I find Ellen Page (JUNO) irresistible. As an actress, she’ll never be the kind of glamour girl that her on-screen mother (Marcia Gay Harden) aspires her to be in this movie. It’s why she’s perfect as a small town Texas girl who finds her niche as a speed skating rookie sensation for a cellar dwelling Roller Derby team. The “sport” angle is a mere backdrop for a Disney Channel-type storyline where a kid becomes adept at doing something that’s the polar opposite of what a domineering parent wants. But in her directorial debut, Drew Barrymore (DONNIE DARKO) gives the familiar plot a genuine charm without trying too hard to attain it. The “rules” of the roller rink mayhem are explained adequately enough but the actual competitions themselves are very well choreographed and it’s noteworthy to me that most of the performers did their own skating. Much of the movie’s authenticity lies in the screenplay from a Los Angeles Derby Dolls star named Shauna Cross, who provides the inspiration for the Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig) character. The ensemble cast is excellent and the secondary players nicely establish their characters in the scenes they’re given with special praise for Barrymore, Juliette Lewis (NATURAL BORN KILLERS) as a chief rival named Iron Maven, Daniel Stern (BREAKING AWAY), Wiig (ADVENTURELAND) and Andrew Wilson (BOTTLE ROCKET) as a surfer dude coach whose designed plays make him a sort of Bill Belichick of collision skating. Labeling this as a “chick flick” is inaccurate and unfair since most guys either secretly or unabashedly like to watch anything where attractive young females are knocking the crap out of each other. Thankfully, there’s a lot more than that to this movie, which I really enjoyed.
FIVE NEW/YOUNG ACTORS I THINK ARE GOING TO BE BIG STARS …: Jessse Eisenberg (ZOMBIELAND), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 DAYS OF SUMMER), Ryan Gosling (THE NOTEBOOK), Emile Hirsch (INTO THE WILD, MILK), Sam Worthington (AVATAR)
… AND FIVE NEW/YOUNG ACTRESSES WHO’LL JOIN THEM: Ellen Page (JUNO), Saoirse Ronan (THE LOVELY BONES), Amanda Seyfried (JENNIFER’S BODY), Rumer Willis (SORORITY ROW), Evan Rachel Wood (THIRTEEN)