There is nothing sexier than female roller derby. My God, if anything shaped my sexual preference it was watching roller derby babes beating the shit out of each other on Saturday afternoons as a youngster. (That and watching Jane Badler in skintight red outfits on V.) There hasn’t been a good roller derby movie since 1972 when both Unholy Rollers and Kansas City Bomber lit up the silver screen, so I had high hopes for Whip It.
The verdict: It’s no Unholy Rollers, but it’s better than Kansas City Bomber.
Ellen Page stars as a dorky chick whose crazy mom (Marcia Gay Harden) makes her participate in a bunch of lame-ola beauty pageants. (They are the dumb kind of beauty pageants that don’t have a swimsuit category. Why hold a beauty pageant and NOT have a swimsuit category?!?!) Ellen doesn’t like that though and would rather compete with other females in ways that God himself intended: By strapping on roller skates, dabbing on a bunch of mascara, and going around in circles punching broads in the face. Of course, Mom freaks out and forbids her to roller derby so her Dad (Daniel Stern) has to finally sign the consent form so that she can Be Herself and Do Her Own Thing.
Yes, there are a lot of Be Yourself and Do Your Own Thing clichés that hamper the film’s second act. Not to mention the conspicuous lack of roller derbying. The useless boyfriend subplot also eats up a lot of valuable running time that could’ve been spent on bitches on wheels. Whip It was Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, so I’m going to cut her some slack because it was her first time behind a camera. But seriously Drew: If you’re going to make a roller derby movie, MAKE A ROLLER DERBY MOVIE and leave all the stupid clichés and boyfriend subplots out of it. I will give it to Drew, she can film roller derby action like few in the business. This chick worked with such luminaries as Steven Spielberg and Wes Craven so she was obviously paying attention.
The cast is enormously likable and kick plenty of ass. Zoe Bell, Eve, and Kristen Wiig are all awesome as Ellen’s teammates and Juliette Lewis does some dynamite work as her bitter rival. Drew also shows up as a space cadet teammate too but she isn’t as good as the rest of the cast. (She was probably too worried if the shot was in focus to bring her A-Game.) The movie really belongs to Page. She’s great at playing the girl you root for and is a force to be reckoned with while skating. Whenever Ellen is on the roller derby track, Whip It rocks. Off the track, not so much.