March 18, 2005
Being a heroine in post feminist America means never having to say you’re sorry for toe loops and tiaras, even when you have a bigger brain than Einstein.
So it goes in "Ice Princess," a taffysweet sports fantasy about holding on to your girlish dreams. Cutie-pie "Buffy" alum Michelle Trachtenberg plays Casey Carlyle, a nerdy Harvard-ound physics prodigy (take that, Lawrence Summers!) who knows all about drag coefficients and conservation of mass and other smart stuff, but really just wants to skate, skate, skate.
Assigned an important physics paper, Casey decides to combine her passions. Crashing the local rink, Casey convinces standoffish skating coach Tina Harwood ("Sex and the City" hussy Kim Cattrall) to let her observe Tina’s athletes in action.
Ostensibly for her research, Casey also enrolls herself in an intermediate figure-skating class, which goes so well that she’s soon landing double axels and competing against New England’s best amateur skaters (with the help of stunt doubles and subtle digital airbrushing, naturally).
Casey competes without the blessing of her pushy, unmarried mother (Joan Cusack), an old-school feminist who thinks figure skating is a vestige of bygone, less gender-equitable times.
She also catches turbulence from Tina, whose carnivorous win-at-any-cost philosophy comes to bear when Casey’s high marks threaten to bump her own daughter (Hayden Panettiere from "Raising Helen") from competition.
There are exactly two surprising things about "Ice Princess": Cattrall never takes off her clothes (then again, the movie is rated G, so maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part) and director Tim Fywell ("I Capture the Castle") and screenwriter Hadley Davis ("Spin City") actually take the time to build a halfway lucid dialogue about obsessive parents and the necessity of sacrifice.
Cattrall is spot-on as a remorseless blow-dried ice diva, and Cusack ("School of Rock") lends her character — a somewhat grinding caricature — some needed dramatic authority.
Skating purists will scoff at Casey’s rocket-like learning curve (from a frozen pond in her back yard to elite competition in a year — hey, it could happen), but Trachtenberg ("Eurotrip") at least looks and acts the part (one can only imagine what a disaster "Ice Princess" would have been if, say, Hilary Duff had won the role). With her pleasant, farm-fresh features and smarts that appear to be more than script-deep, Trachtenberg could be the cutest thing on skates since Dorothy Hamill.
Starring: Michelle Trachtenberg, Joan Cusack, Kim Cattrall, Hayden Panettiere Rating: G (all audiences)
Running time: 92 minutes
Playing: Opens today at theaters Valleywide