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Today’s review is due to a request from a fellow blogger and follower for many years, swanpride. (Check out her blog, Honoring the Heroines!) Ice Princess was a movie that I had never seen before nor had much interest in as ice skating didn’t really intrigue me. Turns out, it’s actually not a sports film and there’s more to the film than just the ice skating aspect. Was it a good film, though? Read on to find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the opening credits roll, we hear an Aly and AJ song being played which somewhat dates the film.
We’re then introduced to the main character, high schooler, Casey Carlyle, played by Michelle Trachtenberg. She’s a polite, scientifically-minded student who is encouraged by her teacher to apply for a particular scholarship to get into Harvard University. In order to apply, she has to submit a personal project that’s physics-related.
At first, she isn’t sure what to do, but after watching some ice skating videos (she enjoys ice skating as a hobby herself), she gets the idea of using a computer program to improve people’s skating by applying physics to them.
To get video footage for her research, she records her school’s ice skating team practicing, but is confronted by their coach, Tina Harwood, played by Kim Cattrall. She suspects Casey of spying for the FBI, but allows Casey to continue filming once she realizes she’s just a student preparing for a science project.
To make the project more personal, she asks Coach Harwood if she can join the team. Coach Harwood allows her to as long as she can raise the necessary $800 for equipment and such. She gets a job selling snacks at the ice rink to raise the money.
At first, the other skaters look somewhat down on her as she’s the “smarty science-y” kid. One of these skaters is Coach Harwood’s own daughter, Gennifer “Gen” Harwood, played by Hayden Panettiere. Nevertheless, Casey continues practicing and Coach Harwood helps her get improve. Gen seems a bit worried/jealous that her mom’s focusing on the new girl a bit much, but doesn’t really do anything about it.
Meanwhile Casey has a problem of her own as her mother, Joan Carlyle, played by Joan Cusack, is quite the feminist. What I mean by that is that she holds certain views, one of which is that ice skating is a demeaning sport for girls as it’s just for girls to “dress and feel pretty”. As you can imagine, Casey keeps the fact that she’s joined the school ice skating team a secret from her mother.
Soon, it’s the day of the ice skating tryout performance for the championship. But, it’s also the same day that Casey has to go to Harvard for a sort of introductory session. So, she goes to Harvard with her mother in the day and rushes to the ice rink afterwards just in time to participate in the tryouts.
Fortunately, she manages to pass the tryouts and wants to continue training with Coach Harwood. Coach Harwood tells her that it would cost even more money, but Casey has fallen in love with the sport, so she doesn’t mind. And how do Gen and the other girls feel about Casey doing so well on her first try whilst they have been practicing for much longer than she has? Well, of course, they’re jealous of this and still treat her badly, right? Actually, they’re just jealous that she has a life of her own (unlike Gen who receives strict instructions from her mom, Coach Harwood) and they befriend Casey.
Casey quickly reciprocates friendship with Gen and the other girls and even offers to help them with their skating using her computer program.
Not only is Casey learning and having a great time with Coach Harwood, Gen, and the other girls, but she starts to fall for the Coach’s son, Teddy, played by Trevor Blumas. He’s into cars and rides the Zamboni at the ice rink there, so he’s often around when the girls are practicing.
It’s not long though before Casey’s mother finds out about her being on the ice skating team. As you can imagine, the two have a disagreement: Why can’t Casey do both Harvard and be a skater? Why does Casey need to be a skater? Can’t she just focus on Harvard alone? Etc.?
Not long after, it’s time for the regionals, the next step to the ice skating final championship. It’s taking place in another city, so Coach Harwood drives the girls there. Once there, Coach Harwood notices that Casey is doing quite well…maybe a bit too well….maybe a bit “might knock Gen out of the game” too well.
Coach Harwood then buys Casey some brand new skates to use for the final leg of her performance. But unbeknownst to Casey, one needs time to break in new skates. So this causes Casey to do poorly on the final leg resulting in Gen getting the higher score. Casey soon finds out what happened and gets mad at Coach Harwood as well as her kids whom she assumes knew about this all along!
Casey calls her mother to pick her up and when she does, Joan and Coach Harwood have it out. Joan is appalled that Coach Harwood could do something like that to Casey and crush her dreams whilst Coach Harwood doesn’t seem to have any regrets and believes in a “you gotta do whatever it takes to survive” ideology.
As the days go by, Gen gets sick and tired of skating, not having a life, and of what her mother did to Casey that she decides to drop out of the running. Casey herself soon patches things up with Teddy and with Gen.
Casey soon realizes that she wants to go back to skating, so she quits her Harvard interview much to her mother’s disappointment and heads back to Coach Harwood asking her to train her again. It’s here we learn that Coach Harwood was once involved in an incident years ago where she sabotaged another ice skater’s chances as well, so sabotage isn’t something new to her. Nevertheless, the two seem to bury the hatchet for whatever reason and since Gen has dropped out, Casey is set to participate in the sectionals.
As the time goes by, Casey’s mother has refused to watch her skate and the two haven’t spoken in a couple of months. But, Joan soon gets over herself and goes to the sectionals to see Casey perform which gives Casey an extra boost! Although she doesn’t win, she is a runner-up which is better than nothing. The movie ends with Joan and Coach Harwood arguing with each other about Casey’s future and how much time she should devote to training and how much to studying.
And that was Ice Princess. The first thing that I can say about this film is that it has a LOT of commentary going on! There’s so many themes present including feminism and what exactly counts as feminism, following one’s dreams, being college-minded, having a “survival of the fittest” mindset, what is forgivable, what is debatable, having remorse about choices, what counts as being “girly”, etc. There’s a lot of material in this movie if you wanted to do a thematic analysis of the film!
But, from a filmmaking perspective, I feel the film does fail in some aspects. First off, besides Kim Cattrall, none of the acting performances are incredibly good. Joan Cusack is…okay, at best, and Michelle Trachtenberg goes back and forth between horrible line deliveries and tolerable line deliveries. It just feels like a bit more effort than a DCOM, but not enough for a theatrical film.
Also, while the film has many themes like I mentioned, it doesn’t really balance them all that well. Like I’m glad they didn’t go for the stereotype of Gen hating Casey until the very end, but why build that up in the first place if it wasn’t going down that path? Or why exactly does Casey forgive the Coach when she herself doesn’t seem to regret her decision that much? The plot of the movie just kinda goes everywhere at times.
The last third of the movie is definitely the strongest, but unfortunately I have to include the first 2/3 of the movie in my analysis when reviewing this film. I can’t crown Ice Princess as a nigh-loved monarch, but maybe as a flawed one.
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 21/35 = 60% (D-) !
The next review will be posted on June 19, 2017.