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Ice Princess DVD Review

Ice Princess movie poster Ice Princess

Theatrical Release: March 18, 2005 / Running Time: 99 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Tim Fywell / Writers: Hadley Davis (story & screenplay), Meg Cabot (story)

Cast: 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), Kirsten Olson (Nikki), Juliana Cannarozzo (Zoey Bloch), Jocelyn Lai (Tiffany), Amy Stewart (Ann), Michelle Kwan (Herself), Brian Boitano (Himself)

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Brainy high school student Casey Carlyle (Michelle Trachtenberg) must decide between her lifelong passion for all things academic and her newfound appreciation of ice skating. That is the central dilemma in Ice Princess, the latest live action Disney film which seems tailored to a young female audience.

It appears that for her entire life, Casey has reveled in schoolwork, taking a particular interest in mathematics and most recently, physics. This pleases her pushy feminist single mother Joan (Joan Cusack), who wants nothing more for her daughter than a scholarship to Harvard and an opportunity to excel despite a lower middle class upbringing. With senior year starting, Casey's mother seems to be approaching it the way a marathon runner would approach the final lap. Casey has accrued a record of excellence in her studies and a Harvard education appears to be just a few months away.

At high school, Casey (Michelle Trachtenberg) and her friend are among the intellectual haves, social have-nots. Casey likes skating around the ice while making glamorous hand gestures.

But the title of the film is Ice Princess and that should clue you in that Harvard might not be in the cards for Casey. Casey's physics teacher informs her of a special scholarship opportunity which requires an individual project and she decides to pursue aerodynamic formulas for championship ice skating. This throws her into the world of aspiring figure skaters -- an elitist, egotistical lot of young girls who seem to possess more attitude than skill.
For these girls, Casey's fellow high schoolers, skating is the entire focus of their young existences. Fast food and social lives are out of the question; time is to be spent training and money is to be spent on the finest equipment and instruction.

Casey's first and most substantial contact with this skating world is with the Harwood family: Tina (Kim Cattrall), the middle-aged instructor with high costs and a tainted past, Gen (Disney regular Hayden Panettiere), Casey's snobbish classmate who is Tina's daughter and assistant, and Teddy (Trevor Blumas), Tina's Zamboni-driving teenage son, who we immediately recognize as the love interest despite his early coldness.

In the beginning, Casey's time in the rink is strictly for research purposes and her presence is something that most object to. But soon, she's being trained by Tina with other newcomers and performing surprisingly well for a novice. Before too long, though she cannot dare tell her mother who would surely disapprove, Casey has entered the cutthroat ice skating circuit.

Casey's mom (Joan Cusack) is set upon her daughter getting accepted to Harvard. Tina (Kim Cattrall) dispenses advice of a different kind to Casey.

Things are fairly straightforward and simplistic in this story of a shy girl balancing two lives and having difficulty deciding which is best for her. The teenagers and adults in her midst (and almost all are female) seem equally unsure of the correct path either for Casey or themselves and this gives Ice Princess more than an hour to weigh a choice where the outcome seems rather obvious from the start.

The film is replete with formulas and there are certainly too few surprises to be found. The moments where Ice Princess offers something unique, such as its depictions of skating-obsessed parents who equate success with love, are brief and rare. The acting is solid all around, which enables the film to proceed gracefully and hide its shortcomings fairly well. But a look at its heart and you recognize this is a project manufactured to entertain young girls and perhaps divert teenagers. Disney has previously achieved success and failure in this market, the former in their widely-pleasing The Princess Diaries (an adaptation of the book by Meg Cabot, who has the top story credit here), and the latter in their similarly-molded but considerably worse Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen. Furthermore, so much screen time is devoted to on-ice action that those yearning for more palatable human drama are left cold.

