too much to ignore.
Now, if an edited version were ever released, snatch it up for the fact that the movie is well acted, well written, well shot, and well, just a good story about a young woman who struggles to reconcile what she wants with what her mom wants for her.
THE MOVIE IN A MINUTE
Bliss Cavendar, a rebellious teenager from Bodeen, Texas, has never been good at being a pageant girl. She hates it and her life. That is until she discovers roller derby. Fact is she's pretty good at it. As Bliss (nicknamed Babe Ruthless) shows up strong at the track, she's confronted with her lies, the people she hurts along the way, and the enemies she's made in the league. She must decide what's more important -- roller derby or pleasing her parents.
THE MOVIE IN A MINUTE
The storyline. The story is entertaining. Shy, insecure Bliss struggles to find herself while being confronted with the in-your-face world that is roller derby. The redeeming part of this story is the discussion of the mother-daughter relationship. With complete disregard for her parents' wishes, Bliss lies so that she can sneak off to Austin to skate with the Hurl Scouts. It is a fellow teammate who encourages Bliss to go after her dream, but to do it in a way that doesn't hurt her mom. Her message: you can be your own person without making your parents feel horrible. The interaction between Bliss and her mom emphasizes the importance of family, which is a plus.
Foul language. The dialogue is dead-on hilarious and heart-warming, with the exception of the foul language. It's understood that these four-letter words are likely part of the derby culture. However, Whip It just has too much going against it because of the foul language than it has going for it. It's not just obscenities that are problematic. Multiple characters throughout the film use God's name in vain. As Christians, it is beyond offensive to hear His name used in such a manner.
In a pageant scene, an insincere young lady mocks Christians by saying she would most like to eat dinner with God because "God is great!" Also, one of the top ranked teams in the derby league is named The Holy Rollers. When they are first introduced in the movie, they mockingly cross themselves before a bout on the track. Wearing revealing schoolgirl uniforms, the announcer says that "even God can't keep them in line."
Stryper and other Christian references. A good plug for the Christian community is the mention of one of its classic rock bands. Bliss fondly discusses her vintage t-shirt with her boyfriend Oliver, explaining Stryper as an '80s Christian Heavy Metal band who "in the name of Jesus... rock!" Surprisingly, the Stryper shirt is worn throughout the movie, at one point becoming a key part of the story.
At the film's end, the derby league's announcer holds up two signs. One says, "Call me" on the front, "STD Free" on the back." A few seconds later, he's holding up a "Johnny 3:16" sign, which is no doubt related to thesign that is famously hoisted at major sporting events across the nation.
Whip It is rated PG-13 for good reasons (underage sex, crude language, risque wardrobe), and these are all reasons that compel this critic to avoid giving it high marks. This fun story is family-focused, but it is not family-friendly. It's a true shame, but it's the iffy content that will keep families from buying tickets to see this one.
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