Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Stick It

posted by jmiller
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for some crude remarks
Profanity:Some crude language, including b-word
Nudity/Sex:Mild reference, including adultery, gay joke
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:Characters take risks, some injuries, none serious
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters
Movie Release Date:2006
DVD Release Date:July 29, 2012

If the Olympics has sparked an interest in gymnastics, take a look at this fresh, fun, funny, and smart story about a teenager “sentenced” to return to the gymnastics training she thought she had left behind.  It has all the sizzling attitude of a great floor routine, and all of the discipline and heart as well.

Missy Peregrym plays Haley, who walked away in the middle of the world championship competition, forfeiting her team’s chance for a gold medal. She got her high school equivalency degree at age 15 and spends her days doing extreme bike stunts and getting into trouble. And she wears everyone’s favorite signifier of punk attitude: a Ramones t-shirt. One of the stunts lands her in front of a judge who gives her a choice: a military academy or a gymnastics academy. She opts for the military, but her father and the judge decide otherwise.

So, she walks into “the middle of an ‘I hate you’ sandwich,” the gymnastics training facility run by Vic (Jeff Bridges). The other gymnasts don’t want her there. Some of them are still angry about her walk-out; some don’t like her attitude; some don’t want the competition. She does not want to be there. She has no respect for a sport that gives judges the power to reward conformity and tradition instead of risk-taking and innovation. And she doesn’t want to cooperate with or trust anyone, especially a grown-up.

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But Vic allows her to train her own way and tells her that the prize money from the upcoming competition could help her pay for the property damage she caused. And he shows her that she can’t calcute danger and risk if she does not respect the rules.

Sure, we’ve seen it before, the kid and the mentor learning to trust each other, the first trial, the set-back, the training montage-with-rock-song, the lessons learned, the triumph. That saga is so indestructable it could produce an acceptably entertaining movie on automatic pilot. Indeed, it has, many, many times. Those films are as safe and conventional and sythetic as the color-inside-the-lines athletes Haley refuses to be like when she advises a team-mate: “If you’re going to eat mat, eat mat hard.”

What makes this movie irresistable is that the people making it don’t care how many times it has been done before. They don’t even seem to know. They make us feel that this isn’t just the only sports movie ever made; it’s the only movie ever made, and they came to play.

That means that they abandon, re-think, and transcend the conventions of the genre. It is filmed in a brash, insoucient style but with a sense of humor about itself and its audience and an assured and always -engaging visual style, starting with the graffiti-style credits. The gymnastic routines are kinetically staged (though cut around the limitations of the performers, who are athletic but not competitive gymnasts). A Busby Berkeley-style kalideoscopic version of one set of exercises is delightful but also genuinely breathtaking. And a romp through a department store is a slyly post-modern and slightly gender-bending take on Brady Bunch-style musical numbers.
The movie also deserves a lot of credit for giving us a heroine who defines herself and does not need a makeover to feel pretty or a boyfriend to make her feel complete. Most arresting and unusual, though, is its take on the sport itself and the nature of competition and teamwork, which is exceptionally well handled. Jeff Bridges brings both warmth and edge to the part of the coach and Pergrym knows how to make both attitude and vulnerability believable. The film is far better than it had to be, entertaining and reassuringly meaningful as well. If it were a gymnastics routine, I’d give it a 9.

Parents should know that characters use some strong and crude language (the s-word, the b-word) and there is some disrespectful, rule-breaking, and rude behavior. There is a reference to adultery, to being “hit on” and a gay joke. There are some dangerous stunts with injuries and a reference to serious injury. A strength of the movie is its frank and direct exploration of some of the issues of competition and a sport that gives the judges the power to decide who wins. And another is the way it avoids the usual romantic happily ever after ending.

Families who see this movie should talk about what the movie has to say about competition, cooperation, and teamwork. Hayley learns to respect some rules but not others. How does she determine the difference? Vic tells Hayley, “For someone who hates being judged, you’re one of the most judgmental people I ever met.” Where do we see her being judgmental and where do we see her changing some of her judgments? The girls who do gymnastics have to give up just about everything else in order to succeed. What would you be willing to give up to achieve something that was important to you? What does Haley learn from the judge’s comment that “A lot of great people have jerks for parents?” How do people overcome those kinds of disappointments?

Families who enjoy this film will also enjoy Bring it On (some crude humor) and The Cutting Edge (some mature material) and Flashdance (more mature material).



  • Kate

    Movie Mom, my thirteen year old really enjoyed this movie, as well as Bring it on. I remember seeing the cutting edge and flashdance before I had kids, and I really liked them, however, I don’t remember what kind of content is in them. Would you recommend me letting her see them? Thanks!
    -Kate

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks for writing, Kate! “Flashdance” is too raunchy for a young teen, in my opinion. I know “Bring it On” has some crude references, but “Flashdance” is more explicit. “The Cutting Edge” is one of my favorites but it has some bad behavior (it is supposed to be cute that the main character does not know the name of the girl he slept with). I’d watch it again before deciding if I were you as some kids are more comfortable with that kind of material at age 13 than others.

  • Kate

    Thank you, i think I will watch it again, just to be sure. Anyway, sorry for all the questions but there is another movie i meant to ask you about. My daughter (the thirteen year old) was telling me the other day how her friend liked the movie Sixteen Candles. That is another one that I remember liking, but can’t quite place what content is in it. And, of course, she said she wanted to watch it. Could you please tell me if this one would be suitable? Thanks again!
    -Kate

  • Nell Minow

    I have very conflicted feelings about “16 Candles,” Kate. On the one hand, it is a lovely movie that really captures that stage of life. and exquisite performances from the leads On the other, it has some very crude humor, some racist stereotypes, and some behavior that should cause concern for parents — a girl gives her underpants to a boy who lets other boys see them for $1 a view, a girl says she wants to have sex with a boy she barely knows, a boy has sex with a girl who is so drunk she does not know who he is and this is portrayed as an unequivocally good thing for him — his friends take a picture of him with her passed out next to him. Yuck.

  • Kate

    Thank you so much again. I think I will wait a year or two before letting her see it.

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