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A Tale of Two Movies

So this weekend, I saw two movies in theaters-  Whip It and Zombieland.   So brief review time (mild spoilers follow).

Whip It, in case you didn’t know, is the new Ellen Page (of Juno fame) flick.  Page plays a misfit Southern teen, whose mother wants her to become a beauty pageant winner and, if the politics of the film are any guide, a housewife.  Predictably enough, Page quickly breaks out of this strait-jacket and sneaks surreptitiously (twice a week) into Austin to compete in a roller derby league.  What follows is unintentionally revealing liberal propaganda.  We’re treated to the classic “rebellious sophisticate must escape barbaric fly-over types” plot.  At one point Page sees an older boy picking on a younger boy in an old fashioned ice cream parlor.  He breaks the kid’s cone or something.  Page just shakes her head in disgust.  Do you see the seamy underbelly of Middle America?  Ice cream parlors aren’t ice cream parlors.

Austin is much hipper of course.  They allow underage kids to join 21 or older leagues without, apparently, any identification at all.  Oh, and the uneducated cretins don’t drawl, they…do whatever it is Juliette Lewis does when she opens her mouth.  These are almost passing swipes, though, compared to the big punches it lands in the name of post-modern feminism.  Every female character outside of Podunk USA is liberated; see their willingness to engage in rough and tumble brawls or their almost purposely alarming lack of femininity.

They have a few girl fight scenes which, in a “lesser” movie, might have been highlighted.  Here they’re just womachismo in leather coating.  And of course, at one point, Page’s character yells something like “stop trying to turn me into your ideal of a 50’s woman” replete with withering, androgynous scorn.  She even manages to pull off the “I don’t need a man to validate me,” trope in a rare bit of last minute narrative agility.

Plot-wise?   What do you expect?  Its a sports movie and pretty conventional in that sense.  Scrappy underdog must beat past barriers and arrive at a glorious upset/come to realize something unique about the human heart and the power of friendship.  In a movie with less of an agenda, with less pretense at seriousness, this would have worked well enough.  Everyone loves the Mighty Ducks.  But, this isn’t that movie.  Oddly enough, the agenda very nearly undermines itself.  When the initial parental showdown comes, Page flips out and takes a traditional “liberation”/”rebellion” tact.  And it goes very badly for her, at first.  Without spoiling it to much: she discovers that finding ones self isn’t all its cracked up to be and that irresponsibility has real consequences.

Then, hilariously, the plot ties itself up in neat little bows, though curiously pretzel shaped bows.  From the mountain comes the movie’s final lesson: you shouldn’t totally rebel against your parents, in a bid to assert your sexual freedom and independence.  You should just convince them to accept your freedom, independence, and hysterical bratishness, through a ludicrously manipulative plot device.  Give in to their demands, all sincere-like, whereupon they’ll pity you and realize that “they can’t really control you…can they?”  Puuleeaze.

Zombieland, is a movie about an America where just about everyone has become a zombie.  Except for super-beta male Jesse Eisenberg.  And Woody Harrelson.  And surprisingly unannoying Emma Stone and a not super precocious Abigail Breslin.  Basically, the movie rocks.  The beta male acts like a beta male.  Woody Harrelson acts like Woody Harrelson.  And, best of all, ravenous mythical monsters act like ravenous mythical monsters.  It’s glorious.  No zombies that glitter in the cemetary or have to go to counseling meetings to overcome their insecurity (that’s actually a real book…sadly).  Just flesh-eating monsters eating flesh and imperfect people trying  to make sure it’s someone elses flesh.  What more could you want?  Well, you’ll get a whole lot of funny too.  Seriously, if you’re an adult, and don’t mind a little raw language (a very little) see this movie…now.

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