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Overall Rating
2.85

Awesome: 10.26%
Worth A Look: 7.69%
Average58.97%
Pretty Bad: 2.56%
Total Crap: 20.51%

4 reviews, 15 user ratings


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Ice Princess
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by Peter Sobczynski

"'The Princess Diaries' with a Zamboni."
3 stars

“Ice Princess” tells the inspirational story of how a smart young girl transforms herself into a smarter, better and prettier person through the twin powers of advanced mathematics and figure-skating. You will no doubt be shocked to discover that far more time is dedicated to the latter, along with such ancillary matters as boys and make-overs, than to the former; this is, after all, essentially a fantasy film for 12-year-old girls and I daresay that precious few in that group spend their free time fantasizing about sitting in a room doing arithmetic. Besides, unless something has gone horribly wrong, math classes rarely allow anyone the chance to get up close to the Zamboni machine.

Michelle Trachtenberg, beloved by little girls for “Harriet the Spy” and dirty old men for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Eurotrip”, stars as Casey Carlyle, a smart, unpopular high-school girl whose well-meaning, if overbearing, mother (Joan Cusack) is grooming her to become a math genius in order to get into Harvard. “How overbearing is she?”, you may ask. So overbearing that she doesn’t like figure-skating and her idea of a wild time is to announce one morning “I made pancakes with white flour!” As part of a scholarship requirement, Casey needs to devise a project that will demonstrate in personal terms her love and knowledge of the hard sciences (because we all know how loose and touchy-feely math and science can be); before long, it dawns on her that perhaps there is some kind of scientific formula that would allow skaters to improve their leaps and spins. Working as one of her own subjects (for that deeply personal touch always required in scientific experiments), Casey finds that by applying her equations, she is able to accelerate her own progress so quickly that it takes her only weeks to reach the same plateau that most skaters spend years of hard work hoping to achieve.

Lured by the glamorous world of 5 AM workouts and allowing the entire world, not just certain areas of London and France, to see her underpants, Casey begins to seriously train under the tutelage of the imperious Tina Harwood (Kim Cattrall), a former Olympic skater whose own career was clouded by scandal. (She is constantly being reminded of a dark deed she was involved with in Sarajevo–an event which, to judge by the tone everyone uses, was the single worst thing to ever happen there.) There are, of course, complications. One of her competitors is Tina’s daughter (Hayden Panettiere), although she is growing weary of training and would prefer to do anything but skate. (Let us hope that, like the vast majority of Americans, she never gets around to seeing “Imaginary Heroes”.) Another, cuter distraction is the hunky guy (Trevor Blumas) who drives the Zamboni at the rink. And of course, there is the whole matter of trying to convince her mother that her heart belongs to skating and not the works of John Nash. Whether she chooses skating or math is something that I will leave for you to discover; however, I will gently hint that of the two possibilities, only one really lends itself readily to a climax including cute clothes and an empowering-yet-non-threatening anthem on the soundtrack.

I must confess that when I went into the screening room to see “Ice Princess”, I was expecting another silly wish-fulfillment films where, through an unlikely series of events, novices suddenly get thrust into the world of professional sports–kids pitching for the Cubs, monkeys playing hockey and the like. This was mostly due to the amazingly dopey trailer, which makes it look as if Casey figures out one equation and instantly becomes an Olympic-level talent overnight. Therefore, I was surprised and a little pleased to discover that even the filmmakers must have realized that would be too much for even the most indulgent audiences to swallow, so they take some pains to indicate the level of physical training that Casey needs to undergo in order to make it as a skater. It is still pretty preposterous, though, and the film is not immune to throwing the reality of the sport out the window in order to move the story along. Without going into details, there is a point when Casey’s dreams are almost dashed when someone she knows appears to be doing her a favor, but is really making her the victim of an especially dirty trick. The problem is that it is such an obvious dirty trick that it is implausible to believe that Casey, who has been established as a longtime fan and student of the sport, wouldn’t have known what the trickster was up to herself. Look, my total exposure to the world of figure skating has, to date, been one ice show I was lured to under false pretenses (I was under the impression I was going to see “Blue Velvet” and yes, it is a long story) and Katarina Witt’s appearance in “Playboy” and even I knew what was happening.

