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'Whip It' more than just roller derby

The movie “Whip It” isn’t a Devo documentary but derived its name from a roller derby term. And while there is roller derby in the movie, the film is more about determination and relationships.

Ellen Page stars as Bliss Cavender, a 17-year-old who is out of place in the pageant world of her mother. Her job as a waitress at the Oink Joint in the small Texas town of Bodeen is also less than satisfying for Bliss.

While Bliss is shopping at an alternative clothing store in Austin, some members of the Texas Roller Derby League skate in with posters publicizing an exhibition.

Bliss takes a poster, and the prospect of cute boys watching is enough motive for her friend Pash (played by Alia Shawkat) to drive to Austin for the exhibition.

After the exhibition, Bliss recognizes skater Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig) as one of the skaters who was in the store. Maggie invites Bliss to tryouts.

Bliss’ most recent skates were a Barbie model, but Maggie continues encouraging her. The league has a minimum age of 21 but no verification of that requirement, so Bliss overcomes that problem verbally.

Bliss laces up her Barbie skates and practices in Bodeen. She tries out and earns a position on the Hurl Scouts.

Between rides from Pash and travel with the senior citizens on the bingo bus, Bliss makes the trip from Bodeen to Austin and back for practice and matches. She fits in with the roller derby skaters and as Babe Ruthless becomes one of the upcoming young stars of the league.

“Whip It” isn’t a roller derby version of “Rocky.” Both were about an underdog’s determination, but Rocky Balboa’s family knew he was in professional boxing.

Pash and their manager at the Oink Joint know that Bliss is competing in roller derby, but Bliss’s parents and her other high school classmates are unaware of her life as Babe Ruthless.

Since there’s roller derby action throughout the movie, it’s not necessarily a chick flick. But no interest in the sport is required to enjoy the film.

In fact, no previous knowledge of roller derby is required to understand the action, since the basics are explained (a whip, by the way, involves teammates propelling the scoring player forward, allowing the “jammer” to increase her speed).

The roller derby action makes the film enjoyable for fathers, boyfriends, little brothers and the like, but Bliss’ determination and her relationship with her family give females good cause to like the film.

The PG-13 rating is warranted due to profanity and the extent of some romantic scenes, but it’s suitable for teenagers, young adults and older adults and the film fills its 111-minute length well.

To some extent, “Whip It” is a comedy, but it has a little of everything – action, romance and relationships, education and an emphasis on achievement through determination.

Even if one might not fit in with a roller derby team, “Whip It” should be a fit for most viewers’ interests.


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