Whip It

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Whip It Movie Poster Image
Roller derby dramedy mixes girl power and teen angst.
  • PG-13
  • 2009
  • 111 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 40 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie celebrates unconventional girls who may not be interested in traditionally female hobbies and are longing to find other ways to express themselves. Some of the "toughness" is heavy-handed posturing, but a lot of it is played for laughs. Even the "villain" isn't necessarily a bad person -- she's just a tough girl looking to win. As typical of this genre, parents and their kids start off completely not understanding each other but find common ground through communication and acceptance. A mentor reminds the main character to appreciate her family. On the downside, there's some stereotypical treatment of small-town life.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bliss lies to her parents and hurts her best friend, but she ultimately faces the consequences of her decisions with grace. She's also fundamentally a kind-hearted person looking to cement her own identity in a world where girls' images are largely defined by beauty. Her parents at first come off as being close-minded, but they have a deep well of compassion toward their daughter and eventually embrace her uniqueness.

Violence

Roller derby is very aggressive, and the film showcases plenty of bruising, bone-crunching action. Characters are elbowed, kicked, and pushed around, and they sometimes end up bloodied. There's also some outright fighting, and trash talk is a common occurrence on the track.

Sex

Teens kiss and make out, and one couple goes all the way -- no sensitive body parts are shown, but you see them stripping to their skivvies underwater in a swimming pool and later holding each other out of the water (bare shoulders showing). The girl later discusses the experience euphemistcally with her mother. References to penis size.

Language

Fairly frequent use of language like "jackass," "hell," "s--t," "bitch," "screw," ass," "balls," and "goddammit." There's also one use of "f--k," and a character gives someone the finger.

Consumerism

Brands/logos seen on screen include Google, Coleman, Zenith, and Barbie -- though all play fairly minor roles.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some underage drinking. A teen girl gets drunk at a party and makes out with a random guy before throwing up; later, a teen is arrested after being caught with a drink in public. One character (not a teen) does a kegstand. A mother hides her smoking from her daughter. A father drinks beer while watching sports and lets his teen daughter take a (big) sip. A mother mistakes a marijuana bong for a vase.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this coming-of-age sports dramedy -- which stars Juno's Ellen Page and was directed by perennial teen fave Drew Barrymore -- offers empowering messages for girls, especially those with unconventional interests/hobbies. Although the main character lies to her parents and hurts her friends, she faces the consequences of her behavior and learns from her experiences. Expect plenty of aggressive skating and confrontations during the movie's fast-paced roller derby scenes, as well as some strong language, underage drinking, and sexual references (including a scene in which a teen couple kisses and gets mostly undressed underwater).

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11 year old Written byMrsFrisby October 23, 2009

Great for ages 10 and up, a few iffy things, but overall great!

As long as you have good communication with your child and feel comfortable talking about a few questionable things that happen in the movie, it is great. Encou... Continue reading
Parent of a 11 year old Written byrobinpeggy October 5, 2009

So Good It's Worth Navigating the Tricky Parts

Funny and positive messages -- Ellen Page character is quirky but works through her issues with her parents. A wonderful movie. I plan to take my 11 year old d... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 5, 2011

A Very Good Movie!!!

I thought that Whip It was a very good movie, but there was one part that my mom had to fast foward through. But it was funny, but it made me sad that i can onl... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byBriiJo February 22, 2011
i liked this move and thats all thats i'm guuna say lol

What's the story?

In WHIP IT (which is based on the book Derby Girl by Shauna Cross), Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) is a small-town Texas teen being groomed to win the Blue Bonnet pageant, a beauty contest that her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) won long ago. But it's not exactly what Bliss envisions for herself. A visit to a roller derby match in Austin with her best friend, Pash (Alia Shawkat), reveals Bliss' next move -- and, after a successful tryout, Bliss morphs into her new incarnation: Babe Ruthless, a power skater with a thirst to win. Bliss' transformation has a profound effect on the rest of her life, but her parents have no idea about her secret passion, and her teammates don't know she's underage. When the two worlds collide, Bliss' dreams seem likely to be derailed.

Is it any good?

Groundbreaking Whip It isn't, but who can argue with an entertaining girl-power flick? Page's Bliss exhibits some of the chutzpah of her most famous character to date -- pregnant teen Juno -- though she's an entirely different concoction. And though Bliss doesn't eclipse Juno's quirky charm, there's still plenty to like about her. She's a quiet rebel who'd rather wear Stryper T-shirts and military boots than the cutesy dresses that her pageant competitors prefer, and her taste in guys runs along the lines of long-haired indie rock hipsters, rather than boorish jocks (of course, working with generalizations like that, whose wouldn't?). Page manages to pull off "counterculture" without coming off as a poseur.

The supporting cast is terrific, especially Shawkat, who lights up every scene despite being written similarly to most other "cool best friend" roles. The ensemble also features Drew Barrymore, who debuts here as a director. She lets scenes unspool a little too long in places and hammers certain plot points home a little too hard, but she rightfully keeps things loose for the most part. And, since plenty of people will be wondering: The roller derby action isn't always suspenseful, but boy, is it fun to watch.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie portrays underage sex and drinking. Does it seem realistic to you? Are the consequences believable?

  • Why do you think Bliss feels the need to lie to her family about what she's doing? Is that a realistic take on parent-teen relationships?

  • Why is it that in many movies, it's the unconventional teen who pushes the limit?

Movie details

For kids who love girl power

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