Jessica Bendinger's debut as a director sees her mixing the basic rules of the teen comedy genre with an element that so many other efforts seem to completely ignore - fun.
Bendinger is best known for writing teen comedies 'Bring It On' and 'First Daughter', as well as scripting an episode of 'Sex in the City'. She has always displayed a keen perception of the relationships between females of all ages and in assuming the directing duties on 'Stick It' she proves that she has what it takes to oversee the filming of her own script.
The action centres around the life of Haley Graham (Peregrym), a renegade in the world of gymnastics for walking out on the US team, and the sport, at the World Championships for reasons unknown. Due to a run-in with the law, involving an extreme sports stunt that goes horribly wrong, Haley is cast back into the realm that she left as a means of staying out of a juvenile detention centre.
She finds herself sentenced to time at the Vickerman Gymnastics Academy (VGA) under the guidance of tough coach Burt Vickerman (Bridges). Burt has a reputation for being hard on his students, sometimes pushing them beyond their limits, and coaxing tuition fees from parents by promising that their beloved daughters will make an appearance at the Olympics.
As would be expected from a teen movie, the pair manage to come to various compromises through their arguments and find themselves developing a bond despite their previous lack of respect for each other. When Burt finally manages to convince Haley to compete again she goes through the same tribulations with her teammates, before managing to win them over, and finds herself at odds with the gymnastic world once again as she appears at the National Championships.
The story becomes slightly irrelevant though as the real joy in the production comes from Haley's voiceovers during a number of gymnastic montages. She takes us through the nature of the sport and how it is judged. From what the athletes are expected to eat to their complete lack of a social life, Haley gives an entertaining insight into an area that few will have ever thought about. Bendinger spices these scenes up by throwing in satirical scenes, involving the judges that make the girls' lives hell, and adding high tempo songs to keep the action going.
Haley's adventure back into this world comes to a head when she manages to influence the majority of athletes at the Nationals to band together and teach those that rule the sport a lesson. Life-fulfilling moments like these are two-a-penny in Disney-funded movies and this one is no different. However, it fails to take from the overall entertainment factor.
The comedy is good, though some of the wisecracks are a little on the mild side if you are as used as this viewer to hearing his teenage sister and her legion's take on life.
'Stick It' will guarantee Jessica Bendinger another couple of cracks at the teen comedy genre and if she keeps producing work like this there is a lot to look forward to.