by David Cornelius
Being a parent means sacrifice. Taking the pain. Ask any father who’s been accidentally kicked in the crotch. My own personal parental pain came when I took my daughter to see Disney’s “Ice Princess.” A kick to the crotch is nothing compared to sitting through the pain that is a badly made family movie.Granted, being neither a grade school student nor a girl, I am not the target audience for this film. My daughter seemed to like it well enough, for the simplistic plot and the pretty ice skating. Fine. Me, it took all I had to keep from laughing, loudly, in front of my darling child and the many other girls filling the multiplex audience.
"Will have audiences crying out like Nancy Kerrigan: Why me? Why me??"
Granted again, it starts off to be not as bad as one would expect. A standard schlocky kiddie melodrama, to be sure, but not an awful one. Michelle Trachtenberg stars as Casey, a stereotypical shy nerd who’s so good at physics that she’s agreed to spend the summer working on a project that’ll guarantee her a scholarship to Harvard. The project? Studying the physics of ice skaters.
Ultimately, Casey puts herself in the project, testing her theories to see if those laws of physics, when applied, can make her a better skater, too. They do, and soon Casey’s hanging out with the popular skating kids and placing herself in serious competition.
So far, it’s a flop of a movie, but not a very big flop. The screenplay is dull but inoffensive, and the cast is charming enough to keep the flat dialogue and the clichéd plotting afloat. But then things slowly begin to go south, little by little, and the movie goes from harmless dud to laughable clunker.
For starters, there’s the issue of Casey’s “dream.” The whole movie supplies the usual “follow your dream” angle, except the movie doesn’t quite handle it properly. The story here is about a girl who discovers what her dream is - to be a professional skater - yet the script doesn’t treat its later scenes as though Casey just made this discovery. It’s not about the joys of self-revelation. Instead, Casey spends the second half of the film acting as though she’s wanted her whole life to be a skater. It’s a small detail, but an important one; Casey’s decision to devote her life to skating feels more like a powerful whim, but the movie attempts to play it off as a life-long goal. Scripter Hadley Davis seems to forget what she wrote in the movie’s first half. (The scene where she ditches her Harvard interview makes zero sense. The typical scene in such a film finds our character leaving the place she doesn’t want to be to rush off to the place she does want to be. Here, our heroine rushes off in a fury of “I want to skate!!” yet goes… nowhere. The competition’s not for weeks. So why the rush off?)
Then there’s a whole issue about Casey’s mom (Joan Cusack) being a militant anti-skating feminist, which is a painful attempt to force conflict into the story. I can see the story meetings now:
“OK, we need to have Casey’s mom not want her to skate, so we can have the scene where Casey has to hide her skating from her mom, which will lead to the scene where the mom finds out, which will lead to the scene where mom finally changes her mind and shows up for the big competition at the end, cue music.”
“That’s a bit silly. Why would she not want her to skate?”
“Well, she has to not want her to skate, because that’s what always happens in these kinds of movies, and heaven forbid we try something different.”
“Well, that’s pretty darn stupid. But fine. Run with it. I dunno… make her a rabid feminist who hates sparkly tights or something.”
Sigh. And bless her heart, the always dependable Cusack tries her best to make the character work - she lifts the material as high as it’ll go, but it’s just too darn heavy under all those clichés.
The film also takes an odd turn with the character of the skating coach, played by the Mannequin herself, Kim Cattrall. For the early scenes, there’s a workable mix of harsh and understandable, stern but kind in this character. She actually goes against the typical formulas. That is, until midway through the picture, when an unnecessary plot point drops in to make Cattrall the villain. Why? Because the movie needs a villain, I suppose, and the punk rock skater wouldn’t do.
That’s right, “punk rock skater.” There’s a secondary character that appears from time to time as a potential skating rival for the girls. Not only is this subplot poorly handled (little comes of the character, as the filmmakers aren’t quite sure what to do with her), but we’re supposed to buy the idea of rock n’ roll rebel skater, a blue-haired goth chick who loves the triple lutzes. Trust me, it’s even sillier than it sounds.
As for the skating, it’s pretty decent, mainly because skaters, not actors, were cast in the supporting roles (a choice that shows when the girls are asked to, you know, act). I was even impressed with Trachtenberg’s work on the ice, until the final scene, when sloppy, embarrassing editing revealed that hey, who’s that woman who’s dressed in Casey’s costume, and where did Michelle Trachtenberg go?Again, little girls may go for this sort of thing. They won’t notice the clunky pacing or the drippy dialogue or the limp plot or the stiff, awkward cameos from Michelle Kwan and Brian Boitano. They’ll be too busy enjoying the pretty skating. Hey, they may even fall for the weak romantic bit in which Casey falls for the dopey Zamboni driver. Me, I was hoping for that Zamboni to fall right through the ice. With luck, it might just take the rest of the movie with it, too.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11798&reviewer=392
originally posted: 04/05/05 12:38:00