The film received generally positive reviews from critics but did not perform well financially, having made $16.6 million worldwide against its $15 million budget. It also received two WIN Award nominations for Outstanding Actress Feature Film for Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore. Whip It was released on DVD and Blu-ray in January 26, 2010 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
The movie has inspired many people to start playing roller derby, including several current top level players like Scald Eagle.
Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) is a misfit in the small town of Bodeen, Texas, with no sense of direction in her life. Her mother, Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden), a former beauty queen, pushes her to enter beauty pageants despite her lack of interest. During a shopping trip to Austin with her mother, Bliss encounters three roller derby team members and finds herself intrigued by the sport in which teams and players are given pun names that highlight the violent aspect of the sport. Intrigued, she and her friend Pash attend a roller derby bout under the pretense of going to a football game, where they see the "Holy Rollers" defeat the "Hurl Scouts", a perennially unsuccessful derby team.
Returning to Austin, Bliss lies about her age and tries out for the Hurl Scouts, discovering her natural skating abilities in the process. Joining the team, Bliss is given the derby name "Babe Ruthless." After realizing she needs to be unmerciful in roller derby, Bliss sees she needs to take charge in other aspects of her life. One involves Bliss' love interest, a lanky young rock guitarist and singer named Oliver (Landon Pigg) whom she meets via her exposure to roller derby. They enjoy a whirlwind romance before Oliver leaves for a tour, taking a T-shirt Bliss gave him to remember her by, in exchange for his jacket. She later finds a picture of him at a gig with another girl, who is wearing her T-shirt. She burns his jacket in retribution and subsequently breaks up with him following his return, although he vehemently denies that anything happened.
Another sub-plot examines Bliss' relationship with her parents, a loving but controlling mother and an amiable but clueless father (Daniel Stern) who seldom opposes his wife's parental decisions. After seeing her excelling and enjoying roller derby, Bliss' father convinces her mother to let Bliss out of a pageant (which is at the same time as the championship roller derby game) and convinces the Hurl Scouts to come get Bliss for the bout. Various other sub-plots include her relationship with Pash, and confrontations with a stuck up snob at school. Pash is fine with Bliss' new path, until she gets arrested with an open container of beer while she is waiting for Bliss, who has left to go find Oliver. Eventually, Pash gets together with their manager and forgives Bliss. The movie ends with the Hurl Scouts narrowly losing the championship match and everyone finally getting along; the team chants "We're number two!" which was the same thing they chanted when they lost their first match.Ellen Page as Bliss Cavendar (Babe Ruthless)
Alia Shawkat as Pash
Marcia Gay Harden as Brooke Cavendar
Daniel Stern as Earl Cavendar
Carlo Alban as Dwayne (Birdman)
Landon Pigg as Oliver
Jimmy Fallon as 'Hot Tub' Johnny Rocket
Kristen Wiig as Maggie Mayhem
Zoë Bell as Bloody Holly
Eve as Rosa Sparks
Drew Barrymore as Smashley Simpson
Andrew Wilson as Razor
Juliette Lewis as Iron Maven
Ari Graynor as Eva Destruction
Har Mar Superstar as Fight Attendants Coach
Production and filming
Screenwriter Shauna Cross adapted her 2007 young adult novel Derby Girl for the screen and pitched the script to different production companies while simultaneously pitching its source material to various publishers. Once Barrymore got involved, she and Cross worked for months on script revisions, with Barrymore pushing her to "avoid her story's tidier prospects, to make things 'more raw and open ended.'" The film project was initially to be handled by Warner Independent Pictures, but Mandate Pictures took over after it was put into a turnaround. Production began summer 2008 in Michigan; principal photography began on July 26, taking place in and around Detroit, Saline, Ypsilanti, Michigan and Birch Run. Real roller derby players were selected from local Michigan teams such as the Detroit Derby Girls, and the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls. Several scenes were also shot in Austin, Texas. Some scenes were also shot in Hamtramck, Michigan at Hamtramck High School as well as Ferndale, Michigan at Ferndale High School. Whip It was produced by Barry Mendel and Drew Barrymore; a co-production between Mandate Pictures and Barrymore's Flower Films. The film was distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.
On August 12, 2009, it was announced that Ellen Page would play the lead role in the film, while Alia Shawkat, Marcia Gay Harden, Daniel Stern and Carlo Alban were in early talks to join the cast. On August 14, 2009, Landon Pigg, Jimmy Fallon, Kristen Wiig, Zoë Bell, Eve, Drew Barrymore and Andrew Wilson were also in final talks to join the film, Juliette Lewis was added to the cast, playing Iron Maven (a play on Iron Maiden) and on August 18, 2009, Ari Graynor and Har Mar Superstar joined the cast of the film, playing Eva Destruction (a play on Eve of Destruction) and the Fight Attendants Coach.
