Sunday, October 18, 2015

Ice Princess (2005)

Director: Tim Fywell
Writers: Meg Cabot (of "Princess Diaries" fame) and Hadley Davis (Scrubs, Spin City, Dawson's Creek)
Composer: Christophe Beck

Casey Carlyle- Michelle Tratchenberg
Joan Carlyle- Joan Cusak
Tina Harwood- Kim Kattrall
Gen Harwood- Hayden Panettierre
Teddy "The Zambonie Driver" Harwood- Trevor Blumas
Nikki "The Jumping Shrimp" Fletcher- Kirsten Olson
Tiffany Lai- Jocelyn Lai
Zoey "Skater Thief" Bloch- Juliana Cannarozzo
Michelle Kwan & Brian Boitano as themselves (ESPN commentators)

Personal History

I don't know whether I first encountered this movie on Disney Channel or at Blockbuster. But Michelle Tratchenberg (aka "Harriet the Spy") attracted me to it initially. It was the first time I'd seen her since "Harriet the Spy" (another movie I loved as a kid, but hadn't seen all the way through in ages) and I wanted to catch up with her in this next role.
Since this movie, I believe she did "Entourage" for a couple shows and more or less disappeared. The last time I saw her was on "Hollywood Game Night." (Going through her bio, I do remember seeing her in "17 again" where she was Zac Efron's daughter).
I think I also wanted to see it because Hayden Panettierre played Kairi in "Kingdom Hearts" (I saw at least half a dozen Haley Joel Osment movies because he played Sora. I knew David Gallagher [who played Riku] from "7th Heaven" but hadn't seen him since I started playing the game).

And of course I love watching figure skating... which is the reason I ultimately watched this movie again [according to my Facebook timeline, it was Saturday 2/22/14... I remember it being a Saturday], got it on DVD and watched it the other night.

This is my way of kicking off the ISU Grand Prix series, which begins next week.

Originally, I was going to go through my history as an avid figure skating fan and how Evgeni Plushenko and the Sochi Olympics reawakened the fan in me...
but I decided it's better to focus on the movie.
I have another platform for all that craziness :P

Movie Discussion
"Ice Princess" is one of those sugary sweet predictable Disney movies... not that that's a bad thing. And at second glance, this movie is a few elements short of being a LifeTime movie. That's how dramatic it gets at certain points.

The movie revolves around science geek Casey Carlyle who has a knack for physics. Her teacher introduces a scholarship opportunity to her, which involves putting together a personal science project that involves physics. She's raised by a single mom and the two of them have spent years planning to get her into Harvard. It's that old cliché of "I want you to have a better life than I ever had." While it does from a place of love and good intentions, it also involves a lot of pressure about fulfilling expectations.

We get a similar storyline with one of our figure skaters and her mom/coach. Tina Harwood was a former athlete in the sport, but was banned from the sport after an incident at warm-up where it was believed she intentionally crashed into and injured another skater. She not only built a local skating rink from the ground, but she's also pushing her daughter, Gen, to become the champion she wasn't able to become. (By the time this ban was lifted, she was 26 and too old to compete... although these days, what constitutes as being "too old" is being challenged more often).

There is a lot of drama in this movie and had it been written any differently, it would have worked as a soap opera or made-for-TV movie. And it might not have been as fun or accessible as it became as a Disney movie.
The only feel-good cliché that's missing is Casey going on to win the final event of the movie... but she places well enough.

The fact that the story is co-written by Meg Cabot helps a lot. She wrote the Princess Diaries book series, so she understands how to write for teenagers for sure. As for parents... well... they're written as teenager see them, which is overbearing and expecting too much.

While Casey watches Sasha Cohen compete in the 2004 US National Championships, she has a lightbulb moment-- she can apply physics to figure skating.
She travels to the local rink and is able to convince Tina and the other skaters' parents to allow her to film them for her project.
And it really is an interesting idea that has some real-life applications to it. But as Casey says, the computer doesn't make the jumps. However much skaters train and replace bad habits with good ones, there's always room for error to creep in. Whether it's an equipment issue or a compromised mindset.

What ultimately gets the ball rolling that alters the lives of both mom-daughter teams... Casey's friend Ann suggests that she puts herself in the project to make it more personal. Casey had always skated for herself on the pond behind her house, but she'd never taken any lessons.
She enrolls in a novice class during the summer and steadily falls more and more in love with the sport to the point where she's competing.

