Walt Disney Pictures releases its second family-oriented film this month. Following on the heels of The Pacifier, director Tim Fywell presents Ice Princess, starring Michelle Trachtenberg in the title role. Whereas The Pacifier relied heavily on bathroom humor and slapstick comedy, Ice Princess is about as clean and graceful as can be. Girls of all ages will fall in love with the movie—and parents should enjoy the ride (or the glide) as well.

Casey Carlyle (Trachtenberg) is no ordinary girl. She's a straight-A high school student with her eyes on a Harvard physics scholarship. In order to impress the scholarship committee, though, Casey has to find a way to make her physics experiment personal. The committee wants to see Casey's personality; Casey's not sure she has much of one, but she does like to figure skate. And, as she begins to watch some local skaters at Harwood Skating Rink, Casey's scientific mind kicks into gear: "I bet there is an exact aerodynamic formula [for landing jumps on ice skates]."

Michelle Trachtenberg is radiant in the title role

Michelle Trachtenberg is radiant in the title role

At Harvard, Casey meets Tina Harwood (Sex and The City's Kim Cattrall), the mother and coach of junior level skater Gen Harwood (Racing Stripes' Hayden Panettiere) and the owner of the rink. Casey also meets Teddy (Trevor Blumas), Tina's son and manager of the rink. From nearly first glance, Casey and Teddy's romantic sparks nearly melt the ice under their feet. But both characters inadvertently play hard-to-get due to Casey's intense focus on her experiment.

As Casey's interest in skating grows, she takes a beginner skating class with Tina, towering over the 8 to 10-year-olds in the class along with her. Tina recognizes Casey's talent, but Tina wants the best for her own daughter—and isn't afraid to say or do so.

Casey and her mom, played by Joan Cusack

Casey and her mom, played by Joan Cusack

At home, Casey faces another challenge: her mother, Joan (the magnificent Joan Cusack). Joan is a liberal, feminist college professor who wants Casey at Harvard, no questions asked. When Casey asks her mom to go to the beginners' recital, Joan says she can't get past the skaters' "twinkie suits" and follows up with a resounding "No"—much to Casey's disappointment.

Nonetheless, Casey doesn't lose heart. She strives for her dream, a dream that started off as a physics experiment and wound up engaging Casey's heart in a way that even she, especially she, could not have predicted. Along the way, the audience gets to enjoy the Trachtenberg's energy, spunk and charisma in the lead role. She's so energetic, in fact, that it's as if the audience were waiting for her to take a breath, similar to Tina urging Casey to breathe before a skating event. At first, Trachtenberg's performance seems a little too upbeat, but Casey, as we come to find out, is an upbeat person. She's got to be for the challenges that she will face throughout the movie.

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When Casey discovers her talent on ice, she reconsiders the Harvard dream

When Casey discovers her talent on ice, she reconsiders the Harvard dream

Cattrall's performance, as the skating coach, comes off as though she were still playing Sex and the City's Samantha. She delivers her lines with her nose in the air, head tilted up and back, and in the same breathy and narcissistic manner with which Samantha ushers men into and out of her life. Frankly, I'm a bit disappointed in Cattrall. Call me crazy, but one of my favorite movies when I was a teenager was Mannequin, in which Cattrall plays Emmy with the same vigor that Trachtenberg channels Casey in Ice Princess. But Cattrall has apparently lost her softness and her compassion—even when it's called for in this movie. Granted, Tina Harwood is one tough lady, but Cattrall fails to convince that she cares for Casey even when the script spells it out for us.

The movie deals with several social and familial pressures. For example, Casey is a math and science geek, so to speak, and faces with the issue of high school popularity (namely, she isn't with the in-crowd). And, Casey and her mother struggle through issues relevant to today's family make-ups. Joan is a single mother who wants great things for Casey, but Joan may not realize that great things don't necessarily include the accomplishments that Joan herself has or has not made. While education is important, Casey has to decide between following her head (Harvard) and following her heart (figure skating).

Kim Cattrall plays the role of Casey's coach

Kim Cattrall plays the role of Casey's coach

Ice Princess is a great mother-and-daughter movie, father-and-daughter movie, sister movie, etc. The movie clearly plays to females, but the males at my screening seemed to enjoy it too. One man commented, "I was pretty sure I wouldn't like this chick flick, but it kept me interested!"

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. Casey's mom worries that her obsession with skating means "giving up her dream" of attending Harvard. Casey replies, "No, Mom, I'm giving up your dream." What does Casey mean? Do you feel that Casey's response is appropriate or inappropriate?

  2. Casey fused her passion for science with her passion for skating. How have you connected your various interests and passions? Were the experiences successful or unsuccessful?

  3. Consider the mean stunt Tina pulls on Casey regarding the new ice skating boots. Why would Tina do that? What are the consequences for Casey? For Tina?

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The Family Corner

For parents to consider

Ice Princess is an innocuous film. The audience may gasp at the blisters on Casey's feet, but parents have nothing to worry about with this movie.

What Other Critics Are Saying
compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet

from Film Forum, 03/24/05

Disney's burgeoning reservoir of movies about teen girls and for teen (and pre-teen) girls just keeps growing larger. Ice Princess, directed by Tim Fywell, stars Michelle Trachtenberg as Casey Carlyle, the latest "ugly duckling" (math geek) to become a swan (ice skating star).

Religious press critics are generally praising the film, stressing its lowbrow humor and wholesome quality.

Mary Lasse (Christianity Today Movies) writes, "Ice Princess is about as clean and graceful as can be. Girls of all ages will fall in love with the movie—and parents should enjoy the ride (or the glide) as well."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) notes that the movie "offers no surprises. It offers no real thrills or laughs. What it does offer is a wholesome, well-made film intended for family audiences."

"This gentle family film treats its brainy heroine with respect," says Bob Smithouser (Plugged In), "and shows how a deep understanding of math and science can help make dreams come true. Ice Princess is a great date movie for mothers and daughters—especially in families struggling over plans and expectations for their teen's future."

Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service) says it's "a fairly standard but not uninteresting tale. Fywell's modest film … is reasonably absorbing for all its plot predictability. All comes out well in the end, and there are good themes of friendship, honesty and following one's dream."

Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) writes, "Ice Princess is a lovely story … that promotes several great messages. It's hard to criticize a film that is this good. Not only are the story, the messages and the acting all fantastic, but the movie sticks to child-appropriate humor."

Mainstream critics are pretty split on their verdict.

from Film Forum, 03/31/05

Most of the obnoxious, teen comedy 'realism' that soils similarly aimed efforts is absent," reports Andrew Coffin (World). "Ice Princess is enjoyably lightweight and occasionally stirring. Young girls should like it. The problem is that the movie's message is an all-too-common hallmark of modern fairy tales like this one."

Ice Princess
Our Rating
2 Stars - Fair
Average Rating
(not rated yet)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
G (for action violence, language, and rude humor)
Directed By
Tim Fywell
Run Time
1 hour 38 minutes
Michelle Trachtenberg, Kim Cattrall, Trevor Blumas
Theatre Release
March 18, 2005 by Walt Disney Pictures
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