Film — Ice Princess (PG)

Ice Princess (PG)

by Amy Diaz

Michelle Trachtenberg lives the dream as a physics-geek/star athlete in Ice Princess, a frosted lip gloss girl-friendly flick.

Whose dream, exactly, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Dawn living? Well, I doubt it’s actually the dream of most little girls. Despite the abundance of flower-petal-like outfits, the real focus of a figure skater’s life is competition and training, which means early morning wake-up calls, strict diets, minimal social life and sometimes home-schooling. It seems a little more like the dream of a 30-something woman — one who wishes she could go back and do her high school years over. I think it’s a common fantasy that if you could relive high school it would be as a self-confident achiever who mixed brains and beauty and participated equally in all facets of teenage life that interested you without a care for the social confines of high school. This is, of course, impossible. Not so much the reliving high school (hey, didn’t you see Freaky Friday?) but the not-caring-about-the-social-structure part. Even were you to go back now, all poised with your adult knowledge of the world, after a few weeks it would once-again seem like an insurmountable hurdle for a nerd to get invited to a cool kid party. So when Trachtenberg’s Casey Carlyle finds herself partying with her high school’s football players and hockey stars, it seems like a room full of 30-year-old movie development types, not 10-year-old girls, are the ones really cheering.

In fact, all sorts of stuff in Ice Princess feels like grown-ups trying to set right old wrongs. Take for example Casey’s mom Joan (Joan Cusack). She’s a feminist professor who has raised her daughter to be Harvard-minded. But her pushing has a strong note of stridency and when she sees her daughter watching figure skating, she poo poos it for its pretty factor. But physics and math geek Casey is enamored with the sport, so much so that when she’s has to do a science project for an important scholarship she picks deciphering the physics of the ice rink. This throws her into the company of Tina Harwood (Kim Catrall), a former Olympic ice skater who has shades of Tonya Harding-like scandal in her past, and her daughter Gen (Hayden Panettiere), a popular girl who may be Olympics-bound herself. After a few sessions video taping and analyzing the skaters jumps and turns, Casey comes to understand what makes for a better routine and decides to take a few spins on the ice herself. With the suspicious coaching of Tina, Casey proves herself to be almost as talented, if not as practiced, as Gen and therefore something of a threat.

Meanwhile, Joan sees Tina as a threat, believing that all this time on the rink will mean a short self-life for success.

Two single moms, both with only limited success in life try to push their daughters toward the goals that they themselves never reached. Both girls have their own dreams they want to pursue, not to mention cute non-threatening boys they want to hang out with, and spend their story arcs discovering how to express their desires without breaking that mother-daughter bond. I don’t think I’m giving anything away really when I say that in the end, each mom learns a valuable lesson about acceptance and each girl learns how to take command of her own desires.

Again, this is whose dream? A 12-year-olds? Perhaps, when laid out all nicely on the screen, most 12-year-old girls will smile the dreamy smile of “maybe someday” but I doubt that a sense of understanding with their mothers and a shot at self-determination are concrete ideas. But ask a woman of twice or three times that age what she wanted in her teens and such sentimental ideas of talent utterly fulfilled will probably trump the teenage concerns for whatever today’s equivalent of Guess jeans and a Swatch watch is.

Ice Princess is a sweet but flat movie that the narrow demographic of 10- to 14-year-old girls will probably enjoy and hopefully find in it some positive advice about going after your dreams. For their moms, it will be a silly but wistful fantasy of what could have been.

- Amy Diaz

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