Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
|Featuring:||Michelle Trachtenberg, Joan Cusack, Kim Cattrall, Hayden Panettiere, Trevor Blumas|
|Distributor:||Walt Disney Pictures|
Big things happen to those who dream big.
Second Corinthians says “I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; my joy knows no bounds.” What wonderful words of support! I found this spirit within the composition of “Ice Princess” which brought a formula story to life in an unexpected way. Disney is starting out the summer movie forum with an enchanting up-beat winner in the follow-your-dreams department.
Casey Carlyle (Michelle Trachtenberg—“Harriet the Spy”) best known in her high school as an unpopular physics geek, has to come up with an idea for her upcoming entrance exam for her Harvard scholarship interview. Single mom (Joan Cusack doing a great job akin to “Raising Helen”) is devoted to her daughter’s success and to her own feminist ideals. She envisions a life for Casey as a Harvard grad and scientist. A dream of her own (never accomplished), although she does a fine job as a Literature Professor. Casey’s physics teacher spurs Casey to come up with a unique project for the college admissions committee.
Enter Gen Harwood (Hayden Panettiere whom you may remember from “Racing Stripes”) the popular blonde who doesn’t notice Casey exists. It isn’t that she doesn’t care, as in most teen flicks, but that she is being pushed by her over-powering ice skater/coach Mom into the championships and on to the Olympics themselves. Every spare moment in Gen’s young life is spent practicing to reach a goal which most strongly belongs to her mother and not to Gen.
Tina Harwood (Emmy-winner Kim Cattrall) owns the local ice skating rink and heads the Harwood Skating Club. She is a former skating champion with a clouded past as to why she was disqualified at Sarajevo, early in her career. She is obviously a flinty, no-nonsense kind of woman with definite goals in mind. The success of the story is the tricky dynamic among Trachtenberg, Cusack and Cattrall that gratefully manages to avoid falling into one-dimensional good vs. evil stereotypes.
Casey decides upon the unusual theme of the dynamics involved in the function of ice skating as a physics formula. She spends more and more of her personal time at the rink, compiling and documenting data for her Harvard committee interview. What she doesn’t expect is how much she loves ice skating herself. She knows this would be considered a foolish whim by her scholastically oriented mother, but the spark has been ignited within Casey. Her heart is drawn to the fluidity and grace.
Tina Harwood and daughter Gen soon realize Casey is not only the top physics student in her school, but she’s also an ice skating prodigy.
Raw talent, however, is not enough Tina tells Casey—in no uncertain terms. It takes more than commitment, talent and money, “You have to want it more than anything else. Winners make sacrifices!” Tina knows this from personal experience, and secretly wishes her daughter had that sort of natural instinct to skate. Tina agrees to train and coach Casey for the regionals.
Gen and Casey form a sisterly bond, even though Gen’s first scene sets her up as the popular snob and Gen’s brother Teddy (Disney newcomer Trevor Blumas) forms more of a brotherly attachment to the sweet, unassuming Casey. Together the girls help each other figure out what they really want to do with their lives.
These characters become refreshingly real, and it is at this point “Ice Princess” turns from formula, teen story to subtly inspiring, focusing not on mean-spiritedness, but instead on these girls getting along and helping one another accomplish their goals. Not even the competitive nature of some of the other ice skaters keeps Casey off the ice.
Michelle Trachtenberg brings a believable, shy spirit to Casey, the aspiring scientist/skater. This is not a classic “makeover movie.” Casey gets a bit of a touch-up with some eye-liner and an outfit with some sequins, but she is no Cinderella who is transformed with a wand. She studies hard, takes a part-time job to play for her expenses, and spends hours practicing. Teddy admires her intelligence and dedication, before the eye-liner and sparkles. But the nicest surprise is that after a spate of “mean girl” movies, this one gives us a character in Gen who competes with Casey, but remains honest, loyal, and supportive.
What we set as goals are worthy of our time and effort. But, to reach the dreams we have planned doesn’t rely on some inner power. Goals are not accomplished on our own. It’s who we have around us giving us hope and spurring us on, pushing and loving us that is a force and fuel for success.
The girls eventually take the courage to follow their own dreams, not those of their mother’s. Gen finds she likes school and is compelled to succeed scholastically. Casey is able to relate to her disapproving Mother that there is nothing wrong with feeling graceful, beautiful and strong. The Moms show unconditional love and show a real adult attitude by accepting their daughter’s decisions. As Tina says “…passion makes people go on to do exceptional things.” This Disney tale of female empowerment remains engaging while having positive things to say about mother-daughter dynamics and competitive sports.
As you may guess, all turns out great for everyone at the end of “Ice Princess,” but it isn’t the typical way to tell the story, and the characters are developed enough to make you believe them.
Also helping to keep things real is the decision to cast as many professional skaters as possible in the roles of Casey’s contemporaries, with Kirsten Olson, Juliana Cannarozzo and Jocelyn Lai proving to be as confident in front of the camera as they are on the ice. The surprise is that Michelle Trachtenberg seems to be able to skate, too. That didn’t look like a double on the ice, although Variety has reported that “Four different skaters sub for Trachtenberg in the more difficult performances.”
The rating of G is perfect. I would feel confident allowing my 10 to 16 year old kids to see “Ice Princess.” There is some mild language (“that pretty much blew”) and a kiss between Casey and Teddy. There is a skating costume that appears to show more chest than some Christian parents will think appropriate for a teenager girl and a brief shot of a bloody, painful-looking wound.
God has given us all gifts we can use, not to just feed our own desires for fulfillment, but to serve Him. God is merciful and gracious, and (above all else) He is for us—and not against us (see Jacob’s story in Genesis 28:15). Discouragement can hinder us in what God wants for us. Whenever we face discouragement we need to remember that God is always working on our behalf, that no matter how unsure our story is, it isn’t over—the end of the matter is better than the beginning. Be patient. God is using today’s difficulties to strengthen you for tomorrow. God is always working for you, and your future is His. He may change the places you are going to, but whatever comes down the path, whenever problems or dilemmas face you, just do what’s right. Maybe no one else is doing what’s right. You should be the honest one—take a stand for what’s true.
Parents should encourage their kids to concentrate on what God wants for them. Dwell on God’s promises, these are also their dreams to accomplish. Don’t let anyone turn them from their dreams and goals by sowing seeds of discouragement. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
I couldn’t help but think of these well known Disney lyrics as I left the theater:
When you wish upon a star,
makes no difference who you are.
Anything your heart desires will come to you,
if your heart is in your dreams,
no request is too extreme.
When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.
Yet there is One higher who looks out for you and your dreams. “Everyone who is a child of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4). Rise above the level of the usual wisher upon the stars and depend on God who has given you your gift. Whatever talent you possess comes from Him. If I may change the last verse a bit:
Like a bolt out of the blue,
GOD steps in and sees you thru.
When you DEPEND UPON THE LORD,
your dreams come true!