Whip It!


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Whip It! is a hybrid of two genres which one might not normally associate together:

The first type of genre film summoned here is the standard sports underdog tale. The perennial losers pick up some new blood and some new motivation and eventually challenge the champions in The Big Game, after taking some hard hits along the way.

The second is the official English provincial film. It seems like there are only two types of English films these days. Type one is a gritty and violent urban crime drama with a darkly comic overlay. Type two, the template for this film, is a dramedy about eccentric provincials who aspire to do something in stark contrast to our stereotyped expectations. The steelworker's son wants to study hairdressing. The kindly old grannies want to be drug lords. The fat factory worker wants to be a stripper. A boy in a small industrial town wants to study ballet. The message of these films is acceptance, and that pill is made easy to swallow by laughs and sentiment. Whip It! is exactly that kind of film, except that it takes place in a tiny town in Texas rather than in the U.K. Bliss's strong-willed mom wants her to earn her college education by competing in beauty pageants. Bliss, on the other hand, is not really into the big hairdos and insincere speeches required by the pageant circuit. She's more like the alternative rock chicks who stand around making ironic comments about everything and who are in turn ridiculed by the cool kids. To be honest, she's not really very enthusiastic about anything at all until she discovers a roller derby league in nearby Austin, which seems to summon her as powerfully as the sirens did to Ulysses. She lies about her age to get a tryout and eventually becomes one of the league's stars. Unlike the muscular but slow bruisers who dominate the sport, she is small and fast and therefore ideally suited to the "jammer" role, which requires her to skate past other competitors before they can prevent it.

The screenwriter of Whip It! actually did a pretty damned good job at blending those two genres. Since Bliss is only 17, and her bitter rival discovers that, she will need her parents' permission to keep skating. Therefore the two plots synch very nicely. The team will require their new star to gain the acceptance of her parents before they can count on her for the big game!

Or it's possible that the film's box office failure can be attributed to the lack of a distinct audience. The people who would like an American version of Billy Elliott may not be the same people who would like to see bone-crunching roller derby action.

The film deserved a wider audience. Whip It! represents Drew Barrymore's debut as a theatrical director, and the film resembles its director in many respects. It's physical, middle-brow, highly accessible, down-to-earth, enthusiastic, unpredictable, casual, and wears its heart on its sleeve. And like Drew, it's almost always fun to watch.


  • None, but Ellen Page does an underwater scene in her underwear.









3.5 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
2 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
83 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
67 Metacritic.com (of 100)


7.5 IMDB summary (of 10)
B+ Yahoo Movies


Box Office Mojo. It grossed only $13m, despite a rollout in 1700 theaters. Both IMDb voters  and movie critics loved this flick, but that love did not translate into box office success. It finished dead last among the four new theatrical films released in the first week of October, 2009. That week's competitive situation was unfortunate for this movie. If Whip It! had opened against one drama, for example, it might have done very well, but it opened against three other comedies, one of which was another, stronger coming-of-age dramedy (Zombieland), and that was all she wrote.


Web www.scoopy.com

Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a: