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MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Starring: Michelle Trachtenberg, Joan Cusack, Kim Cattrall, Hayden Panettiere
Written by: Hadley Davis
Directed by: Tim Fywell
Retail Price: $29.99
Features: Audio Commentary with Michelle Trachtenberg, Hayden Panettiere, Trevor Blumas and Kirsten Olson, Deleted Scenes, Music Videos
Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (12 Scenes)
Released: July 19th, 2005
Casey Carlyle (Michelle Trachtenberg) is a high school science genius, who's strong in academics and secretly in love with ice skating. And when she decides to base a science project for a scholarship based on ice skating, she soon realizes that she has the talent for her favorite sport. The road to becoming a competitive skater won't be easy though: Casey's mother (Joan Cusack) keeps pushing her away from having fun and toward Harvard, and her sometimes coach (Kim Cattrall) doesn't exactly want to see Casey become a pro so fast either. Casey has plenty of rivals in the rink, too. Yet our heroine keeps following her heart and doing what she can to keep her dream alive &emdash; even if it means sacrificing a prosperous future.
"Ice Princess" is a good introduction for kids to the world of movie drama. On its surface the movie may seem like a lightweight follow your dreams story (all from the studio that brought you "The Princess Diaries"!), but truthfully this movie isn't as sugary as it's made out to be: the movie isn't a comedy (unless watching people fall on ice is your idea of hilarity) and shows the more painful and realistic aspects of following your dreams. Casey is pretty determined to be a competitive ice skater despite her lack of experience, her controlling mother, naysayers and others who are just looking to sabotage her. The movie also takes a look at some failed dreams, and how the two mother figures in the movie tend to live vicariously through their children.
As corny and predictable as it is, it's hard to fault "Ice Princess" for at least delivering a decent formula movie. Hadley Davis' script covers all the bases, and director Tim Fywell traces them all down pat. It's paint-by-numbers stuff: Casey has talent, Casey faces obstacles, Casey keeps going farther and farther with her dream, there's tragedy, there's the big moment where she has to decide what she really wants to do with her life, there's her supportive best friend, there's the love interest that keeps popping up... it goes on like that. Older viewers will recognize the archetypes, and they'll probably be able to guess a lot of the recycled lines before they're delivered.
It's also hard to fault the film for delivering a Hollywood rarity: an inspirational tale for young girls that is relatable, complete with a universal message about doing something that gives you passion and being our own person. In the past few years, I have seen a lot of movies aimed at families that are pretty dismal: they lack heart and often lack a message. Sure they can be fun, but these movies geared toward families are meant more for marketing purposes &emdash; so it's pretty refreshing to see something like "Ice Princess." Given the age we live in, and how it seems that kids grow up faster and faster these days, this movie sends a much different &emdash; and better &emdash; message to young girls, as most of them are probably caught up watching females getting demeaned in teen romps and music videos. I guess one could also argue that "Ice Princess" is about female empowerment &emdash; father figures are completely non-existent in the story. In case you haven't realized it yet though, let the truth be told: Casey's struggle is only going to appeal to a select demographic and that's pre-teen girls (and maybe some younger), and their mothers who want their children to succeed and follow their hearts.
Then there's the film's acting. It's decent, but it doesn't exactly elevate the movie. Michelle Trachtenberg is okay as Casey, but I imagine there could have been better casting for the part. Trachtenberg is capable of making her character pretty gawky and socially awkward, but when it comes for her to go toe-to-toe in the more dramatic scenes, she doesn't quite have the chops. She's somewhat believable, but her performance lacks a certain authenticity and charisma. For a character that's so driven, passionate and maybe a bit confused, Trachtenberg makes Casey much too passive.
On the supporting end, the talented Joan Cusack as Casey's mother doesn't do much unfortunately &emdash; her character is much too one note: all she does is predictably nag at her daughter about the importance of college, ice skating is a waste of time, etc. Kim Cattrall has more meat to her role, and she gives a good performance as the two-sided and manipulative ice-skating coach &emdash; who also happens to be a demanding mother. The real standout in this movie though is rising star Hayden Panettiere, who started as a child actress and who has been growing into more mature roles. As , Panettiere is excellent and completely natural as your typical, popular high school girl who really just wants a life of her own &emdash; and not the one her mother has planted upon her. There's definitely a lot more in store in the future for this budding actress.
Upon its debut at the domestic box office, "Ice Princess" didn't exactly draw raves and tanked pretty hard in its first weekend out. Yet somehow, "The Pacifier" &emdash; which opened two weekends prior and had worse reviews &emdash; was still raking in the dough. I guess families prefer no-substance stories with the same fart jokes they know so well? I don't know. But for mothers who have young daughters, this is an perfectly sweet-hearted movie film can enjoy together. Just anything to get them away from that awful Vin Diesel movie. Anything.
There's a full screen version of the movie out there, but I'm sure a good six people will be getting the widescreen version. If that's the case, they'll be treated to the film in an anamorphic presentation with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Unfortunately, the picture quality isn't really spectacular. The fleshtones look okay and color saturation is fine if a bit underwhelming... but there are plenty of distractions. The overall image is very soft, the image looks grainy often, there are scratches and blemishes on the print, detail isn't very refined and there's a lot of noise and edge halos &emdash; plus some edge enhancement thrown in. I know the movie had a low budget, but given how strong Disney's transfers usually are, this is a disappointment.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is pretty low key, which is what the material calls for. There's a lot of talking in the movie, and the dialogue comes in clear and sounds natural. The music gives the movie a warm ambience &emdash; the pop music is mixed well, and Christophe Beck's pleasant-sounding score really fits the bill. As far as surrounds, there are a few and they're somewhat discrete. There's a party sequence which gives the speakers a bit of a work-out, but mainly it's hearing that ice scrape when there is skating. The 5.1 mix also becomes a bit lively at the big skating competition where the movie climaxes with the crowds and everything. A French Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also on the disc, as well as English closed captions and subtitles in English and French.
Not a lot, which probably has to do with the movie's dismal box office returns. There are a few Deleted Scenes, including an alternate opening, that last 7 minutes and are in non-anamorphic widescreen and with production audio. The scenes aren't much, and the alternate opening &emdash; if used &emdash; would have made the movie a bit more ironic. There are also two "hot" Music Videos: "Reach" performed by Caleigh Peters and "No One" performed by Aly & A.J. Sorry, but these pre-teen pop artists molded by Disney to tie in to their other synergy sound the same after awhile.
Finally, the biggest thing on the disc is an Audio Commentary with Michelle Trachtenberg, Hayden Panettiere, Trevor Blumas and Kirsten Olson. I suppose this commentary &emdash; from the young actors &emdash; will actually appeal to kids. There's a lot of joking around as you'd probably expect, but I was surprised to find a bit depth from this commentary. It's not always screen-specific or relevant, but the foursome share some amusing production stories, what appeals to them about the movie, what it was like to train so they could actually skate and a lot of other things. Enjoyable for older viewers, and it's certainly a very accessible commentary for the younger ones (if they're interested, of course).
Maybe it would have been nice if Disney could have included a featurette of some kind on real ice skaters and their experiences growing up with the sport, or something else concerning ice skating?
It's not a family classic exactly, but "Ice Princess" is a lot more positive and less dreadful than something like... Disney's own The Pacifier. The DVD release is fine for what it is: a few okay extras, a decent 5.1 mix and good picture quality. So if any mothers with young daughters missed this movie in the theaters (there were a lot of you!), this is a prime rental.