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Movie Review

Stick It

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some crude remarks

Reviewed by: Michael Karounos

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Comedy, Sports
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
April 28, 2006 (wide)
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
Copyright, Buena Vista Pictures
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Featuring: Missy Peregrym, Vanessa Lengies, Jeff Bridges, Nikki SooHoo, Maddy Curley
Director: Jessica Bendinger
Producer: Daryn Okada
Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures
Copyrighted, Buena Vista Pictures

“Stick It” is a gymnastics movie in which a rebellious former gymnast gets in trouble with the law, is sentenced to do her time at a hard-core gym, and redeems herself after costing her team the gold medal at the World Championships two years before.

The movie is written and directed by Jessica Bendinger who also wrote “Bring It On” and similarly hip-hops a white cultural milieu in “Stick It”. The movie opens with Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym) dressed boy-like in an ominous hoody doing outrageous BMX stunts that have her fleeing from the police with whom, she says, she has an “ongoing flirtation.” As she runs away to a rap-like soundtrack, she strips off the hood, helmet, and gloves, revealing that what lies beneath the image of rebellion is a pretty girl with pigtails.

This is the governing metaphor of the movie: beneath every white girl is a rebel who is yearning to talk Truth to Authority, whether it be police, coaches, parents, or judges. Every surface in her room—the dresser, the desk, the posters, etc.—is tagged with gang-like graffiti to show her rejection of her vanilla suburban culture.

Haley is sent to do her time at a cavernous gym where only eight other gymnasts are training. Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges), is supposedly a tyrannical coach with a reputation for breaking his athletes, but Jeff Bridges can’t convincingly portray that type of coach. Rather, he has prostituted his ideals and is interested only in milking rich parents of their money. Haley’s idealism transforms him by film’s end and shows him to have the proverbial heart of gold. The mischaracterization of Bridge’s character as a tough guy rather than a greedy idolator is confusing and seems to reflect a tension between the script as written and Bridge’s interpretation, which is truer to his personality.

The film’s style consists of MTV-like editing and a soundtrack which would be tiresome to anyone under 18 were it not for the one truly excellent aspect of the movie—the gymnasts. I saw “Stick It” with a former top gymnast who owns one of the largest gyms in the country. When I asked him what was the best part of the movie he echoed Maddy Curley’s (Mina Hoyt in the movie) interview comment that it accurately reflected how hard gymnasts’ work.

That may be true to an experienced eye, but what a layperson sees in the movie is not how hard gymnasts work, but how hard they fall. Everyone has seen a single gymnast hit the mat hard in televised competitions, but to see a well-edited series of violent slams truly conveys how hard and how fast gymnasts are traveling when they hit something. It becomes apparent that only a human as compactly muscled and trained as a gymnast can survive such repeated poundings, and it gives the average viewer a new-found appreciation for the sport as requiring not just an extraordinary skill set, but a mental and physical toughness that is masked by the little girl appearances of the athletes.

Ultimately, the movie should have been about the gymnasts and the rewards of such brutal training, but writer/director Jessica Bendinger was so enamored with her agenda to undermine the authority of the white mothers and white judges with stereoptypical black music and attitude, that she disappoints audience expectations at the end of the movie by not allowing the gymnasts to show their stuff. Instead, she reduces these superb athletes to preening pout queens who awkwardly strut through routines that dancers can do better. This leaves the audience with a non-climax in which non-dancers perform in a non-meet. The final sequence reveals nothing so much as that Bendinger’s ego is bigger than the movie and bigger than gymnastics itself.

Had Bendinger been content to do a pure gymnastics film, without the amateurish swearing and posturing that infantilized rather than complimented these remarkable young women, it could have been a memorable movie for its genre. But as seems so often the case with movies these days, politics creeps in and instead we get a contrived ending in which the most individualistic athletes in the world, who spent many years training six hours a day, unionize and go on strike. It’s an absurd ending to an absurd premise between which we get some well-shot sequences of top-notch athletes.

Maddy Curley’s performance was, as one would expect of an excellent athlete, pitch-perfect, and her bright-eyed portrayal of an intense gymnast was a welcome relief from watching Missy Peregrym being forced to strike the same note of rebelliousness throughout the movie. Peregrym does what she can with the role and delivers several lines with genuine comedic timing, but for too much of the movie she is required to be glum and sullen.

