Quick - what comes to mind when you think about Drew Barrymore? Cute, likeable, Hollywood pedigree, troubled past...and, no doubt, those horrendous CoverGirl LashBlast commercials. In her directorial debut 'Whip It', each of these characteristics comes into play - yes, there's even a blatant plug for LashBlast. Who says product placement is reserved for 'Transformers'?

Despite the fact that this film is very obviously geared towards teenage girls, most people who venture to see it will love it anyway. The main story follows confused 17-year-old Bliss Cavendar (played by Canadian Ellen Page), who becomes fascinated with an all-female roller derby league; she goes through pseudo-mental anguish when she chooses to play the violent sport over her mother's preferred world of beauty pageants.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead...



Warning: Spoilers Ahead...

Quick - what comes to mind when you think about Drew Barrymore? Cute, likeable, Hollywood pedigree, troubled past...and, no doubt, those horrendous CoverGirl LashBlast commercials. In her directorial debut 'Whip It', each of these characteristics comes into play - yes, there's even a blatant plug for LashBlast. Who says product placement is reserved for 'Transformers'?

Despite the fact that this film is very obviously geared towards teenage girls, most people who venture to see it will love it anyway. The main story follows confused 17-year-old Bliss Cavendar (played by Canadian Ellen Page), who becomes fascinated with an all-female roller derby league; she goes through pseudo-mental anguish when she chooses to play the violent sport over her mother's preferred world of beauty pageants.

The clichés and feel-good elements are all there, including an underwater make-out scene with an indie rocker (I really wonder how many takes this scene took, since the two hardly ever surface for air), several mother-daughter heart-to-hearts, an awkward air-guitar sequence, and, of course, the lost-girl-finding-herself moment. All through the power of roller derby!

Speaking of which, there isn't much roller derbying. With an almost two-hour running time, there's only about 30 minutes of the sport, at most. Don't be fooled by the action-packed trailer - this is not a sports movie, nor is it an indie quirk film. It's a coming-of-age movie, not unlike 'The Wizard of Oz', except replace the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion with a zany bunch of tattooed, foul-mouthed roller girls. Let them guide poor lost Bliss down the yellow brick road...erm...track...to superstardom (sound anything like our poor lost real-life Barrymore?)

In fact, the best part about 'Whip It' is the outstanding supporting cast. Barrymore's Hollywood connections/friends certainly helped here. Page, who manages to float wistfully through the movie with that side-smirk, continues to work from her 'Juno' playbook, merely shrugging her shoulders and staring at the camera with those cow eyes. Marcia Gay Harden as her June-Cleaveresque mom is both funny and spot-on, and Daniel Stern as her cowed-yet-endearing father is a treat.

But top prize goes to Bliss' roller derby compadres. Leading the pack as Bliss' enemy on the track is a heavily made-up Juliette Lewis as Iron Maven, who is completely and totally believable as a 36-year-old whose sole concern is her roller derby career. Bliss' closest friend is Maggie Mayhem, played expertly by Kristen Wiig (whose star power is taking off right now, understandably). Uma Thurman's stunt double Zoe Bell stars as Bloody Holly, and she's great for, if nothing else, towering over every other woman on the track.

Let's not forget our director Drew Barrymore, who inserts herself into the movie as violent stoner Smashley Simpson. She's kind of a non-presence, and is no more than an afterthought in most of the scenes, but directorially, she leaves her mark throughout the entire movie. It's overly cutesy and cheesy at several turns, and, as a man, I was rolling my eyes as the young girls behind me in the theatre were gasping with pleasure. There's no question that this movie is for women, by women, so I may not be the best critic for the job.

