Went to see Whip It yesterday with low expectations. There are a bunch of people in the movie I like, and freaky hot chicks on skates wouldn't be a total waste of time ("You can never have too much eyeliner," as they say in the film), so I figured it was worth a shot. I felt like there were a hundred things that could've gone horribly wrong.
First off, the subject matter is already over the top, so it could've been treated with a fringe edge that would turn most people off. Drew Barrymore has never directed a feature before. Ellen Page, charming as she was in Juno, is still unproven. The movie could have sucked, but it didn't.
First off, you'll recognize pretty much everyone in it, and it's a great ensemble. Jimmy Falon plays the track announcer, and he's pretty good at it. The skaters include Kristen Wiig as the aunt/alternate mother figure, and again shows that she can play more than just slightly retarded characters. Zoe Bell, my favorite actress/stuntwoman is in it, sexy-ugly as always. The coach is another Wilson brother I didn't know about (and better than the more well known bros). Juliette Lewis finally looks and plays someone her age, which is to say she's hideous. Barrymore and Eve are also skaters (Eve could so be Reese Witherspoon's sister if she weren't obviously a different race). Even one of the lesser skater characters I recognized as the sister from Fringe. Just a ton of great working talent here.
And the good news is that Ellen Page is again charming without rehashing the Juno role. She's the center of a story that fills all the genres we like seeing: Sports movie, buddy flick, coming of age story, minor romance, parent-child conflict... it has it all. She's flanked by a best friend (apparently from the TV show Arrested Development) and a neurotic mom (Marcia Gay Harden) who push and pull her with great performances.
I'll admit that there probably isn't much you haven't seen before, and it really plays out as a strong sports movie, but it's the most engaged I've been in a movie in awhile. Page's greatest asset is that every little thing she does seems like a completely sincere and real response to the story. You want her to be happy, successful and not a douchebag on every page (no pun intended). I have to wonder how much of that is Barrymore, who may not have directed before, but she's been in so many movies that by now she has to have a pretty good idea about how to make one.
Very fun movie. Lots of people you'll like. Go see it.