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Movie Review

Whip It

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including crude dialogue, language and drug material.

Reviewed by: Spencer Schumacher

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Comedy, Drama
1 hr. 51 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
October 2, 2009 (wide—2,100 theaters)
DVD: January 26, 2010
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures

Lying in the Bible


Drunkenness in the Bible

Fornication in the Bible

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

How can I deal with temptations? Answer

How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer

What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Sex, Love & Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Christian answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more. Valuable resources for Christian couples, singles and pastors.
Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens! Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.
Featuring: Drew Barrymore (Smashley Simpson), Ellen Page (Bliss Cavendar), Sarah Habel, Shannon Eagen, Edward Austin Austin, Mary Callaghan Lynch, Ellen Page, Alia Shawkat, Marcia Gay Harden, Barbara Coven, Eulala Scheel, Nina Kircher, Daniel Stern, Mark Boyd, Carlo Alban, Doug Minckiewicz, Michael Petrillo, Sean O'Reilly, Sam Zikakis, Kent Cummins, Sarah Yaeger, Chloe Truehart, Kyle Kentala, Genevieve Harrison, Landon Pigg, John Eatherly, Jonas Stein, Max Van Peebles, Jimmy Fallon, Kristen Wiig, Zoe Bell, Eve, Andrew Wilson, Juliette Lewis, Rusty Mewha, Will Brick, Madge Levinson, Alexis O'Neill, Eli Bleiler, Kristen Adolfi, Rachel Piplica, Ari Graynor, LaTasha Pippen, Sydney Bennett, Danny Mooney, Brent Kyle, Har Mar Superstar, Claudia Rodgers, Wallace Bridges, Patrick Moug, John Lepard, Austin Bickel
Director: Drew Barrymore
Producer: Vincent Pictures, Babe Ruthless Productions, Barry Mendel Productions, Flower Films, Mandate Pictures, Rye Road Productions, Drew Barrymore, Nicole Brown, Peter Douglas, Joseph Drake, Nancy Juvonen, Nathan Kahane, Kelli Konop, Jason Lust, Karyn McCarthy, Barry Mendel, Chris Miller, Kirsten Smith
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

“Be your own hero”

Review updated July 30, 2010

Her IMDb page reads like a Hollywood film directory of who you need to know in the business—the daughter of American actor John Drew Barrymore. Descending from a long line of actors, her grandparents are silver screen legends John Barrymore and Delores Costello. She has worked with a long line of tinseltown’s finest directors including Woody Allen, Joel Schumacher and even George Clooney in his directorial debut. It also doesn’t hurt that she has Stephen Spielberg and Sophia Loren as god-parents.

She made her film debut at the mere age of 5 years old, and then, at barely seven, she auditioned for her godfather on the film “E.T.” (1982). If there was ever an actress cut from Hollywood cloth it’s Drew Barrymore. With so many years of Hollywood experience under her belt as an actress and producer, it hardly seems fit to describe Barrymore and her film “Whip it” as a directorial debut. But whatever trepidation Barrymore may have felt standing behind the camera, she made sure to employ a cast of great actors to put in front of it to get her first feature rolling.

“Whip It” is the story of Bliss Cavender (Ellen Page, “Juno”) a seventeen year old teen trying to find her own identity in the heart of Bodeen, Texas. She is being groomed to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a hometown pageant queen. However, her inclination towards blue hair streaks and leather boots give us hints that she has dreams beyond Miss Bodeen Teen and spending the rest of her life serving eggs and bacons to the high school jocks at the Oink Joint, a small diner established more on small town charm than culinary expertise, where she waits tables.

One day while out shopping for fashionable shoes with her mom and little sister at an Austin shopping mall, a group of wild tattooed chicks on wheels skate into the shop to drop off flyers for an upcoming roller derby event. Bliss picks up the flyer and then convinces her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat, “Amereeka”) to go with her to check it out. After some encouragement (as well as lying about her age) by members of the roller derby team, affectionately known as “The Hurl Scouts,” she tries out for and makes the team.

Knowing that her less than progressive parents will not approve of her decision to join a girl’s roller derby team, she manipulates her school schedule and tells her parents that she is taking classes to prepare for the SATs, when she is actually at roller derby practice. She continues to go through the motions of the beauty pageants, but her heart is now drawn to a less formal form of competition.

The movie is very ambitious and takes on multiple story elements. It’s a coming-of-age comedy, and, when operating in that realm, it is pretty predictable. The backdrop for the movie is the world of female roller derby, an environment that has never been truly explored in the world of feature films. As such, the film follows a fairly routine course in watching the Hurl Scouts go from the leagues last place losers to contenders for the league’s title.

It is during an after-game victory party that Bliss attends with her teammates Rosa Sparks (Eve, “Barbershop”), Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig, “Knocked Up”) and Bloody Holly (Zoe Bell, “Deathproof”) (Drew also appears in the film as team member “Smashley Simpson”) where we are introduced to the third element of this story and that is Oliver, a rock musician who becomes Bliss’ boyfriend.