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Drew Barrymore Snapshots
Director Drew Barrymore poses onstage at the "Whip It" press conference held at the Sutton Place Hotel on September 15, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. "Whip It" Press Conference - 2009 Toronto International Film Festival Sutton Place Hotel Toronto, ON Canada September 15, 2009 Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage.com To license this image (58358860), contact WireImage.com
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Drew Barrymore Photos

    Director Drew Barrymore poses onstage at the "Whip It" press conference held at the Sutton Place Hotel on September 15, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. "Whip It" Press Conference - 2009 Toronto International Film Festival Sutton Place Hotel Toronto, ON Canada September 15, 2009 Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage.com To license this image (58358860), contact WireImage.com

    George Pimentel/WireImage.com

    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 15: (L-R) Director Drew Barrymore and singer/actress Eve speak onstage at the "Whip It" press conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel on September 15, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Drew Barrymore;Eve

    Getty Images

    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 15: Actress Drew Barrymore poses onstage at the "Whip It" press conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel on September 15, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Drew Barrymore

    Getty Images

    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 15: Actress Drew Barrymore poses onstage at the "Whip It" press conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel on September 15, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Drew Barrymore

    Getty Images

    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 15: Actress Drew Barrymore poses onstage at the "Whip It" press conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel on September 15, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Drew Barrymore

    Getty Images

    Drew Barrymore arrives at Yonge Dundas Square on September 13, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. Yonge Dundas Square "Whip It" Roller Derby Event - 2009 Toronto Internation Yonge Dundas Square Toronto, ON Canada September 13, 2009 Photo by Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic.com To license this image (58349600), contact FilmMagic.com

    Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic.com

    Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore at Yonge Dundas Square on September 13, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. Yonge Dundas Square "Whip It" Roller Derby Event - 2009 Toronto Internation Yonge Dundas Square Toronto, ON Canada September 13, 2009 Photo by Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic.com To license this image (58349111), contact FilmMagic.com

    Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic.com

    Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore at Yonge Dundas Square on September 13, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. Yonge Dundas Square "Whip It" Roller Derby Event - 2009 Toronto Internation Yonge Dundas Square Toronto, ON Canada September 13, 2009 Photo by Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic.com To license this image (58349081), contact FilmMagic.com

    Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic.com

    Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore at Yonge Dundas Square on September 13, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. Yonge Dundas Square "Whip It" Roller Derby Event - 2009 Toronto Internation Yonge Dundas Square Toronto, ON Canada September 13, 2009 Photo by Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic.com To license this image (58348783), contact FilmMagic.com

    Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic.com

    Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore at Yonge Dundas Square on September 13, 2009 in Toronto, Canada. Yonge Dundas Square "Whip It" Roller Derby Event - 2009 Toronto Internation Yonge Dundas Square Toronto, ON Canada September 13, 2009 Photo by Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic.com To license this image (58348747), contact FilmMagic.com

    Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic.com



'Whip It' was adapted from the novel 'Roller Girl' by Shauna Cross, who also wrote the screenplay, and Barrymore has done a fairly commendable job at the helm of this movie. Though I do wonder how much kudos it would get if someone else directed it. Hollywood loves Barrymore, and so does the general public. Basic descriptors of Barrymore that show up when in an online search include 'free-spirited' and 'cute'. It also helps that many men find her attractive, and the prospect of seeing a bunch of sexy, aggressive, scantily-clad women on the track can certainly help bring in the male audience.

That said, in a world full of Bratz dolls and Holly Madisons, this is the kind of movie you want your young teenage daughter to see. Easy on the swears, no nudity (amazingly), and barely any underage drinking (anyway, c'mon, this is Canada), this film promotes family togetherness in a non-pandering way, and encourages girls to pursue what they really want to in life. I'd rather have a bad-ass skater daughter than a beauty queen, but maybe that's just me.

As soon as the movie passes the ten-minute mark, you pretty much know what's going to happen. But it's still a fun trip to the end, especially in the scenes featuring Bliss' roller derby team. Barrymore has certainly not broken new ground here, but she hasn't produced a dud either. Calling in favours from all of her Hollywood connections certainly didn't hurt. Let's just all be thankful this wasn't another 'Charlie's Angels' sequel.

'Whip It' opens in theatres on October 2, 2009.