Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ice Princess (2005)

"This doesn’t look like a movie," physics geek Casey Carlyle states as she’s tricked into attending a party halfway through Ice Princess. Silly Casey: only in movies like this do high school parties with so many hot 20-somethings and with so little parental consequence ever happen. But in a movie about teenage ice skating champions where an eighteen year old beginner can place second at a competition aired on ESPN with Brian Boitano and Kristi Yamaguchi as announcers but which shows virtually no training at all, anything must be possible.

I saw this movie out of a twisted sense of loyalty to Buffy alum Michelle Trachtenberg, who’s billed third despite being the title character. Channeling everything she learned from Sarah Michelle Gellar’s playbook of cute/uncertain gulps and wide eyed enthusiasm, Trachtenberg is really really cute. But the movie is awful. The script is and embarrassing mixture of teen clichés and sketchy pop physics. Even from a skating perspective, you don’t see anything that good, and the outdated feminism exhibited by Joan Cusack as Casey’s mother is almost as ridiculous as the movie cliché of having the beautiful genius be the outcast. Yes, smart pretty people are always losers! If Clark Kent really looked like Tom Welling from Smallville, I think things would have gone much differently for Superman.

As stupid as Cusack sounds spouting objections to her daughter having anything to do with "those little outfits" and complaining that she wants Casey to go to Harvard so she can have all the things Cusack couldn’t give her (despite their huge house complete with skating pond and Casey’s amazingly articulate computer and video camera), Casey’s decisions also provoke a big "hunh?" Why ruin your Harvard interview, acceptance to which you could always reject in the 9 months it’s going to take for the fall semester to start, to start competitive skating your senior year in high school? It’s nice that her native talent can get her so far, but can you really go from begging the evil bitch who’s sabotaged you in favor of her daughter to coach you to sectional competition without so much as a training montage? Or is actual hard work just not the point? Casey’s best friend points out that she "glides" through physics while she "grinds." Casey, then, is one of those spectacular people who hasn’t worked hard in her life. The one bright spot in this murky business is the characterization of bitchy blond daughter Gen, who turns out to be the only guileless non-hypocritical woman in the piece. Speaking of which, where are all the men?

So in the end, what he have is a world populated by two-dimensional representations of women with hardly any masculine influence who still can’t function except as a reaction against the perils of being a woman in a man’s world. Casey’s choices, while apparently limitless, are bound by the convenience of the scriptwriters and the pat endings supposedly required by young audiences. That said, I don’t think this is going to warp the minds of any young viewers, many of whom at the screening I saw seemed to enjoy themselves. As a girl-power fairy tale, it’s incomprehensible. But if you want to see Michelle Trachtenberg in a tight outfit playing Sarah Michelle, then go for it. "Big things happen to those who dream big" reads the tag line. If this movie is any lesson, I guess I just haven't thought hard enough about becoming a famous novelist and movie critic.

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