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MOVIE REVIEW

'Stick It' is fairly routine

''Stick It" is a mildly amusing comedy set in the rarely visited world of elite gymnastics. The last time I recall such a complete Hollywood immersion, aside from those gauzy profiles that NBC likes to shove between Olympic events, is the 1986 turkey ''American Anthem," starring Mitch Gaylord and Janet Jones. The girls in ''Stick It" are bigger divas, have cleverer lines (justifying her non-regulation sleeveless uniform, one girl says she has the right to bare arms), and perform more unwitting tributes to Busby Berkeley.

The writer and director is Jessica Bendinger, who also wrote the more progressive and more exciting cheerleading farce ''Bring It On." ''Stick It" is a melodrama that doesn't know when to turn off the waterworks. Haley Graham (Missy Peregrym) is a former star gymnast who, after a freak family revelation at the world championships, suffered a mental collapse. She didn't complete the floor exercise, and disqualified the entire American team. Now she's turned into a delinquent who dresses like Kevin Federline.

Hardheaded Haley gets arrested. But luckily, her trip to juvie is rerouted to a gymnastics facility in Houston, where she'll spend the remaining 90 or so minutes teaching her coach (Jeff Bridges) what he should have learned in 1984: that girls want to have fun. Haley schools teammates about the joys of rule breaking. Soon even the dum-dum diva (Vanessa Lengies) is considering taking the night off to go to the prom. By the time of the Climactic Championship Event, the trend becomes clear. Rebellion is the new conformity.

This might have been more pleasing had a whiff of maturity crept into the proceedings. But Bendinger is aiming for little girls, which explains why the movie always looks and feels like a commercial for gum or makeup or ring tones. The cast isn't bad, though. Peregrym is like a secondhand Hilary Swank. She has a looser presence and might be a better actor, but since we already have Swank, finding out is not a priority.

Bridges gives another one of his entertainingly half-there performances. If you close your eyes, he could be the president in ''The Contender" all over again. I wish I knew what he was doing here, but he appears to be having a good enough time, so it's pointless to dwell on it. He gets to mumble gymnast commands in sneakers and tracksuits, and seem stern and stoned, yet encouraging. For the girls in the audience, what he and Peregrym are doing is ''Million Dollar Baby," a version that's free of tragedy but not Splenda.

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