MISSY PANTONE: See, I'm a hardcore gymnast. No way jumping up and down yelling "Go, Team, Go!" is gonna satisfy me.
TORRANCE SHIPMAN: We're gymnasts too, except no beams, no bars, no vault.
What if you took Bring It On and added the beams, the bars, and the vault? Would you get Stick It, a treatment of elite gymnastics by Jessica Bendinger, who wrote both movies? Not quite.
I saw an advanced screening Tuesday, and a similar attitude is there. Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym, far right) is a former world class gymnast who left for personal reasons, got into trouble in her rebellious phase, and finds herself back by court order.
She is sent to an academy led by a Bela Karolyi-esque coach (Jeff Bridges!), who has a reputation for pushing his athletes too hard while assuring parents that their children are Olympic caliber. He's no great teacher; she's no great student. But the independence approach works out well for both of them. The movie glosses over various clichés (sports mothers, ditzy teens, awestruck boys) and focuses on the action: strangely choreographed practice routines reminiscent of a Busby Berkeley musical.
These visuals had limited appeal. A first-time director, Bendinger makes the rookie mistake of using her whole bag of visual tricks to capture the gymnasts' motions. As a result, there's repetition, and less of a focus on dialogue, which isn't that memorable anyway.
It's fairly predictable until the last act -- you could say it sticks its landing -- when it becomes an interesting if prolonged indictment of old-fashioned gymnastics judging. Haley's rebellion becomes spirited and contagious. (Incidentally, this subjective evaluation makes me define gymnastics as a competition, not a sport.)