One key flaw to all of this is the unavoidable fact that while figure-skating may look pretty, the competitive aspects of the sport do not really lend themselves well to the world of film. With something like baseball or football, it is easy enough to determine who is winning and losing at any given moment even if you know nothing about the sport. In skating, however, one competent jump or spin tends to look like another (at least to the untrained eye) and much of the scoring is based on the arbitrary whims of the judges. As a result, there are too many moments of skating triumph where we don’t actually realize that something triumphant has occurred until someone remarks on it after the fact. This means that the final competition has the most vital role for a sports commentator since “Best in Show” and, to lend the part a bit of realism, the filmmakers have brought in Olympic skater Michelle Kwan to play herself. This might have been a good idea in theory, but it quickly becomes obvious that not only is she not an actress, she cannot even play herself very well; it is easily the least convincing performance I have ever seen in a skating-related film and I have seen both Lynn-Holly Johnson in “Ice Castles” and the Tonya Harding in her honeymoon video.

Of course, this isn’t meant to be a realistic look at the world of skating; with just a few minor adjustments, this could have been tweaked into “The Princess Diaries 3" without breaking a sweat. Like those films, it has, in Trachtenberg, a sweet, feckless heroine who isn’t afraid to fall on her butt and who can almost make convincing the inevitable moment where a couple of loose strands of hair are brushed back in order to reveal that, Good Lord, she’s purty after all! The difference between this film and “The Princess Diaries” is that the latter took the time to throw in a bunch of entertainingly goofy distractions (mostly contributions from the Garry Marshall stock company) to liven things up before the inevitable conclusion. “Ice Princess” lacks such diversions and while this does have the benefit of making the film about 30 minutes shorter than it might have otherwise been, it also means that there isn’t really much of anything of interest for anyone even slightly outside of the target demographic.

Unless you are part of that demographic and are already convinced that you are going to love it, I can’t really recommend “Ice Princess”; it is so concerned with giving viewers the predictable goods that even when it occasionally stumbles upon a possible vein of inspiration, such as a few moments of backstage back-biting, it quickly turns away back to the tried-and-true. (I can see someone like the late Michael Ritchie mining this world for rich social satire in the way that he used Little League baseball in “The Bad News Bears”.) On the other hand, it is relatively painless and I must confess that I even learned a couple of things. I learned that physics and skating both utilize technical terms that sound both incredibly silly and slightly dirty. (When someone said “I’m popping my lutz”, I half-expected Groucho Marx to show up to make a crack while wagging his eyebrows.) I learned that if, during the course of the same routine, you both wipe out on the ice and endlessly pause in the middle to witness someone’s dramatic entrance, you can still succeed with the judges as long as you have pluck, determination and your name at the top of the cast list. Finally, I was reminded once again that if there is a funnier word out there than “Zamboni”, I have yet to hear it.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11798&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/18/05 22:40:36
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User Comments

3/30/09 davvh Michelle Trachtenberg has a great ass.I love this movie! 4 stars
9/22/08 PAUL SHORTT ENJOYABLE, CHARMING AND WITH GOOD SPIRITED WARMTH TOWARDS ALMOST ALL ITS CHARACTERS 4 stars
3/31/07 David Pollastrini All the women in this film are hot! 3 stars
10/27/06 Martin Ice Princess?hmm...this film is great!!the story,the soundtrack...and everything. 5 stars
10/17/05 irene lopez the movie is interesting 3 stars
10/05/05 Madeira Where's Tonya Harding when you need her? 1 stars
9/29/05 christina the movie was great!! 5 stars
9/21/05 gg gr8 5 stars
5/05/05 Kristi Achilleos I liked the movie.. and the soundtrack! its a cool teen movie..! 4 stars
4/17/05 Sharon Davis Could hardly wait for it to be over, boring. 2 stars
4/14/05 Roy Smith (38) "trachtenburg = nice. signed, dirty old man." Yeah, baby! 3 stars
3/22/05 Kevin Rose Totally Boring!!!! 1 stars
3/20/05 Egah Ok. Ironic b/c there WAS an Olympic skater (Paul Wylie) who went to Harvard. Silver medal 3 stars
3/19/05 mott the drupal trachtenburg = nice. signed, dirty old man. 5 stars
3/19/05 PAMELA HANSEN not as good as expected but teenage daughter loved it 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Mar-2005 (G)
  DVD: 19-Jul-2005

UK
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Australia
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