When Hadley Davis, one of the writers of “Dawson’s Creek,” sat down to compose the screenplay for Ice Princess, I very much doubt she ever considered the movie would appeal to anyone besides 12-year-old suburban white girls, dropped off at the mall by their mothers on a Saturday afternoon to shop for earrings at Claire’s, get a bite at Hot Dog on a Stick, and take in a movie. But if you were to attend an early matinee on a school day, you’d likely learn quickly that Michelle Trachtenberg, Hayden Panettiere, and a series of other 16-year-old girls in short skirts also appeal to an entirely different movie going demographic: the 34-to-48-year-old pedophile.
Indeed, 10 minutes into the screening for Ice Princess, I noticed the theater was a bit more crowded than is usual at a morning screening that doesn’t involve comic book characters (and their rabid, mostly unkempt fans). On closer inspection, it was revealed that most of the people in attendance were men — men well into their 40s, dressed in suits and ties (and often overcoats) who laughed at odd moments in the film, moments that didn’t seem to be intended to elicit much laughter; for instance, while one of the teenaged characters was weeping.
Recognizing that I, too, was neither a 12-year-old girl nor her mother, and that I had a notebook sitting in my lap, made me extremely uncomfortable. Did the other attendees assume that I was one of them, that I’d sit through a G-rated teeny movie for some other reason than to write critically about it? Did that explain why, when Michelle Trachtenberg’s character landed on her ass, the guy sitting three seats down from me winked knowingly, as though we were in on the same joke? And why (oh God why!) could the guy behind me not stop grumbling and rustling what I could only imagine was a brown paper bag. Why did I leave a movie about the pursuit of one girl’s dream to become a figure skater feeling so incredibly dirty?
Putting aside the creeping sense that I was actually sitting in Pee Wee’s Fucking Playhouse, The Ice Princess itself was mostly a generic crowd-pleaser, the sort of movie that young girls and their grandparents would probably adore, but that any other demographic (pedophiles aside) could only tolerate intermittently. The story follows Casey Carlyle (Trachtenberg), a promising physics student who, in an attempt to obtain a scholarship to Harvard, discovers the aerodynamic formula for the triple Lutz. Trying to make her discovery a bit more personal, Casey learns how to ice skate so that she can implement her own formula, and (surprise!) learns she’s got a natural talent for the sport. Kim Catrall (“Sex in the City”) plays Tina Harwood, the bitchy, controlling ice-skating coach, who tries to sabotage Casey’s pursuit of the gold in favor of her own daughter’s; her performance is mostly straightforward and pat, and if you expect double entendres and winks at the camera, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Any movie about the pursuit of one’s dream wouldn’t be complete without the get-your-head-out-of-the-fucking-clouds parent figure, here represented by Joan Cusack, the “Jack & Bobby”-type liberal mother who denounces figure skating as sexist and childish, a notion that’s confirmed when Casey’s skating ability takes off after she begins wearing eyeliner. The naturally talented Cusack manages to extract some credibility out of the otherwise melodramatic lines she is given (“You’re giving up on your dream!”), but whatever organic emotional resonance the movie eventually builds is ultimately drowned out by the multitude of musical montages, including Diana DeGarmo’s screeching “Reaching for Heaven.” However, Hayden Panettiere does add the surprisingly adept “I Fly,” to the soundtrack, as well as the film’s best performance as Tina’s daughter, who would have us believe she’d rather be an anonymous high-schooler than a figure skating star. Rounding out the cast, Trevor Blumas plays both the Zamboni driver and Casey’s love interest, though he’s mostly forgettable in both roles.
Tim Fywell (I Capture the Castle) manages to sprinkle enough fairy dust on Trachtenberg and the rest of the film to make it almost watchable, highlighted by near-rousing skate scenes. For the most part, however, The Ice Princess is another formulaic sports movie; but, in a strange twist, it does offer a serviceable alternative to The Ring Two for teenage girls and pedophiles alike!
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
The Ice Princess / Dustin Rowles
Film | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()