Ice Princess
directed by Tim Fywell
(Walt Disney, 2005)

It's amazing that the wonderfully brutal sport of hockey and the graceful sport of ice skating take place on the same surface. It took a while, but I've actually come to appreciate the sport of figure skating (well, women's figure skating, anyway). Ice Princess, naturally enough, is all about figure skating -- but it's really about so much more than that: pursuing a dream, doing what you love, having the courage to take chances and make big decisions, dealing with parental pressure at its best and worst, competing with honor and basically just figuring out what you want and taking control of your own life -- and, yes, it's also about Michelle Trachtenberg looking absolutely gorgeous.

Walt Disney always puts out good films; Ice Princess is fairly predictable, but there's nothing wrong with a predictable story that inspires you and makes you feel good -- and the film actually isn't quite as predictable as I thought it would be.

Trachtenberg plays Casey Carlyle, a science geek who loves skating out on the pond but is focused on winning a physics scholarship to Harvard. The story doesn't really work the high school misfit angle very hard, but it's not really the focus of the movie, anyway. Casey needs to come up with a personalized physics project to impress the Harvard recruiters, and so she turns to skating with all its angles, velocities, vectors and mathematical implications as her ticket to achievement. It's not enough to watch and study the skaters training under the local coach Tina Harwood (Kim Cattrall), though; she begins taking skating lessons herself (surrounded by much younger, competitive little students) to put her theories to the test, and she discovers she has some real talent. Before long, she's actually competing in sectionals -- where she discovers just how cutthroat the figure skating profession can be.

Standing at the first major crossroads of her life, Casey has to choose whether she will give up skating and go out and get that Harvard scholarship or if she will make the sacrifices necessary in order to see just how far she can go in the sport. Her mother and her coach complicate things. Casey's mother Joan (Joan Cusack) has always dreamed of her daughter matriculating at Harvard and finding lifelong success by using her brilliant mind, and she can't understand why Casey would even think about putting her academic future in jeopardy by pursuing what she sees as an impossible dream. Casey's coach, Tina, has always pushed her own daughter to succeed at figure skating, and she's rather ruthless about making that dream of hers come true -- although it's really not what her daughter wants for herself. Joan and Tina could not be more different -- yet in time we see they are surprisingly alike in terms of pushing their own dreams onto their daughters. It's a theme that any past, present or future teenager knows well. In the end, Casey takes charge of her own life, risking not only Harvard but her close relationship with her mother. It may or may not be the best choice, but it is definitely the right choice for Casey.

The figure-skating scenes are really well-done; a lot of the difficult moves are performed by doubles, but you'd never know it by watching the movie. You also wouldn't know that two of the actresses are skaters with no previous acting experience.

The transformation of Casey from science-geek novice-on-skates to medal-contending skater would never happen in the real world, nor would the actual competitions resemble those in the movie, but the film's story comes across as very believable. There's also a sweet touch of light romance on the side. It's a feel-good story that inspires you to pursue your own dreams, whatever they may be, and I enjoyed it immensely.

The DVD comes with some nice little extras. First, you have a number of deleted scenes, including a different opening to the film -- one of these deleted scenes is quite interesting, for it would have put a much different spin on concluding events -- and a couple of good music videos. The whole soundtrack of the film is excellent, by the way. Also, you have an excellent commentary featuring four of the young actors. Most film commentaries tend to be extremely boring and surprisingly uninformative, but the commentary here is full of details and insight on the making of the film and is really a lot of fun to listen to because of the passion and fun these young stars bring to the whole experience of making the film. It would appear that Disney has done it again: Ice Princess is a wonderful film that is both fun and rewarding for viewers of all ages.

by Daniel Jolley
12 November 2005

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