We follow Bliss through her quick rise to fame in the roller derby arena and her quick fall into love with Oliver. As she rapidly skates through her suddenly less than mundane, middle of nowhere, Texas life, we know that soon she is heading quickly into a turn that’s gonna send her right over the padded railings and summersault her life head over skates onto the harsh concrete of reality.

With the team finally winning and the relationship between Bliss and Oliver becoming more complicated, the film picks up speed and rises above your typical fare for this type of story. The love story is highly formulaic and is the least effective part of this film. It is Bliss’ struggle between her two families that give this film its strength.

At one point, Maggie Mayhem tells Bliss, “You can’t throw out your old family just because you have a new one,” and in this sentiment we see the core of Bliss’s struggles and find the theme of the film.

Objectionable Material

You might expect the rough and tough world of women’s roller derby to be a world in which the players pepper their talk with profanity like a culinary artist uses spices on a steak, however the language is pretty typical of a PG-13 rated film. There are about a dozen or so of your run of the mill profane words uttered by Bliss and the roller girls, at least one “f” word, and a several instances of using God’s name in vain (“G-damn,” “Oh my G_d,” “G_d,” and “My G_d”).

There is a party scene where we see various people drinking beer and alcoholic beverages. We also see the negative consequences of drinking, as Pash has a meeting with a toilet bowl after drinking excessively, fortunately for the viewer nothing is actually seen as Bliss holds her head and she bows into the porcelain bowl.

It is clear that Bliss has a better relationship with her dad (Daniel Stern) than her mom. When she attempts to bond with him over a game of football, he offers her a sip of beer, and she drinks it, though it is clear that she is underage.

Sexual talk and references are fairly heavy. Also, Bliss and Oliver apparently consummate their relationship in an Olympic pool where they strip down to their underwear and engage in long underwater groping and kissing. Though both never go beyond their skivvies, there is a lot of images of wet bodies pressing up against each other and the wet clothes leave very little to the imagination. The scene is very suggestive, if not totally beyond suspending one’s disbelief due to the amount of time the two spend underwater with their lips locked.

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

The violence in the film consists of the roller girls smashing and crashing into one another. It is comparable to what might be seen if this film took place on a grass, football field rather than a concrete roller rink.

The plus side is that Ellen Page’s character sports a Stryper t-shirt (surely you remember the long-haired, make-up wearing Christian-metal band of the 80’s) that her mother gave her. When she is asked about it, she displays some of the morality and Christian principles her parents have instilled in her by saying “they rock for Jesus” in a reverential manner.

Though much of the film is predictable and relies heavily on standard genre formula, the top-notch performances of all the leads and particularly “The Hurl Scouts” bring this film above most others of this type. Ellen Page continues to prove that she is a very talented young actress, who, with the right opportunities and scripts sent her way, can have a movie career as long as her director’s. The film’s secondary characters also come alive off the page. Bliss’ parents are well-written, multi-dimensional characters who have a past and function beyond two middle-aged adults who do nothing but hinder their daughter’s development.

‘Whip It’ might prove to be the vehicle to launch the next chapter of Drew Barrymore’s career. If nothing else, it will at least get Ellen Page out of the long shadow of Juno McGruff.

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

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—This is another female empowerment movie, with not much that audiences haven’t seen before. But the execution of it is not bad, and I liked that the main character had a strong family core behind her. I also liked that it shed light on the fringe sport of roller derby, which has experienced a resurgence over the past few years. There is not a lot that is extremely objectionable in this film, but be aware of the violence during the derby games. There are scenes of underage drinking, as well as implied heterosexual pre-martial sex, and a hint of homosexuality between a couple of characters.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Hillari, age 47 (USA)
Positive—I saw this movie with a friend. It was amazing. The actress is very very good and the movie was not boring at all. The boy actor was cute too. I definitely recommend it to people my age = 20 and younger ones, too, and I watched it with a 30 year old friend and she liked it, too. I doubt you will regretting watching this one! I think there was one mention of God, but I forgot what, and it was positive, I think. I mean pro christianity. …
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Justine, age 20 (Canada)
Positive—The subject matter of “Whip It,” women’s roller derby, is not in the least bit interesting for me, but the well-constructed screenplay and good acting kept my attention throughout. At the end, I actually cried, as good family values were presented. This is a well conceived and directed story about a 17 year old looking for her way in life. I found this to be an unusual mix of comedy and farce and drama and romance and adventure (the sport) all wrapped up in a credible way, with some traditional themes and some a little more modern than I like. But all well done and well balanced. Kudos to the writer and director.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Halyna Barannik, age 63 (USA)




Comments from young people


Comments from non-viewers
Negative—My husband and I took our 13 year old son to see “Whip It.” We ended up leaving 1/2 way through the movie. I was so disappointed and surprised how the girls were dressed in this movie that I thought was geared for teens.
—Lisa, age 38 (USA)