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Whip It 

Roller derby saves a life in this shaggy comedy

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Actress Drew Barrymore takes to the director's chair -- and the track -- for this lively coming-of-age comedy set in the rowdy world of ladies' roller derby. Bliss (Ellen Page) is the disaffected small-town Texas teen, dutifully trudging through the pageants her mom (Marcia Gay Harden) loves. That is, until she secretly joins the Hurl Scouts, a perennially losing roller-derby squad in Austin. Seems skating like a demon and answering to "Babe Ruthless" is just the kick-start Bliss needs. The film, adapted from Shauna Cross' novel, starts out a little rocky, with some lame comic set-ups and a bit of floundering. But once Bliss gets skates, the story finds its groove. The derby scenes are fun (with good supporting work from rollers Barrymore, Kristen Wiig, Zoe Bell and Juliette Lewis), and the track hi-jinks are balanced with a couple of life lessons about cute boys, best friends, understanding your mom and what it means to win. It's all just this side of clichéd, but the lack of silly drama and key good performances from Page and Harden pull it out. Plus, Page (Juno) is so adorable as the misfit cutie who finds her métier throwing elbows that her journey is simply infectious. Starts Fri., Oct. 2.

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