Here's why the utterly unnoticed and easily mockable movie Stick It is actually much, much better than you think. Not, uh, that you asked.
It's not the story of a plucky underdog finally learning what's within herself and putting it all together for a Climactic Final Competition against the Hated Foe, which she wins, landing herself on a cereal box at the start of Happily Ever After. Even if you could be excused for thinking that. There is a final meet scene, but it's not what you think.
It's more like a Bad News Bears for gymnastics, but make no mistake: these are good athletes.
Haley is a rebellious teenaged tomboy and former elite gymnast who gets arrested for trashing a development on her BMX with her two guy pals. The judge gives her a choice between returning to gymnastics or being incarcerated. She chooses juvie. The judge sends her to gymnastics. There's a reason Haley doesn't want to get back in the gym -- she wigged out and left the U.S. team at the world championships, costing her teammates the gold. She doesn't like gymnastics, gymnasts don't like her. Conflict!
There's a not-very-interesting get-to-know you part of the film with Jeff Bridges as the coach with the mildly sullied reputation and Haley as the rebelliously talented brat. There's some nods to Haley's divorced parents, and a lot of visually excellent exposition about just how grueling a sport gymnastics is. Also, this is where I should note that Missy Peregrym, who plays Haley, is an utter babe. I would be lying if I said that seeing her bouncing around in a sports bra was not what got me into the movie.
But Stick It has more heart than abs, and it doesn't stay predictable. There's a scene in which Haley gets her overcautious coach to do a trick on a trampoline, which is clearly going to show what he's gained from having this rebellious young girl around to teach him the way and show him he's still got it, right? Yeah, good luck with that.
Haley discovers soon that she's regained her enthusiasm for a sport that demands, essentially, the entire lives of its participants. At a meet, Haley's guy pals show up, to the amazement of her fellow elite gymnasts. "You know boys?" one says. "Yeah, they're called friends," Haley replies.
All elite gymnasts live like this. They train six hours a day so they can please others -- parents, judges, coaches. Haley's real rebellion is that she dares to ask if maybe they should be doing it for themselves. And this is what the movie is about. Reclaiming a sport the participants obviously love -- they would have to -- from all these so-called adults.
The movie is far from perfect. It's got plenty of flaws, plenty of needless asides and just some off moments. It's clearly aimed at the kids. But it's engaging, watchable and a hell of a lot better than you'd think or expect. Especially considering the crap that usually passes for sports movies these days.
If I were a real movie reviewer, this is where I'd wrap everything up nice and neat by saying how Stick It gets deductions, but you don't always need to score a perfect 10 to get the gold.