The movie has numerous instances of swearing, but the most egregious aspect of it is the tiresome portrayal of all the mothers as shrill, superficial has-been beauties who care about nothing so much as their own enhanced busts and egos. One such mother would have been enough, but every mother was portrayed that way. Since the movie doesn’t show a single positive relationship with a mother and a daughter, its message in that regard is that the gang is the family and the family is the gang. Reject authority; break rules; do what you want, because the only one who understands you is other teenagers. It’s a childish message, it doesn’t do the athletes justice, and it completely undermines the biblical injunction to “Honor your father and mother.” Given how much mothers do in this world, is this really the message we want to give our teenage daughters and sons?

The movie’s PG-13 rating is well-earned and families with children below that age who are sensitive to bad language and negative family stereotyping should avoid it. Those who are interested in a revealing look at how hard gymnasts train (and fall) might consider seeing it as long as they don’t expect a gymnastics competition at the end.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: None

See our interview with a co-star of this film, Maddy Curley.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—This film was an excellent girl power flick. I took my 13 y/o daughter. To say the least, she now wants to ramp ride… funny and inspirational for our family. The conversations we had after were overdue and positive. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a movie to send kids to alone, but a great oppotunity for a family to grow.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Patrick, age 34
Positive—I took my Girl Scout troop to see this movie. The girls, ranging from 13-16 all enjoyed it, as did the 3 mothers (myself included) who chaperoned the trip. I suppose a person could read into the movie the various things the reviewer did, but not too easily. Yes, Haley had an attitude, but we know from her father’s comment about her having once been such a good kid that her rebellion stems from the pain she has suffered (won’t detail, so as not to spoil anything). This is not an atypical movie message. And the message of this movie is more about how things were turned around for Haley with positive input, than about rebellion. It is sad that so many movies have adults portrayed so poorly that the audience roots for the kids when they stand up for themselves; or maybe it is sadder that these days a lot of kids can’t put a whole lot of confidence in the adults in their lives. While it is something to discuss with our kids, it is much more something that we as Christian adults need to show does not have to be the case—that parents can stay married, that adults can be trusted to care and to be fair, etc. But these things are just beyond the scope of a movie that is really summed up by the words of the judge (not necessarily an exact quote), “Lots of good people have had lousy parents.” And, in some ways, this is a very Christian message—our future does not have to be determined by our past, no matter where we come from or how bad our circumstances. With all of that said, it was an enjoyable movie to watch, with less objectional material (swearing, sex/nudity, ect.—see review above) than a lot of other PG-13 movies.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Renee, age 43
Positive—My 21-year-old daughter—a competitive gymnast for several pre-teen years—and I saw this movie yesterday and both thoroughly enjoyed it. Although I was mystified and put off by the apparently wanton destruction of the opening scenes, it made sense as the plot unfolded. While it’s true that many of the gymnastic sequences were filmed in flashing, MTV-style, the transitions between shots were less dizzying than the frenetic TV commercials I hate. The layered scenes, which gave the illusion of all the girls on the parallel bars at once, cleverly conveyed the constant activity a busy training gym sees. And the shots from above—a send-up of old Esther Williams water-ballet movies—were colorful and kaleidoscopic.

Though the portrayal of the moms as pushy, shallow stage-mothers was an over-generalization, surely these types exist, as do parents who make selfish choices without regard for the pain they inflict on their families. The main character’s rebellious attitude and former erratic behavior became more plausible as we learned about her background. The other young actresses were fit, cute and believable, and many of the characters, including the coach, grew kinder, wiser, more honest and generous.

The movie featured a few cheesecake-type elements: for example, spraying Tough Skin on the gymnasts' backsides so their leotards wouldn’t ride up. But that scene was brief and we didn’t see much more skin than what appears on televised meets. Can’t say I remember any innuendo or cursing. Some viewers may quibble with the improbable ending. Still, we found the movie satisfying and uplifting overall, a very nice mother/daughter outing.
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Jayne, age 56
Positive—“Stick It” was a great movie. It was essentially a story of overcoming one’s past experiences. I counted exactly 5 curse words ('s___') by the title character—Haley. Despite Haley’s utilization of expletives five times, it is somewhat part of her rough character’s personality as a result of her reaction to her life situation. Although Haley is responsible for her actions, the movie is simply showing the character’s rough personality. Could the directors have not included the curse words, though? Certainly.

