" Never trust a woman who whistles for her own cabs "
— Woody Allen, Curse of the Jade Scorpion

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Moulin Rouge

Ambitious, daring, energetic, and entertaining —Marty Mapes (review...)

Everybody comes to the Moulin Rouge

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Following in the fancy footwork of Bring It On, Jessica Bendinger’s Stick It lovingly pokes fun at the world of competitive gymnastics.

The Toughest Sport

Stick It starts off like it’s going to be another empty-headed teen movie about punks sticking it to society. Trespassing on a housing construction site, a group of kids thrash about on their bikes in an empty pool. The stunts lead to a dare between two cliques of hooligans and before you can say, “behave,” the damage is done and a beautiful picture window is trashed.

The guilty party is an ominously hoodied figure, far from being just another one of the boys. Her name is Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym, TV’s Smallville). Apprehended while fleeing the scene of the crime, Haley’s antics finally catch up with her but good.

Facing $14,000 in restitution for the damages her shenanigans brought about, Haley is given a choice: attend either military academy or VGA. Well, OK. She’s given the options, but the choice is handed down by the judge: VGA. That’s the Vickerman Gymnastics Academy. She’ll have to put her athletic prowess under the tutelage of the not-so-legendary Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski).

Shortly thereafter it finally becomes clear, at least to those who rank watching gymnastics on par with a torturous evening of American Idol, “stick it” isn’t always meant as an anti-social request; in this case it refers to a stellar dismount from the balance beam.

Once the movie gets into full swing at the VGA, it settles into a lightly farcical mix of antics reminiscent of Bring It On and the more recent Mean Girls. Helping to sell the material is a cast of relative upstarts, including Peregrym and Vanessa Lengies (The Perfect Man) as Joanne, Haley’s some-time adversary.

We Run This

Giving the project credibility and marquee value is Bridges, who turns Burt Vickerman into a mix of his legendary Dude character and Bela Karolyi. For Vickerman, it’s not about “jazz hands,” it’s all about getting girls past that period when their parents are still in charge, still trying to shape them into the ultimate championship-winning daughters that forego dating and prom in hopes of an all-too-elusive dream.

Bendinger, who also wrote for Sex and the City, proves once again she is in touch with the pulse of young women, this time taking her humorous outlook from the page to the director’s chair in her directorial debut. And she is indeed a talented director, pulling performances out of her young cast that perfectly portray attitude, wit, sarcasm, and all that catty competition between schoolgirls (and the women they grow up to be).

As an added bonus, Bendinger throws in some nifty choreography of the girls going through their synchronized warm-up routines that harks back to the days of those glorious Busby Berkeley musicals. That’s on top of a colorful style that introduces the main characters, as seen through Haley’s not-so-rosey glasses, with background information including Zodiac signs like “bitch” and “crab.”

Stick It is also chock full o’ quotable lines, including, “Don’t flush your life away, kid, step away from the bowl,” “I’m so sure, I’m practically deodorant,” and the thought-provoking observation, “It’s not called gymnicetics.” An extremely bright girl, one who earned her GED at the tender age of 15, Haley totes a sharp mind and stunning athletic ability. It’s a shame she has to waste brainpower and energy contending with the split of her parents, a divorce brought on by her mom’s cheating with one of the coaches. The various subplots weave together into a teenage American quilt. When the archaic rules of gymnastics judging lead to an organized rebellion on the gym floor, Stick It turns into a solid, good old-fashioned crowd-pleaser. While the core audience is most definitely “tweeners” and teenage girls, the movie is a lively enough concoction that achieves an appeal far wider than the gymnastic feats that inspired it.

DVD Extras

The DVD’s terrible box art belies a marvelous disc. It’s loaded with supplemental material, most of which is quite good.

Quite impressively, there are two feature commentaries; one with Jessica Bendinger, Missy Peregrym, and Vanessa Lengies; the other includes Jessica Bendinger, cinematographer Daryn Okada, and editor Troy Takaki. The first, with the director and two leading ladies, is quite entertaining. It’s a non-stop chat fest. The other commentary is also worthwhile, taking a more serious (although Bendinger is perpetually upbeat) look at the more technical aspects of the film’s production.

Also featuring two optional commentary tracks are 13 minutes of deleted scenes; they’re definitely worth a peek, particularly one that nicely sets up the movie’s third act. This time around, though, the track featuring Bendinger and her crew tops the one with Bendinger and the ladies.

An additional three DVD segments focus on the athletic elements. One, entitled “Hard Corps,” is an introduction to the real athletes, the body doubles, as it were, for the actresses.

The other two featurettes total 18 minutes. One presents a few of the movie’s gymnastic routines in their entirety. The other is a slow motion study of some of the uneven bar routines. Both include an optional commentary track with Bendinger and crew.

Polishing off the disc are bloopers and two music videos. One, Missy Elliott’s We Run This, is excellent. The other, Crowded, by Jeannie Ortega (featuring Papoose), is less so.

Picture and Sound

The film’s picture quality, a 16:9-enhanced presentation in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is very good; it’s a little fuzzy in spots, but overall well done.

The sound is also nicely done, from the pounding beat of Haley’s favorite bands to the pounding of feet on the mats. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is available in English, Spanish, and French. There are also English captions as well as Spanish and French subtitles.

How to Use This DVD

Start with the movie. Consider it a primer for all the supplemental features. Depending on how the movie grabs you, either head to the commentary tracks or, if you’re into the art of gymnastics more than the art of the movie, check out the raw footage of the real athletes doing their thing.

Also, don’t miss Missy Elliott’s video, but the bloopers and the Jeannie Ortega video might best be left to the diehards.