'Stick It' is a formulaic wayward-teen-finds-righteousness flick as the roundoffs and handsprings fly.
In terms of eye candy, "Stick It" is a feast. Set in the world of competitive girls' gymnastics, it offers a nonstop parade of lithe, toned young women in shrink-wrap leotards performing sassy routines that will leave many viewers bug-eyed with astonishment. Or something like it. As a couple of hormone-driven, skater-dude characters drool, "How did we not know about this sport?" Unfortunately, the film is a famine in just about every other regard.
Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym) is a 17-year-old wild child whose rebellious attitude ruined her chances for gymnastics stardom when she walked out on her team in a huff. After a run-in with the law, she's sentenced to return to the uneven parallel bars and work out her issues.
Jeff Bridges plays the hardnosed but caring Mr. Miyagi -- sorry, Burt Vickerman, coach of the elite gymnastics academy where Haley trains alongside a cookie-cutter crew of teen stereotypes: Stuck-Up Girl, Gee-Whiz Airhead and Asian Hip-Hop Girl. Initially hostile, Haley learns to temper her distaste for rules, judges and scores with team spirit and a smidgen of respect for her trainer.
"Stick It" is the first writing/directing credit for Jessica Bendinger, who wrote the popular cheerleader comedy "Bring It On." Peregrym, whose machine-tooled physique is more expressive than her surly line readings, might have benefited from more experienced hands. She's supposed to come off as defiant but appealing as she snaps teen-witch witticisms like "If you think that I'm getting on this competition floor with some stupid cookie-cutter routine, you are seriously senile." In truth, she's a cocky little pill who growls as if she was raised by bears.
Bridges provides the film's most enjoyable moments as a sly, mildly crooked coach who is willing to exaggerate his students' Olympic potential if that's what it takes to keep the tuition checks flowing. He inhabits the edges of the frame like a man stuck at a dull party, wearing a pleasant, neutral expression with a daydreaming look in his eyes. Even veteran actors need to keep the checks flowing sometimes.
The setup: A rebellious former gymnastics star (Missy Peregrym) is sentenced to return to a strict training academy run by a no-nonsense coach (Jeff Bridges).
What works: Peregrym is a remarkable physical specimen, exciting in motion and gorgeous in repose.
What doesn't: The snotty teeny-bopper dialogue sounds like it was actually written by snotty teeny-boppers. "It's not called gym-nice-tics"? Puh-leez.
Great scene: A precisely timed bit of physical comedy involving an embarrassing balance beam injury that will have audiences groaning in unison.
Rating: PG-13 for some crude remarks.
Colin Covert 612-673-7186