My wife and I saw this movie and were very much impressed. Although I would have enjoyed seeing more of the final gymnastics competition, the movie was well composed. I highly recommend this movie.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Daniel Brinton, age 25
Positive—Being a lifelong gymnast (artistic and later rhythmic), I was excited to see “Stick It.” It was about time someone made a new movie centered on gymnastics—nearly all sports movies nowadays revolve around football, soccer and baseball. All good sports, of course… but gymnastics tends to be underappreciated.

This movie, although not Oscar-quality (I don’t think any of us expected it to be), was really entertaining. The gymnastics was amazing, and the cameos by a handful of world-class gymnasts was exciting to see. The acting was quite good, as well, and the characters were well-cast. The character of Haley, although troubled and rebellious, is likable because you sense that there is something going on beneath the surface. You can’t help but feel sorry for her. The reason she dresses and acts like she does is because of her mother’s actions. Haley clearly doesn’t want to be anything like her.

The other characters are great as well. Joanne’s slightly off-the-wall remarks (“GED? What does drunk-driving have to do with school?”) have you laughing in spite of yourself. The other gymnasts, especially Wei-Wei and Mina, add balance to the team. Jeff Bridges (as their coach) does a great job with the role, even though he comes across as a “nice guy,” which isn’t something you see often in gymnastic coaches.

There are some minor curses in the movie. From a Christian standpoint, there wasn’t anything that made me cringe like most movies do. They kept the movie relatively clean. A few things that director Jessica Bendinger could have done to make the movie even better would have been to provide a little more of a gymnastics competition at the end. The reason her other film, “Bring It On,” had a satisfying ending was because there was an intense competition to finish it off. The national championships in “Stick It” starts off excitingly, and I wish it lasted a little longer before the gymnasts began to rebel. The DVD’s bonus features has some good deleted scenes that were, for some reason, cut from the movie. I think they definitely would have added to the film, had they not been removed.

Overall, “Stick It” was an accurate, pretty exciting potrayal of this crazy sport called gymnastics. “Bring It On” may have had a tighter script and a more in-depth look at each character… but “Stick It” was cleaner, had a deeper message about family values (or lack thereof) and the effect on young people. In hindsight, there are things that could have been added to make this movie truly great instead of good. See this for the appreciation of gymnastics, and just how hard these young athletes work.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—Lauren, age 21
Positive—I loved the film and the stars Missy and Maddy.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Nathan, age 38
Comments from young people
Positive—This movie was awesome! There’s a lot of innuendos and language, though (most which would go over younger kids' heads) so I would recommend it for ages twelve and up, and some eleven-year-olds may be able to handle it.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Linda, age 14
Positive—I thought this movie was pretty good, I am a strong Christian, and there were a couple of things that this movie could have done with out a couple of cuss words, they only have 2 words they say about 4 times, only mild words. This movie has a great morals behind it. And if your a Gymnast you will totally dig. I would say the viewers would be more like teenagers, but if you have a mature son or daughter, I would tell you to go and see it; anything you see in this movie is stuff you see in your everyday life, such as School, or the libarary, or the mall, so I believe this movie was pretty good, and I would reccomend you to go and see it.
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Bridget, age 13
Positive—I loved this movie! I saw it with my sisters (who are 13). This film tells us to stand up and live our lives instead of hiding away from life. It had a surprising twist at the end. This is a fastastic film for 10 and up!
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Kristina, age 14
Positive—…I believe this movie shows a lot about real life and real personalities. It shows the motive behind a lot of the rebelious actions of people (teens in particular). The movie shows that many times people rebel simply because they need someone to reach out the them. It also shows that sometimes standing up for your friend when they’ve been treated unfairly means sticking out and letting people know that you don’t take… “opression” from them.
My Ratings: Good / 3
—Net King, age 17
Positive—I am obbsessed with this movie. I have seen it 5 times in theaters, and I think it is excellent—mostly for gymnasts. But if you don’t like gymnastics, you may enjoy it. I would reccomend this movie for 10 and up. I think it is a great film. However, there are some bad words, but trust me, this is a movie you will never forget. I can’t wait for it to come out on video… Also both of my parents like this move. …
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Zanda, age 12
Positive—I love this movie so much! It’s the best movie, I have ever seen. Me and my sisters (Ages 10 and 14) all loved it. It teaches you to follow your dreams.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Ashley, age 13