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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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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.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this coming-of-age sports dramedy -- which stars Juno's Elliot 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). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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 their 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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.