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Whip It (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

January 31, 2010 by  



Entertaining, fun and an enjoyable coming-of-age film.  A solid directorial debut by Drew Barrymore and another wonderful performance by Ellen Page and also from the film’s all-star supporting cast.

© 2009 Babe Ruthless Production, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Whip It

DURATION: 111 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen 2:40:1, AVC@36MBPS English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

RATED: PG-13 (Sexual Content including Crude Dialogue, Language and Drug Material)

COMPANY: Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: January 26, 2010

Based on the book “Derby Girl” by Shauna Cross

Directed by Drew Barrymore

Screenplay by Drew Barrymore

Executive Producer: Drew Barrymore, Peter Douglas, Joseph Drake, Nancy Juvonen, Nathan Kahane, Kirsten Smith

Producer: Barry Mendel

Co-Producer: Nicole Brown, Kelli Konop, Jason Lust, Karyn McCarthy

Associate Producer: Chris Miller

Music by The Section Quartet

Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman

Edited by Dylan Tichenor

Casting by Justine Baddeley, Kim Davis

Production Design by Kevin Kavanaugh

Set Decoration by Meg Everist

Costume Design by Catherine Marie Thomas

Starring:

Sarah Habel as Corbi

Ellen Page as Bliss Cavendar

Alia Shawkat as Pash

Shannon Eagen as Amber

Marcia Gay Harden as Brooke Cavendar

Daniel Stern as Earl Cavendar

Jimmy Fallon as “Hot Tub” Johnny Rocket

Kristen Wiig as Maggie Mayhem

Zoe Bell as Bloody Holly

Eve as Rosa Parks

Drew Barrymore as Smashley Simpson

Andrew Wilson as Razor

Juliette Lewis as Iron Maven

Rusty Mewha as Holy Rollers

Ari Graynor as Eva Destruction

Landon Pigg as Oliver

Carlo Alban as Birdman

The memorable heroine of Juno is back and scores huge laughs as Bliss Cavendar, a blue-haired misfit stuck in a tiny Texas town in Whip It, a coming-of-age comedy skating onto Blu-ray Disc with Digital Copy and DVD January 26 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Tired of following in her family’s footsteps, Bliss discovers a way to put her life on the fast track when she lands a spot on a rough-and-tumble roller derby team. Her journey comes full-circle as she reconnects with her family and finds her own path in the world.

Roller Derby.  I can easily remember turning on the television and watching the Los Angeles T-Birds. Personally, I didn’t know if this was a true sport or if it was like wrestling and it was just sports entertainment.  But I was hooked.  Not sure if it was the blonde women with poofy hair throwing other women out of the rink or that one person who didn’t look should be on the rink, actually kicking butt.  Needless to say, that roller derby has had its following for decades and now here we are with a film based on a character who takes part in roller derby competitions.

“Whip It” marks the directorial debut by actress Drew Barrymore (“E.T.”, “50 First Dates”, “The Wedding Singer”, “Charlie’s Angels” films) and is an adaptation of the novel “Derby Girl” by Shauna Cross, a fictionalized book of skating with the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls.

The independent film was released in theaters during the fall of 2009 and now makes its Blu-ray and DVD debut.  The Blu-ray edition comes with a second disc which contains a digital copy of the film.

The film revolves around Bliss Cavendar (played by Ellen Page, “X3”, “Juno”, “Smart People”), a quiet and shy girl who lives in the small town of Bodeen, Texas and works at a fast food restaurant.   She aspires to nothing and is constantly pushed by her pageant mother Brooke (played by Marcia Gay Harden, “The Maiden Heist”, “Damages”, “Mystic River”) to compete in a variety of beauty pageants.  Her little sister Shania is more of the person who enjoys the pageants but for Bliss, it’s not her thing.  In fact, she doesn’t even know what kind of person she is and just thinks that she is not cut out for the pageants.

But fortunately, she has a friend named Pash (played by Alia Shawkat, “Arrested Development”, “Bart Got a Room”) who is a good friend and her emotional support. Both dream of leaving the small town, while Pash dreams of going to an Ivy League School, Bliss doesn’t know what to do with her life.

One day while shopping with her mother, she discovers a group of women promoting a roller derby event in Austin.  Immediately, she is mesmerized by it and she and Pash go to Austin and pretend they are going to a football game when in fact, she goes to watch the roller derby event in which she suddenly becomes inspired by the team “The Hurl Scouts” who are the worst roller derby team in Texas.

When she goes to meet with them and tell them how they are her new heroes, Maggie Mayhem (played by Kristen Wiig, “Saturday Night Live”, “Extract”) and Smashley Simpson (played by Drew Barrymore) asks her to put on some skates and attend the tryouts and become her own hero.  Of course, Bliss lies and tells them that she’s 22 when she’s actually a teenager.  But Bliss who has become inspired by these women, takes her Barbie skates and starts practicing to skate and enters tryouts.

While at tryouts, she immediately, she is bossed around by Iron Maven (played by Juliette Lewis, “Cape Fear”, “From Dusk Till Dawn”) but the Hurl Scouts coach, Razor (played by Andrew Wilson, “Fever Pitch, “Charlie’s Angels”, “Rushmore”) sees her speed as major potential and gives her a spot on The Hurl Scouts and quickly becomes good friends with the other ladies on the team which include Bloody Holly (played by Zoe Bell), Rosa Sparks (played by Eve) and more.

