Whip It suggests what might have happened if Juno had gone to a high school as poky as Napoleon Dynamite’s and decided that although her mother wanted her to be a beauty queen like Little Miss Sunshine, she’d rather just strap on roller skates. Only here the petite, droll, feisty, Ellen Page-like heroine played by Ellen Page is named Bliss. And her idea of sass while chatting up a cute rocker (Landon Pigg) in this desexualized, slow-speed grrrl-power sports fantasy is “I’m Bliss, but I could change that.”
Bliss does change her name, at least at the Roller Derby rink. She sneaks away from her square parents (Marcia Gay Harden as the U.S. Postal Service’s least likely mail carrier and Daniel Stern as a nice schlub who likes beer) to roll with a sisterly Austin team who call themselves the Hurl Scouts. There, she dubs herself Babe Ruthless, making up in speed what she lacks in muscled aggression. She’s heck on wheels, or so we are asked to believe: The rink footage is pretty un-whippy.
Even Juliette Lewis, playing the film’s ? designated bad girl and Bliss/Babe’s nemesis on the rink, is more of a cute bee-yotch than a real threat. The movie is Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut (she also plays fellow Hurl Scout Smashley Simpson), and it’s clear she’s more attuned to grrrlishness than real ? athletic power: Smashley is the first to scream ”Food fight!” and the 34-year-old actress leads the charge in kidlike mayhem. C+
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