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ICE PRINCESS
U.S. Release Date: March 18, 2005
Distributor: Buena Vista
Composer: Christophe Beck
Cast: Michelle Trachtenberg, Joan Cusack, Hayden Panettiere
Running Time: 1 hour and 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: G

Disney's Teen Ice Pic Beats Expectations
by Scott Holleran

Dream big, Walt Disney Pictures' Ice Princess urges, and big things will happen. Though what happens in this girly picture is too big—figure skating championships, Harvard, boys and fights with mother and coach—for one movie, it is better than it sounds.

Writer Hadley Davis, working with a personal story by Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries), tells the story of a girl whose anti-male mom (Joan Cusack) pushes the daughter to disown her selfish interests. Sure, Mother looks lovingly out the back window at her high school kid skating on the backyard pond—but to the frumpy single parent, skating is strictly what happens between academic pursuits. The action in this house is purely preparatory for Harvard. The kid, amicably played by Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), defiantly turns homework into an exercise on ice.

Hiding her after school activities from Mom, Trachtenberg's would-be skater is noticed by a hardened coach (Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall as a typical girls' coach). Coach Cattrall's daughter (Racing Stripes's Hayden Panettiere) also skates—and she doesn't especially like it—and Cattrall's son (Trevor Blumas) drives the machine that sweeps the ice rink. Trachtenberg causes jealousy from the rival kid, but her determination catches the son's eyes. Training with a band of skaters—Ice Princess captures ice skating subculture, a blend of hard athletics and dance snobbery—Trachtenberg glides into position.

At some point, she must bear the consequences of her decision to conceal the truth from Mom and choose between passion and pleasing Mother by attending Harvard on a physics scholarship. Too many subplots and characters—the boyfriend doesn't fit and there are too many skaters—and Ice Princess suffers from several false starts, including poorly conceived and choreographed pop music for routines and an inexcusable moral transgression by an authority figure, but Trachtenberg's exuberance and the independence theme transcend the mistakes.

Trachtenberg's plucky character makes a heartfelt decision at a critical point in the picture that ought to play well for today's kids, who are pushed by parents into every type of mindless activity in what often seems like a desperate attempt to keep up with the Joneses. Though the script needs heavy editing—it drags and it's missing proof that this girl breaks a sweat in training for the big competition—Ice Princess, under Tim Fywell's direction, takes youthful idealism seriously, with skating as the means to a divinely selfish end.

Despite a final scene that weakens the movie's message of independence, director Fywell (I Capture the Castle) recreates the coolness of the rink, and he combines it with the tension of stepping out on one's own for the first time—with not one instance of crude humor. Kudos to Disney, with slight misgivings, for producing a teen movie with heart, sass and sense.


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