Stick It Jessica Bendinger

You think that they’re not going to make it, that this unassuming teen pic will ultimately grind down its rebellious heroine for the sake of togetherness and team spirit. But Stick It manages to follow its central shit-disturber all the way down to a principled, if not exactly brilliant, walk to the victory line.

Missy Peregrym plays that protagonist, a troubled former gymnast who walked away from the world championships in favour of brooding and run-ins with the law. Her latest illegal venture lands her most improbably back in gymnastics school, where broken has-been Jeff Bridges spends his time fleecing excitable parents into letting him coach.

Of course, the other girls hate her for having thrown the championship, and sure enough the coach and the hard case have their issues. But though much of the conflict is contrived (and much of the dialogue feebly written), the film somehow manages to become a semi-cogent critique of how the girls are worked over by their parents, judges and the rules of the game, turning them into possessions of the system rather than themselves.

The dramatics wobble at times, but Jessica Bendinger’s direction has a modicum of style (and a slashing use of the colour red), which keeps things moving at a brisk enough pace to keep you from noticing the major flaws.

Most teen pics are bland and conformist but this film comes across as a genuinely pleasant surprise. It’s not a masterpiece, by a long shot, but it is a movie that isn’t harmful or demeaning to its target demographic, and isn’t grating enough to alienate anyone outside of it. Given other examples of the genre, that’s nothing short of miraculous. (Touchstone/Buena Vista)