It’s totally, totally like The Cutting Edge meets A Beautiful Mind with more than a hint of Bring It On. There is mother-daughter drama, popular girl-science geek drama, cute boy-dorky girl drama, and of course a “raging” (quotes intended) Can’t Hardly Wait-style house party which was as out-of-place in the film as the lead character was at the bash.
Ice Princess is the story of brainy Casey Carlyle (Michelle Trachtenberg), a self-proclaimed physics-phenom whose long-standing life-goals (hello, Harvard) are called into question when, while attempting to determine the trajectory and aerodynamic form of figure skaters’ triple loops for a physics scholarship, is herself inescapably intrigued by the ice.
The popular Gen Harwood (Hayden Panettiere), the skater Casey is studying, is training for the regional championships under her mother (Kim Cattrall), a type-A, washed-up skater herself, who projects her longtime goals onto her typically-Disney sharp-skating, sharp-witted, blonde daughter. Gen, though, would rather be eating a hamburger with her boyfriend than practicing triple-axles at 5 a.m. Who knew? Everyone knows pretty girls can’t eat burgers.
Panettiere and Trachtenberg perform exactly as expected, batting eyelashes and flipping their hair, but it is the mothers (Cattrall and Joan Cusack) who really bring weight to Ice Princess and ground their giddy and at times transparent daughters along with the film itself. It’s amazing what a pinch of acting gravitas can do.
Gen’s mother, Kim Cattrall, the tough-love skating coach, escapes her roles as Sex and the City’s sex-crazed Samatha in favor of the win-at-all-costs, but hide-your-soft-side character she plays here.
Joan Cusack, a granola-type adult education professor, and Casey’s mom, plays the same brand of pushy mother, but on the opposite extreme. The feminist philosophies with which Cusack has attempted to indoctrinate her daughter are at times completely overstated, and will, of course, be easily sublimated.
When Casey comes home one day, caught in a slew of lies she must tell her mother in order to go ice-skating—yes, ice-skating—Cusack responds to her costume, which inadvertently falls out of Casey’s wholesome (read: dorky) backpack, with the vigilance that many parents might have had it been cocaine. The melodramatic scene begins as a slow-motion close-up as the backpack falls to the ground and Casey’s ice-skates and little red costume tumble out, and then cut to mom’s horrified and hurt expression.
As with any Disney movie, an overarching (perhaps overbearing) theme is that of regret at dreams lost: the mothers have much of it and do not wish any upon their daughters so they end up forcing them to follow their own dreams, while inadvertently making their daughters miserable.
The ending leaves much to be desired and the “there is no shelf life on your mind” vs. “you have to want it” lifestyle debate is played out with more than a little heavy-handedness. Cusack and Cattrall, however, manage to shine in suffocating stereotypical roles.
At the end of Ice Princess you may want to get out your old skates and turn about the ice yourself. For the rest of us, there’s booze and Blockbuster.
-Staff writer Meghan M. Dolan can be reached at email@example.com.