Fake punk-rock has its own visual language, and the opening minutes of Stick It–a movie about that most punk-rock of sports, gymnastics–piles on the "Do The Dew" clichés: credits spelled out in dripping graffiti, crazy jump cuts and camera bobs out of thirteen, extreme stunts in an empty suburban pool with skateboards and trick bikes, and much flashing of the "devil horns" hand signal. And to make it extra legit, the rebellious teen heroine appears in a succession of freshly pressed T-shirts sporting the logos of ossified punk bands: Ramones, Bad Brains, Motörhead, etc. To be fair, the film does have a punk agenda (or at least something slightly more amplified than lite rock), as it takes on the confusing and arbitrary gymnastics scoring rules that seem to turn every Olympics into a fiasco. But writer-director Jessica Bendinger, who scripted the witty cheerleading comedy Bring It On, has misplaced her sense of irony and irreverence this time around, maybe on orders from Disney.
Once a gymnastics prodigy who flamed out mysteriously, Missy Peregrym has given up the sport for more x-treme pursuits as a way of acting out against her bitterly divorced parents. When the cops nab her for trespassing and damaging private property, the judge offers her an ultimatum: She can go to military school, or the Vickerman Gymnastics Academy. (Curiously, she wasn't also given the option to be someone's butler.) When she turns up at VGA, Peregrym is persona non grata among her peers, who blame her for flaking out on the international stage and generally resent her for thumbing her nose at their sport. So it's left to Jeff Bridges, a coach with an equally troubled reputation, to tame this wild horse and get her ready for competition again.
With its double-meaning title, Stick It takes aim at the gymnastics establishment, whose points system rewards superficial dance moves and "solid" performances over feats of real athleticism. In theory, the climactic meet should be like something out of a Ron Shelton's Bull Durham or Tin Cup, an inspiring piece of anti-inspiration that considers personal integrity a greater triumph than victory. But Bendinger stuffs all the important information in the mouths of two dissociated announcer voices–the laziest of sports-movie gambits–rather than staying with the girls on the floor. So along with being fake punk-rock, Stick It is also a fake protest movie. That leaves the only traces of genuineness to Bridges, who plays the coach with a fatherly patience that earns him a paycheck, but not the better film he deserves.