The Section Quartet scored the music for the film and on its soundtrack. The soundtrack also contains "Knocked Up" performed by Kings Of Leon, "Pot Kettle Black" performed by Tilly and the Wall, "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" performed by Ramones, "What's the Altitude" performed by Cut Chemist and Hymnal, "Bang On" performed by The Breeders, "Dead Sound" performed by The Raveonettes, "Blue Turning Grey" performed by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, "Your Arms Around Me" performed by Jens Lekman, "Learnalilgivinanlovin" performed by Gotye, "Boys Wanna Be Her" performed by Peaches, "Jolene" performed by Dolly Parton, "Caught Up in You" performed by 38 Special, "Never My Love" performed by Har Mar Superstar and Adam Green, "Black Gloves" performed by Goose, "Crown of Age" performed by The Ettes, "High Times" performed by Landon Pigg and Turbo Fruits, "Unattainable" performed by Little Joy, "Doing it Right" performed by The Go! Team, "Breeze" performed by Apollo Sunshine, "Kids" performed by MGMT, "Fun Dream Love Dream" performed by Turbo Fruits, "Know How" performed by Young MC, "The Road to Austin" performed by The Section Quartet, "No Surprises" performed by Radiohead, "Domingo no Parque" performed by Gilberto Gil, "Lollipop" performed by Squeak E. Clean and Desert Eagles and other songs performed by other song performers.
Whip It was theatrically released on October 2, 2009 in the United States. Fox Searchlight Pictures distributed the film to 1,721 screens in the United States.
The world premiere of the film was held at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. The majority of the film's main cast attended the premiere. As part of the festivities, members of local league Toronto Roller Derby held an exhibition bout at Yonge Dundas Square in downtown Toronto. Toronto Roller Derby skaters, like those in other cities with major roller derby leagues, also helped promote the film in advance of the screening by wearing costumes from the film and skating around town and performing stunts while handing out flyers and giveaway items. Toronto Roller Derby credits their luck in being able to skate at the festival for helping expand their fanbase as well as their skater rosters.
Whip It was released on DVD and Blu-ray in January 26, 2010 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Critical reception for Whip It was generally positive; based on 176 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating from critics of 85%, with an average score of 7.1/10. Metacritic calculated an average score of 68, based on 31 reviews. A. O. Scott called the film "predictable", but said "You might, nonetheless, want to see this movie, even — or maybe especially — if you have seen Billy Elliot or Bend It Like Beckham. Familiarity is not always a bad thing, and if the script, by Shauna Cross, piles sports movie and coming-of-age touchstones into a veritable cairn of clichés, the cast shows enough agility and conviction to make them seem almost fresh." Roger Ebert said it's a "coming-together of two free spirits, Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page, and while it may not reflect the kind of female empowerment Gloria Steinem had in mind, it has guts, charm, and a black-and-blue sweetness." According to The Miami Herald, "Whip It is completely predictable from the first frame. It also is ridiculously, utterly entertaining. Drew Barrymore's smashing directorial debut harkens back to an era in which Hollywood studio pictures could still move and enthrall the audience while plying in hoary cliches."
Whip It was not financially successful. Initial studio estimates showed Whip It in a tie for #6 in its opening weekend, tying with the widely released Capitalism: A Love Story, and it wound up taking sixth place with $4,650,812. The film grossed $13,043,363 in North America. It grossed $3,589,672 in foreign movie sales, for a grand total of $16,633,035 worldwide. Production cost of the film was $15 million.
Drew Barrymore was nominated for a Bronze Horse at the Stockholm Film Festival.Alliance of Women Film Journalists 2009
Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA) 2010
Stockholm Film Festival 2009
Women Film Critics Circle Awards 2009
Women's Image Network Awards 2009
The film has a 58-song playlist, with a wide range of styles and genres. Nineteen tracks appear on the CD of the soundtrack, with additional tracks at various MP3 stores. According to Allmusic, "The disc is a blend of familiar old standbys (including a glittering remix of the Chordettes' "Lollipop") and indie acts (among them Barrymore's ex-boyfriend Fabrizio Moretti's band Little Joy), achieving the kind of safely edgy balance that embodies the Fox Searchlight aesthetic (that is, it's quirky enough to appeal to the cool kids, but never strays too far from the mainstream)."
- Tilly and the Wall – "Pot Kettle Black"
- Ramones – "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker"
- Cut Chemist featuring Hymnal – "What's the Altitude"
- The Breeders – "Bang On"
- The Raveonettes – "Dead Sound"
- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – "Blue Turning Grey"
- Jens Lekman – "Your Arms Around Me"
- Gotye – "Learnalilgivinanlovin"
- Peaches – "Boys Wanna Be Her"
- Dolly Parton – "Jolene"
- 38 Special – "Caught Up in You"
- Har Mar Superstar featuring Adam Green – "Never My Love"
- Goose – "Black Gloves"
- The Ettes – "Crown of Age"
- Landon Pigg featuring Turbo Fruits – "High Times"
- Little Joy – "Unattainable"
- The Chordettes – "Lollipop (Squeak E. Clean & Desert Eagles remix)"
- The Go! Team – "Doing it Right"
- Apollo Sunshine – "Breeze"
- MGMT - "Kids"
- Turbo Fruits – "Fun Dream Love Dream" (Amazon MP3 version track)
- Young MC – "Know How" (iTunes version bonus track)
- The Section Quartet – "The Road to Austin" (iTunes version bonus track)
- Radiohead - "No Surprises"
- Gilberto Gil - "Domingo no Parque"