Joan Cusack……….Joan Carlyle
Kim Cattrall……….Tina Harwood
Michelle Trachtenberg……….Casey Carlyle
Hayden Panettiere……….Gen Harwood
Trevor Blumas……….Teddy Harwood
Connie Ray……….Nikki’s Mom
Juliana Cannarozzo……….Zoe Bloch
Steve Ross……….Mr. Bast
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee……….Tiffany’s Dad
Roy Bradshaw……….Tiffany’s Coach
Mark Hird……….Nikki’s Coach
In an age when the leading actresses for roles in movies aimed at the younger audience are Lindsay Lohan and Hillary Duff, actresses between 17-21 prime for these sorts of roles are going for the scraps these two leave on the table. There are only so many roles one actress can take about trying to reach certain goals and overcoming the odds, which is why actresses like Michelle Trachtenberg take the sort of roles embodied in Ice Princess that are normally reserved for the two queens of the youth cinema.
Trachtenberg, most noteworthy for playing Dawn on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and for last summer’s gross-out flick Eurotrip, stars as Casey Carlyle, a math and physics geek who dreams of being an ice-skater. Meanwhile, her English professor mother (played by Joan Cusack) has other plans as she has a plan set up for Casey that involves her going to Harvard to study physics. Opportunity strikes when she has the chance to get a physics scholarship to Harvard, and by sheer coincidence Casey gets inspiration from television to do her physics project on ice skating.
What follows from that point forward is a poor paint-by-numbers underdog story about following your dreams that wishes to emulate Rocky on skates, except without the requisite emotional depth or acting ability.
The first major problem this movie has it that it relies on Trachtenberg to play a character she really can’t; it’s cliche to say that a good-looking woman can’t play someone who has intelligence, but in this case Trachtenberg doesn’t pull it off effectively. When she talks about physics, she talks about it as if she’s reading it off a cue card; she’s using phrases and terms she can pronounce but doesn’t give the impression that she understands what they mean.
There’s a big difference in being able to use big words and concepts most people don’t understand, it’s another to just be able to say them right. And in this case Casey comes off as someone who uses big words without knowing them, not someone who knows big words and just uses them a lot. She doesn’t play the role of Casey with any sort of flair or distinction; Trachtenberg, better or worse, comes off as someone trying to be a dork when it’s obvious she isn’t.
Besides Trachtenberg, other roles in this movie seem to be cast in terms of name power and look as opposed to ability to act. Cusack looks the part of a feminist English professor, but she never seems comfortable uttering cliche lines about how ice skating costumes set back the women’s movement, etc. She has the look of a mother, but this mother she doesn’t do well.
Equally miscast is former Sex and The City starlet Kim Cattrall as Casey’s coach. A former champion ice skater, Cattrall has the same problem with ice-skating as Trachtenberg does with physics. She has a smidgen of a clue of what she’s talking about, and everyone knows it but her. Cattrall doesn’t seem to wear the skin of a hard-boiled and effective figure skating coach effectively as well; for a role that needs to burn white-hot she comes in smoldering.
With all three of these principles involved having problems with the types of roles they are in, the movie is relentless in its adherence to formula. Scene for scene, line for line, is completely and utterly predictable it’s bothersome. It seems like they put little effort into trying to do something that hasn’t been already done before; with mercurial acting and the right situation this can be overcome and be a good thing, but with your three major actors involved in the movie being unsuited for their parts having a formula-driven movie only further spotlights that fact.
As a story, Ice Princess is something we’ve seen many times before. The only difference is we have ice-skating thrown in to ‘pretty’ it up when the movie needs it. It is hampered by its’ insistence on formula when a bit more creativity or at least a little deviation from formula could have been used to do try and elevate this movie from the cellar.