Whether in this current generation, ones from time past or those yet to come, adolescents will always partake in what best can be described as "teenspeak." It's the sort of dialogue that the cool kids use and the ones the next tier down try to emulate. Comprised of fun or clever plays on current and even past terminology, it's the kind of lingo that sometimes even comes to identify a specific generation (if you're "square," you're from the '50s, etc.).
Not surprisingly, many a film dealing with that demographic either tries to capture such wordplay or wants to create brand new riffs that the kids will pick up on and then make their own. Such examples in the "recent" past have been "Clueless," "Bring It On" and "Mean Girls." Now, one can add "Stick It" to that list, although really only as an aspirant, as it never quite reaches that level of cool and imitative discourse.
Not that it doesn't try. With phrases or lines such as "Deja-jealous," "I'm so sure I'm practically deodorant," "If you're gonna eat mat, eat mat hard," "Call me" (followed by "Stalk you") and "It's not called gym-nice-tics," there's plenty of said material as well as the sassy girls to deliver it. With that last line representing the plot and its accompany 'tude, one could easily view this as "Bring It On The Balance Beam," which really wouldn't be surprising considering that both films were written by Jessica Bendinger.
Of course, this time she's also making her directorial debut, an act that's all too readily apparent, both in terms of the watered down script and a number of telltale signs of a novice behind the camera. There's a huge step between just penning a screenplay and then bringing it to life on the screen, and the more polished skill of Peyton Reed (who directed "Bring It On" -- which has grown on me since it was first reviewed -- as well as "Down With Love") is sorely missed.
When the script is lacking or a director is in over their head, it's not hard to see the resultant signs, all of which are on display here. For starters, the film is filled with a ton of songs -- most of which are cranked up to a higher decibel level than the rest of the audio -- many of which accompany a plethora of montages. While both are common in romantic comedies and films aimed at teens, they're usually nothing more than filler and that's certainly the case here.
The filmmaker then makes the mistake of both ignoring and following different but related bits of philosophical advice in her own script. They both involve dealing with conformity, with one stating that consistency is good and flash is bad, while the other (and the thematic one that drives the film and its protagonist) is that the first statement is bad and one should instead be judged on individualism and flair.
Unfortunately, Bendinger took that to heart by going overboard with the cranked up visuals and various related special effects. From slow motion to sudden freeze frames (where characters hang in the air and then resume their movement), and high shutter speed shots to double (and then some) exposure type sequences, the film is a menagerie of imaginative imagery.
While I liked the first such shot (directly overhead looking down on the girls walking on their hands -- which creates a weird effect) and thought the similar Busby Berkley inspired visuals were cute the first time around, Bendinger keeps repeating them and reaches ever further down into her bags of tricks. Not only do they end up being distracting (and reek of pandering to the stereotypical short attention span viewer), but they also pile up with the plentiful soundtrack and montages as being nothing but additional padding.
The result is that the film feels even longer than its 100-some minute runtime and the underlying story -- involving a trouble juvenile delinquent and her supposedly controversial coach -- never gets the chance to turn into anything remotely interesting or engaging (especially if you're not a tween or young teenage girl).
The former character is played by Missy Peregrym who looks like a combination of Hilary Swank from "Million Dollar Baby" and Eliza Dushku from "Bring It On." Since the latter played a fiery and sarcastic gymnast in that film, it's not too much of a stretch for Bendinger to have this story play out in a somewhat similar fashion (with gymnastics rather than cheerleading being the subject at hand). The latter figure is played by Jeff Bridges in one of those appearances that simply initiates some head scratching as to what would have convinced "The Dude" to sign on the dotted line.
Both are okay in their parts -- which also holds true for Vanessa Lengies as Haley's antagonist -- but with all of the songs, montages and visual trickery, there just isn't enough time for their stories (or the overall indictment of rigid gymnastics judging and pushy sports moms) to take hold. And while Bendinger fires off plenty of teenspeak, much of it simply lacks the in-the-moment magic to make any of it stick like it should. Which also holds true for the overall film. "Stick It" ends up stumbling over itself rather than following its titular advice and landing a perfect cinematic score.