Ice Princess review by Mike Long

Judging by the sheer number of channels dedicated to the subject on any cable or satellite TV system, sports are now more popular than ever. Similarly, the sports movie is an enduring genre which shows no sign of stopping. Today, sports appeal to a wider demographic than ever, so who's to say that sports movies can't do the same thing. Proving this point, we have the female-tween focused Ice Princess, a formulaic movie which proves that no age group is immune from the classic plot-points.

Michelle Trachtenberg stars in Ice Princess as Casey Carlyle, a high-school student who excels in science and math, but has few friends. As part of a physics scholarship application (she hopes to attend Harvard), Casey decides to study the science of ice skating, convinced that there must be an equation which would illustrate the perfect jump. To research this project, Casey visits the local ice skating rink to videotape the skaters. But, much to her surprise, rink owner/operator Tina Harwood (Kim Cattrall) is not happy with this, convinced that Casey is trying to steal ideas from the skaters, including her own daughter, Gen Harwood (Hayden Panettiere). Casey and Tina are able to work out an agreement and soon Casey is gathering plenty of data for her project. However, Casey decides that the study needs a more personal touch and she begins to attempts the jumps herself and also enrolls in one of Tina's beginner skating classes.

This is when Casey and Tina make an amazing discovery -- Casey is a good skater. In fact, she has the raw talent to be a competitor. Casey decides to pursue this dream, all the while hiding it from her feminist mother, Joan (Joan Cusack), who finds skating to be a waste of time. But, Casey finds competitive skating to be far more challenging than she'd expected and it soon begins to take a toll on her life. Can Casey live in this high-pressure world, or should she go back to being a smart unknown?

Disney has become the masters of seemingly harmless entertainment and Ice Princess fits perfectly into this genre. Like clockwork, the movie hits every sports movie clich and never challenges the audience. Lets go down the list, shall we? Casey is a sports novice, who cant afford the proper training and equipment to be a competitive skater, but through perseverance, this naturally gifted athletic underdog will find a way to make her dreams come true. The movie mixes elements of films like Rocky and the recent Miracle and, not to give too much away, the only sports movie clich missing here is the crippling injury which threatens the athletes career. The one original element here is the way in which Casey gets involved in skating. I really liked the idea of Casey approaching skating from a scientific viewpoint and this certainly adds a new twist to many old ideas. (And it reminded me of my Its all about the math viewpoint on miniature golf.)

The one thing that lifts the film above TV-level quality is the cast. Michelle Trachtenberg is asked to carry the film and does a good job. Even those who feel that her character ruined Buffy will be impressed by her performance. And while Joan Cusack and Kim Cattrall are both good, they seem to be playing roles which theyve played before. Cusack is playing the same stuffy, stick-in-the-mud character which shes done before in films like School of Rock and Raising Helen. But, that doesnt mean that isnt good in this role and we truly believe her as the angry college professor who only wants the best for her daughter. Kim Cattrall appears to be channeling a less slutty version of Samantha from Sex and the City, and while Tina Harwood is certainly a cocky character, Cattrall now seems unable to leave that saucy character behind. Hayden Paettiere is good as Casey's rival both on and off the ice, but she doesn't seem to have the physical characteristics common to figure skaters. Director Tim Fywell makes his feature film debut here after helming many TV movies. He keeps things moving along nicely, but there is a lot of hand-held camera in the film, along with noticeable zooms, which gives the piece an amateurish look.

The most unusual element of Ice Princess is its message. The story was co-written by Meg Cabot, the creator of The Princess Diaries books. In my review for The Princess Diaries 2 , I commented on that movie's odd message concerning female independence. In Ice Princess, we have a character who is a dedicated scholar, but she's introduced to the "beauty" of ice skating, she wants to move away from that academic world. While the movie thinks it's telling young women that it's OK to follow their dreams, I found the film to be saying that it's better to be beautiful than to be smart. However, you read it, Ice Princess is an adequate sports film for young girls...assuming of course that they were asking for one.

Ice Princess glides onto DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The film has come to home video in two editions, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks pretty good, although some grain is noticeable in the scenes showing a snow-covered landscape. The picture is sharp and the colors are good. There is some noticeable artifacting at times and some shots are very soft, bordering on blurry. The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track displays the sort of characteristics common in Disney's family films. The dialogue is sharp and clear, but the surround sound effects and subwoofer action, while present at times, are kept very low in the mix, and never have much of an impact on the presentation.

The DVD carries only a few extras. We start with an audio commentary featuring actors Michelle Trachtenberg, Hayden Panettiere, Trevor Blumas, and Kirsten Olson. This is sort of commentary that one would expect from four young actors. They give us some information about the production of the film and tell some stories about what the climate was like on the set. But, they also giggle a lot and make comments which make no sense to the listener. The DVD contains 5 "Deleted Scenes", which total 7 minutes, including an "alternate opening", which shows that Casey has used skating for relaxation since childhood. The only other extras are two music videos, "Reach" by Caleigh Peters and "No One" by Aly & A.J.

5 out of 10 Jackasses

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