Part of the perks of being a Hurl Scout is attending parties hosted by roller derby host “Hot Tub” Johnny Rocket (played by Jimmy Fallon) and both Bliss and Pash start to have some fun.  That is where she meets Oliver (played by Landon Pigg), a musician from the band playing at the party and eventually a guy that she starts to fall in love with.

Immediately, Bliss becomes a sensation on the team as the quick “Babe Ruthless” and suddenly the last placed Hurl Scouts become the hot team in roller derby and her presence has inspired her teammates to want to win their matches.  For the first time, Bliss feels that she is making a difference with her life and things are starting to happen and she’s happy. But yet she is still living a lie.  She’s underage and shouldn’t be competing, she’s lying to her family and telling them that she’s with her friend studying for her SAT’s.  How long can she keep this up?

With her mother expecting Bliss to compete at major beauty pageant competitions, having a new guy in her life, maintaining her friendship with Pash and trying to fake her injuries that she receives at roller derby competitions, let alone lying about her age…what happens when the truth about Bliss comes out?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Whip It” is presented in 1080 High Definition (Widescreen 2:40:1), AVC @ 36 MBPS.  The film sports vibrant colors with the Hurl Scouts green outfits, while amber lights shine on the roller derby rink.  You can see details in the surroundings, especially injuries ala bloody noses to bruises.  Even the tattoos on Kristen Wiig are seen much clearly on HD.  Skin tones are natural and blacks are nice and deep.  Everything is visible from the freckles of Pash, to the sweat and tears of Bliss and the other girls during competition or the more emotional scenes of the film.  I will say that at first, I thought this was a period film shot in the ’80s but you realize that the film focuses on Bliss living in a very small town.

There is a fine amount of grain in the film and I didn’t notice any compression artifacts, banding or any sign of DNR.  A solid Blu-ray release in terms of PQ from Fox.

As for the audio, “Whip It” is featured in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital.  The film is front and center channel driven.  Dialogue and music are both crystal clear but there is minimal use of surrounds.  You can hear crowd ambiance and the women racing on the rink and hitting the side rails and hearing the skates but its not immersive as I would have hoped but still, the film is not all about the roller derby and there are plenty of dialogue scenes and music-driven scenes that are very clear, with some songs having a nice kick of bass.  A pretty interesting soundtrack as well from ’80s 38 Special’s “Caught Up in You” to music from the Ramones and the Breeders.

Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Whip It” comes with a digital copy of the film and comes with a few special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (16:14) Included is an alternate opening and eight deleted scenes.
  • Fox Movie Channel Presents Writer’s Draft: Shauna Cross of “Whip It” – (3:04) A short featurette with an interview with novel and screenwriter Shauna Cross about “Whip It”.
  • Whip It Soundtrack Spot – (:32) A promotional for the “Whip It” soundtrack.

“Whip It” may seem like a film about roller derby and the antics that go behind-the-scenes of the sport but truthfully, the film has many layers.  From a coming-of-age film, a relationship movie and a girl power film, there are a good number of things going on in this film that there is far much more to enjoy than expected.

I have to admit that Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut definitely shows promise.  The actress has starred in so many films since she was a child and has worked with a good number of quality director’s, I had no doubt that she would do a pretty solid job.

Part of the challenge of “Whip It” is bringing together this wild bunch of characters that the character Bliss associates with and then bringing this other side of her life as a teenager from a small town, having an overbearing pageant mother and working at a fast food restaurant while trying to maintain her friendship with her high school friends and then finding love.  Definitely not an easy task for Barrymore but one thing she does have is the original author Shauna Cross involved with the screenplay and she has a talented actress in Ellen Page in the main role.

At first glance, I didn’t know if Page can pull of such a role but as she did with “Juno” she manages to pull of Bliss very well for “Whip It”.

As for the other supporting characters, personally I don’t if roller derby lifestyles are similar to what is depicted in the movie.  As much as I do enjoy Barrymore’s directorial debut, her role as Smashley Simpson is a bit too much while I do feel Kristen Wiig manages to pull off another solid supporting role like she has done in “Extract” and Juliette Lewis still does a great job in portraying the bad girl.  Marcia Gay Harden and Daniel Stern (who plays Bliss’s father) also do a good job as the parents of Bliss.

As for the Blu-ray, the picture quality for the film was very good and the lossless audio was satisfactory but it would have been great to have it a bit more immersive via use of the surround channels.   And it would have been great to have audio commentary by Barrymore and Shauna Cross or even a featurette on how the talent prepared for the film or even  Behind-the-scenes footage.  I felt the special features were a bit short for this Blu-ray release.  But as for the film, “Whip It” is an entertaining, humorous and a solid coming-of-age, feel-good style of film.  And again, although roller derby does play a big part in this film, “Whip It” is not an all out sports movie.  The film has many layers to it and fortunately, the solid performances definitely made this film enjoyable.

Overall, “Whip It” is a solid directorial debut from Drew Barrymore and fine performances by Ellen Page and its supporting cast makes this film better than expected.

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