Monday, July 18, 2005

Ice Princess

Monday, July 18, 2005
Casey Carlyle (Michelle Trachtenberg) is a science geek. There is no simpler way to say it. She is an excellent student who gets straight A's and her physics teacher believes that she has the chance to gain a major physics scholarship. To make the most of this chance she needs to spend the summer before her senior year of high school working on a project which demonstrates a practical application of physics and her teacher suggests that she "makes it personal". Casey may be a science geek, but the earliest scenes of the movie show Casey gracefully skating on a pond near her home. Inspiration for her physics project hits while watching a skating competition on television with a friend. Casey realizes there has to be a mathematical formula for the jumps and spins performed by a skater and this can be used to help improve the form of a skater.

Casey goes to the Harwood Skate Center run by Tina Harwood (Kim Cattrall) a former world class skater. After a brief bump in the road, Casey is allowed to film Tina's skaters and work on her science project. After Casey thinks she has her work figured out she goes to the rink with a friend to film her practical application. She attempts to land a jump and amazingly enough, she does, and with perfect form. Casey begins taking lessons from Tina and starts focusing more on skating than on her studies. It becomes something of an obsession, much to the dismay of her mother Joan (Joan Cusack), who is much more into intellectual pursuits and is something of a feminist. Casey, however, is starting to pursue her dream of seeing how far she can go in figure skating.

Much of this movie is fairly standard stuff. Whatever obstacles are placed in Casey's way will be overcome with some pluck and perseverance. There is a boy to impress. Casey is something of the "ugly duckling" of her school because of her brains and how she starts babbling about science when gets nervous. There are moments, particularly in the skating scenes, that we fully expect to see and we are not disappointed. Somehow, though, there is enough charm and realism and good performances that "Ice Princess" works. Michelle Trachtenberg does a very fine job as Casey and makes her a believable student as well as skater. I'm sure a double is used, but very often it looks like Trachtenberg herself skating. The movie also avoids several cliches by having a popular student (Hayden Pannettiere) who snubs Casey early on also be Tina's daughter and a skater. But Gen befriends Casey when they finally have something in common and it turns out that Gen is a decent person and not the standard snob that I expected when the character was first introduced.

The DVD contains a series of deleted scenes which are pleasant enough, but do not add to our understanding of the characters or make the movie work better. There are two music videos, and a commentary track featuring some of the kids who were in the movie. As far as special features go, this is pretty standard and is probably worth watching just once.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by "Ice Princess". I thought it was going to be horrible to watch and I was very wrong. I am as far from the target audience as you can get (a 26 year old male), but enjoyed the movie. It's not great or deeply original, but it is very pleasant. It is a true family film and I suspect that the teenage and pre-teen girls will love it. Rated G, parents have nothing to worry about if they let their children watch "Ice Princess" unsupervised.

Grade: B

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