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'Stick It' tries to raise bar, falls flat

Stick It ©2006 KALTENBACH PICTURES GmbH & Co. All rights reserved
Missy Peregrym stars as Haley in Disney's "Stick It"


By Paul Martinez

"Stick It" is the first attempt at a gymnastics movie since "American Anthem" (1986), and not a whole lot has improved in the genre in 20 years.

     It's a decent concept: a troubled teen finds redemption in athletics, in the mean time exposing the gymnastics judging system for what it is. But the acting kills it. The best acting in this film is curiously from the adults playing bit parts.

     For instance, in one of the opening scenes Haley is sentenced by the juvenile judge to VGA, Vickerson Gymnastic Academy. The mother flips out. "VGA! Are you crazy? This is not OK. Don't do this to her!"

     And the judges are completely in character. Even at the pre-event banquet they are criticizing what everybody is wearing - which is too close to reality if the film's ending is to believed. And after reading this review someone will probably accuse me of being an unreasonable critic like those judges, but then they probably haven't seen the film.

     All the characters are badly undeveloped, which is strange for a Disney picture. It doesn't help that four of Haley's eight teammates do not get to say a single line. They might as well have been pieces of furniture in the gym. Were the producers too obvious in trying to save some budget?

     Director Jessica Bendinger sticks to the formula that has worked so well in her two major releases, cheerleading films "Bring It On" and "Bring It On Again." But what worked so well for cheerleading doesn't really make sense in gymnastics.

     Missy Peregrym reprises Eliza Dushku's role from "Bring It On" as the troubled but tremendously talented athlete with attitude, who has to be forced to participate but ends up carrying the team. Peregrym has talent and looks, but her character is too "xtreme" to have any charisma.

     Similar to calling the high school RCH in "Bring It On," Bendinger sticks to formula in calling the academy VGA (I'll leave it to the reader to figure that one out). And let's not even talk about the film's title. Except to say you're supposed to exchange the working title with the real one prior to release.

     Honestly, the title killed me. Who other than a teen gymnast is going to go up to the box office and say that with a straight face?

     Which I guess says all you need to know. It is difficult to relate to this picture unless you are a gymnastics participant, and that pretty much eliminates 98 percent of the human race. This is where Bendinger's formula failed, because in the cheerleading movies, anybody who went to high school can relate.

     Real life Olympic gold medalists Carly Patterson, Nadia Comaneci, Bart Conner all play themselves in cameos in the end sequence. 2005 European floor champ Isabelle Severino is Missy Peregrym's uncredited stunt double. PHOTOSPORT athlete-models Tarah Paige and Kari Muth, both former ranked collegiate gymnasts, were among the cast.


Rating: 8.95 (in gymnastics scoring)

Quotability: Good:  "Rebel Without Applause, "Stalk You"


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Kari Muth © 2006 PHOTOSPORT.COM

 Kari Muth

Tarah Paige © 2006 PHOTOSPORT.COM

 Tarah Paige

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