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Alex Stroup, editor

Ice Princess

Geek–turned–princess movie leaves some audiences chilled

Friday, March 18, 2005
by Alex Stroup, MousePlanet editor

You can scroll down to read a review by staff writer Lisa Perkis of Ice Princess and the ice skating party at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood, or click here to go there directly.

The press kit for Ice Princess includes a glossary of skating terms. It does not include a glossary of geek terms, and I think I know why. In the first act, the movie goes to great lengths to establish that Casey Carlyle (Michelle Trachtenberg) is a geek—a physics geek to be exact. So there is much bantying about of formulas for kinetic energy and moments of inertia and such things, and I'm guessing a glossary wasn't included because nobody associated with the movie knows what they mean.

Early in the movie, Casey's geeky friend used the phrase “Q.E.D.” (incorrectly), and then Casey replies, “I don't care if it is 'quite easily demonstrated.'” If whoever wrote that line doesn't know what Q.E.D. stands for (it's not “quite easily demonstrated” and would have been funnier if she'd responded, “What does quantum electrodynamics have to do with this?”), then it is safe to guess that rest of the technical mumbo-jumbo has little relationship between its use in the movie and its meaning in the real world.

© Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Who cares, though? This isn't a movie intended to show young girls that it is OK to be a science geek. It is a movie to show young girls that you shouldn't get stuck in the trap of living your mother's dream, and if you can do it prettily while landing (checking the glossary) double salchows, all the better.

The first half of that message is much more interesting than the second. Casey's mother (Joan Cusack) is a single mother who got her education late in life and now channels all of Casey's attention on getting into Harvard's physics department. Offered a chance at a valuable scholarship, Casey is to spend the summer before her senior year working on a physics project that needs to be imbued with who she is, something personal.

She chooses to study the physics of ice skating, which puts her into contact with the stars of the local skating rink run by Tina Harwood (Kim Cattrall). Tina was disqualified from the 1984 Winter Olympics and now puts all of her energy into fulfilling that dream through her daughter, Gen (Hayden Panettiere), with daily training and no time left for schoolwork or boyfriends.

In an age when parents worry about getting their child into the best college-track preschool, or whole families move so that their 6–year–old can train with a top-notch gymnastics coach, these mother–daughter relationships on display are certainly topical and believable. Somehow, though, it is just difficult to care, as the impact of these expectations cannot really be persued while stopping for skating montages every 20 minutes.

Trachtenberg undergoes an amazing transformation in this movie, as her awkward character begins to find self–confidence through her talent at skating. Although she shines, ultimately the character does not, as everything comes too easy; it is hard to feel she deserves her success when she spent only six months working at what the others have practiced nearly their entire lives. The more interesting character of Gen is given even shorter shrift since everything is in reaction to Casey.

Photographically, things are hampered since neither Trachtenberg nor Panettiere are skaters. This means that scenes rely on quick cuts and odd angles when either is skating. The other skaters (Kirsten Olsen, Jocelyn Lai, and Juliana Cannarozzo) are all played by real competitive skaters and allow director Tim Fywell and cinematographer David Hennings to pull the camera back and really show some skating. Of the three real skaters, Kirsten Olsen shows the most inclination towards acting. Her character, known as the “Jumping Shrimp,” steals several scenes.

© Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Ice Princess will undoubtedly appeal to young girls. Other than a mild romantic interest for Casey in the form of Zamboni driver Teddy Harwood (Trevor Blumas), there aren't even any cootie-laden boys in it. For parents, there isn't going to be much to carry it through. Again, Disney is putting out a movie with nothing objectionable by having nothing interesting. The world of competitive child athletics is an interesting one that could use a bit of exploration, even within the confines of a G-rated movie.

There are incredible rewards—as well as incredible sacrifices—available to these young girls (read Joan Ryan's Little Girls in Pretty Boxes for a real examination), but Ice Princess doesn't look at the industry around figure skating, but instead just lays all the blame for life out of balance at the feet of parents (one father is included to fend off the impression that moms are being held to account).

Instead, it is mostly just pretty girls doing pretty things; which worked for the little girls at the screening I attended. However, when even Joan Cusack is a tad boring, then something just isn't clicking.

Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Alex here.

Ice Princess and Ice Skating Party at the El Capitan

by Lisa Perkis, staff writer

Most every little girl wants to be one of three things when she grows up: a pop star, a horse trainer, or an Olympic ice skater. My girls would squeal every time the commercial for Ice Princess appeared on the Disney Channel (which was frequently). Hearing that the El Capitan had installed an ice rink somewhere in Hollywood, we had to investigate.

The movie itself was not what I expected. The trailer made the film look like Princess Diaries on Ice, so I supposed I would be seeing a movie with a lot of falling down in silly ways, characters talking in uproarious accents, and a catchy montage as the “nerdy girl” discovers she really is beautiful with the right hair and makeup. Well, the last part was true, anyway.