When I saw the movie back in February 2014, I wanted to double-check a certain line of dialogue-- something about the importance of nailing the short program.
At first, Gen tells Casey not to freak until after the long program, but later she says you don't have a chance if you mess up in the short.
That situation wound up fitting Japan's Mao Osada at Sochi. She had a really bad showing in her short program and even though she nailed her free skate, the damage had already been done. Luckily for her, she was able to redeem herself a couple months later at the World championships. She's one of those skaters that is heralded as one of the best yet I'd only seen her perform well a handful of times. But when she's on her game, she is fantastic.

This time around, it was interesting to watch the girls doing all these jumps and being able to actually recognize what they were. I watched an YouTube video once where two athletes explained the difference between all the jumps... if I'm going to be watching the sport this much, I should learn to recognize what I'm looking at.
From a factual standpoint, the movie appears accurate to me. And these girls, whether or not it's the actresses or stunt-people making the jumps, are really talented.

Another thing I learned from this movie: you can't compete on new skates until you've spent at least 10 days breaking them in.
It was a turning point in the movie that I really didn't see as foul play until later on.

During a sectionals competition, Casey does an amazing short program, which included triples Tina and the skaters didn't know she had in her. Tina decides to take her out and get her new skates because one of them gave her trouble during her skate. On the surface, I still feel like she meant well by it, but the timing of it is pretty suspicious. Especially because Casey's mishap on the ice allowed Gen to get 4th place (just enough to qualify for regionals).

There are several times throughout the movie where Tina comes off as unlikeable. She may be harsh a lot of the time, but she is always honest with Casey, particularly about what she needs to succeed in this sport. You have to want it more than anything.

Although she does well with her scholarship project, she realizes, despite the mishaps between her and Tina, that she loves skating and doesn't want to give it up to fulfill her mom's dream for her.
This seemingly last minute decision to change the trajectory of her future puts a rift between them, but because this is a Disney movie, all the kinks get ironed out before the final curtain call.
This cliché of the parent seeing their kid perform their given talent and changing their mindset... I've seen it happen so many times.
It's just too bad that it doesn't always happen in real life [although here I'm thinking more about how some parents are unable to accept that their children are something other than heterosexual... while many do come around, there are several that do not and that leads to otherwise preventable suicides ] and it doesn't always happen in movies...
"Dead Poet's Society" is an amazing movie, but it's brought down by the fact Neil's parents can't accept him wanting to be an actor and his suicide is blamed on Mr. Keating just because he broadened his horizons and encouraged him to follow his own path. This is the only movie where I've seen this non-acceptance happen and I sometimes wonder if that's why this cliché exists in the first place.

I'm sorry that I'd been overly harsh with this post. But watching the movie the other day, I just had a lot of these thoughts coming out. Maybe because I know this movie isn't exactly brilliant and it's predictable so I wanted to be realistic for a  change.

I also want to add that I somehow doubt that Michelle Kwan and Brian Boitano, let alone ESPN, would cover a local junior figure skating event :P but of course we need to have some cameos by important figures in the sport.
To this day, Michelle Kwan is still very much celebrated and looked up to by her contemporaries and younger up-and-coming athletes. Brian Boitano on the other hand... I think more people are obsessed with his sexuality than his actual talent. Unlike Johnny Weir [half the people who know of him roll their eyes at his flamboyance and I'm part of the other half that adores him for his talent and his open/honest persona], I don't know if Brian is doing shows anymore. Last I heard, he had a Cooking Channel show...

and just like that I'm back to positive. As much as I love to be positive about things, every now and then, there's a need for brutal honesty to balance it all out.

...also forgot to mention it has some great music. The opening song is "No One" by Aly & AJ and after seeing this movie, I picked the album up for the first time in years and found another reason to fall back in love with these songs.
It also features "Set Me Free"- one of my favorite Michelle Branch songs.
"Ray of Light" by Madonna is the music for Casey's short program. IMDB notes a mistake that skaters cannot use lyrics in their competitive programs. This was a rule that was changed in 2014 and last I heard, Johnny Weir & Tara Lipniski still aren't fans of it. For me, it depends on the program and the skater. If lyrics enhance the program, I'm all for them. Otherwise, it's a distraction.

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