Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michelle Trachtenberg, Joan Cusack, Kim Cattrall, Michelle Kwan, Brian Boitano
Written by: Hadley Davis, from a story by Meg Cabot and Hadley Davis
Directed by: Tim Fywell
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 92
Date: 03/19/2013

Ice Princess (2005)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Zamboni and Cheese

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The ice skating film has a long tradition in Hollywood, starting withOlympic gold medalist Sonja Henie (1912-69), who made many audienceshappy with her lightweight, Depression-era films such as Thin Ice(1937) and Happy Landing (1939).

Later, generations of young girls thrilled to the exploits of Robby Benson and Lynn-Holly Johnson in Ice Castles (1979) and D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly in The Cutting Edge (1992).

Skating has been used mostly for romance and fantasy; its gorgeous fluidity makes a perfect subject for motion picture cameras. Yet, it's much harder to convey a sense of tension or competition, unlike, say, a boxing film.

Director Tim Fywell (I Capture the Castle) probably overlooked all this stuff before taking on the very weak Ice Princess. Judging from the lack of energy onscreen, it was merely time for another ice skating movie.

Fywell is so uninspired he can barely point the camera at all, much less capture anything interesting. His off the ice dialogue footage consists mostly of "over-the-shoulder" back-and-forth close-ups. He consistently fails to use even the most rudimentary establishing shots.

It goes without saying, then, that his skating footage is just as bad. Star Michelle Trachtenberg did most of her own skating and used doubles for the big stunts. Fywell obviously cheats the different shots together, but uses such choppy editing -- slamming together close-ups and long shots -- that every skater in the film looks cheated.

Trachtenberg stars as Casey Carlyle, a physics nerd, and the most shockingly beautiful unpopular girl in school. For her summer project and her application to Harvard, she attempts to unscramble the mathematical formulas behind several skating moves and discovers that she herself has a knack for skating.

This leads to the inevitable decision between skating full time and attending college -- a misguided idea, as several real-life professional skaters have successfully excelled at both.

Joan Cusack co-stars as Casey's mom, stuck repeating the same joke; she's a feminist who eats tofu. Kim Cattrall does one better as the scowling, obsessed skating mom who takes Casey under her wing. And a lumpy, hangdog Zamboni driver (Trevor Blumas) turns up as Casey's rather unengaging love interest.

It's a very old story, with weird, outmoded values, but Ice Princess ultimately feels harmless. Like those earlier skating films, most reviews will shrug, dismiss it and forget all about it. But, some little girl out there will see it, take it to heart and ask mom and dad for skating lessons.

DVD Details: Disney's new DVD tries a little too hard: "cool alternate opening, must-see deleted scenes, hot music videos, exclusive audio commentary." What does "exclusive audio commentary" mean, that this particular track isn't available with any other movie?

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