I wished the film had a little more of the light, feel-good aspects of more recent Disney “made for 'tween girls” films. Instead, we were subjected to a lot of yelling, crying, and angry glares from all the leading characters. Michelle Tractenberg plays the Harvard-bound Casey Carlyle, who spends most of the film being manipulated by adults who don't understand her or wish her ill will. The film was aiming at a gritty, real–life feel, right down to the NYPD Blue jerky camera angles.

On the positive side, the skating was extremely realistic and enjoyable to watch. In most skating films, one can clearly tell when the skate doubles step in to perform the difficult jumps and spins. In Ice Princess, all the actors portraying skaters looked credible, and Tractenberg has a lovely presence while performing. In fact, Tractenberg was the best thing about this movie; she is a stunning beauty and a wonderful actress. No amount of math books and nerdy glasses could hide that fact.

My girls (ages 8 and 10) were pleased with the film, though the 8-year-old asked several times when it would be over. I think she was more interested in the skating party to follow the movie. The 10-year-old compared it rather unfavorably to Princess Diaries, but said she “loved the parts with the skating in it.”

Once the film was over, we headed out the side door of the theater and around the back to the much–anticipated skating party.

Ice Skating party straight ahead. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

The El Capitan has erected a gigantic tent behind the theater housing a 6,000-square-foot ice rink. However, calling it a mere tent does not do the space justice. The inside is transformed into a kid's paradise; all the children were almost salivating at seeing the activities planned and waiting. Skating was first on the agenda.

If the skate fits… Photo by Lisa Perkis.

The ice rink is quite large and powered by the appropriate flashing colored lights and Radio Disney music. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

A very nice addition to the skating rink was the presence of several cast members on the ice helping with tentative skaters. They watched for unintentional dog piles and encouraged the rail-hangers.

Letting go with the encouragement of a helpful cast-member-on-ice. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

Libby Lu, one of the newest stores to open in Downtown Disney Anaheim, was recruited to help transform little girls into skating princesses with glitter, hairspray, and the odd bobby pin. After the skating, this station proved the most popular.

Glitter, anyone? The crack stylists at Libby Lu work their magic. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

In about five minutes, children had hair the average mom despairs of re-creating at home. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

The Fab Four princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Belle) were on hand to meet and greet guests, with Kodak sending the pictures home via e-mail. It sounds silly, but at times I felt sorry for the princesses; the lure of the rink kept most of the guests on the ice at the skating party we attended. I made my 10-year-old go get a picture with Cinderella so she wouldn't feel lonely.

Snow White meets herself 15 years ago. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

If those activities weren't enough, the party also included a princess make-up counter with complimentary Lip Smacker and a nice big mirror to model in, a crown-making station, and a giant bounce house (the one place where skates had to come off.) Air hockey, video games, and dress-up stations were scattered around the scene. They even had a coffee bar for parents, and ice cream sandwiches for the kids (and parents).

Yes, she is still wearing her skates. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

Air hockey tables and video games wait for players. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

To tell the truth, the El Capitan could have put up the skating rink and dusted their hands in satisfaction. I could barely drag the girls off the ice to visit the other stations around the tent, they loved it so much. For most of the skating party, the majority of the children were in the rink, while other stations sat rather lonely. On the way out, the girls looked at the beautiful skate costume Michelle Tractenberg wore in the film and sighed happily.

Michelle Kwan, eat your heart out. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

So, is the event worth the ticket price? I definitely think so. The gasps of delight and amazement from the kids as they enter the beautifully decorated tent is worth the price of admission. All the guests stayed busy for the entire time they were at the skating party, and some didn't even have time to try all the activities offered. Children ages 4 to 15 will probably enjoy all the party's activities the most, though I spotted some younger and some older kids having a blast as well.

The fateful skates. Hopefully she broke them in properly. Photo by Lisa Perkis.

Overall, I think it was the most unique and satisfying event the El Capitan has ever staged. I do wish the film had been just as good as the event afterwards, but one can't have everything, I suppose. We all left wishing we had a little more time to skate and dream on the ice.


Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Lisa here.


Ice Princess is a Walt Disney Pictures release

Wide theatrical release: Friday, March 18, 2005

Directed by Tim Fywell.

Screenplay by Hadley Davis.

Starring: Michelle Trachtenberg, Kim Cattrall, Joan Cusack, Hayden Panettiere

Rated G

Running time: 92 minutes

Alex's Rating: 6 out of 10


Movie only

General admission: $8.00 (group rate $6.50)

VIP admission (includes popcorn, soft drink, and reserved seat and no waiting in line): $19.00

Movie plus ice skating party

General admission: $26.00 (group rate $24.50)

VIP admission (includes popcorn, soft drink, a reserved seat and no waiting in line): $37.00

For group rate tickets (20 or more), call 818-845-3110.



Alex Stroup is a degreed librarian with an undergraduate degree in history. An avid reader, movie buff, and devoted “information junkie,” Alex currently lives and works in the Northern California Bay Area. Alex is also the CEO of MousePlanet.

Click here to contact Alex.


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