A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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).
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 ...
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?
- In theaters: October 2, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: January 26, 2010
- Cast: Ellen Page, Kristen Wiig, Marcia Gay Harden
- Director: Drew Barrymore
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content including crude dialogue, language and drug material
For kids who love girl power
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.