Despite a genial tone amidst its catty characters, Ice Princess does not strive to win over those outside its young female demographic. It does not challenge viewers to think much and does not aspire to much more than skating-and-music montages with a semi-interesting central conflict. For undiscerning girls and those who just like watching figure skating, these complaints likely will not register. For everyone else, the film's unwillingness to be bold and unique renders Ice Princess a pretty forgettable and narrow entry into Disney's live action canon.

Buy Ice Princess (Widescreen Edition) from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
(Reformatted Fullscreen Available Separately)
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English, French; Closed Captioned
Release Date: July 19, 2005
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
(Reduced from $29.99)
White Keepcase
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VIDEO and AUDIO

Ice Princess is presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Visuals are entirely satisfying, as you'd hope and expect for a new theatrical release eight years since the DVD format has launched. Vibrant colors, accurate fleshtones, adequate sharpness, and no flaws whatsoever make this a winning transfer by any standard. Even though it probably could have fit with little difficultly on this mostly bare disc, a reformatted fullscreen version is sold separately.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack does not disappoint either. There aren't too many demanding sound effects, but the track handles the frequent flow of mostly female pop tunes sufficiently and all dialogue sounds crisp, natural, and without drawbacks. This isn't an audio presentation with which to rock the house, but the capable sound design is easy to appreciate and the transfer to DVD merits no complaints.

Tina, Casey, and Teddy are together on the pond in this deleted scene. Caleigh Peters performs "Reach" in this snowy music video. In their music video, sister duo Aly & A.J. stay inside and sing "No One."

BONUS FEATURES

Like the two 2005 Disney films that have already made their way to DVD, Ice Princess is light on bonus features. First up are five short deleted scenes, which are presented with no introduction or commentary, so you're left to wonder why they were cut. Most substantial is the alternate opening (2:25), which shows Casey at a young age performing the film's two conflicting interests by way of some long division and pond skating to clear her head before transitioning to the present day where the theatrical cut actually begins. The others provide brief, mildly amusing exchanges between Casey and her young skating classmates and Tina. The last one brings Tina to Casey's pond where she is skating with Teddy and this conflicts with what actually happens
in the film. Altogether with the "Play All" option, the discarded scenes (which play in letterboxed widescreen) run about 7 minutes and aren't noticeably lesser than the rest of the film, so their inclusion is welcome and they are worth a viewing.

The only other visual-based supplement are two music videos. Like most of the film's soundtrack, both Caleigh Peters' "Reach" and Aly & A.J.'s "No One" are of the teen girl pop variety. All three blonde-haired teens are on Disney labels and if you like the movie enough to purchase it, I guess you'll enjoy these videos. Peters rocks with her band out in the snow, while Aly and A.J. stay inside laying out rugs and strumming their acoustic guitars. Naturally, clips from the film are interweaved into both videos.

Last and most substantially is an audio commentary featuring four young Ice Princess cast members: star Michelle Trachtenberg, Trevor Blumas, Kirsten Olson and Hayden Panettiere. Though it's been skillfully edited to create one dynamic, it actually sounds like two groups were recorded separately: Trachtenberg, Olson, and Blumas, and then Panettiere with Blumas again. Trachtenberg is the most articulate and interesting of the bunch, while actual athlete Olson serves as the skating expert covering the film's anomalies. The early talk about how awesome everyone is fortunately gives way to anecdotes from filming. An absent blooper reel is discussed and the conversation has been frustratingly edited to remove references a song change All in all, though, this is something that is only worth a listen for diehard fans of commentaries or this film.

The 16x9 menu screens are nicely done, employing a pleasing pastel palette and subdued score selections. The Main and Bonus Features menus offer a montage of ice skating scenes from the film; others are not animated, but I can't imagine a more appropriate set of selection pages. Extras are arranged by the EasyFind headers "Deleted Scenes", "Music & More", and "Backstage Disney", which only serve to make it seem like there are more bonuses than there really are.

At the start of the disc, trailers play for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (the very brief title graphic teaser), Valiant, My Scene Goes Hollywood: The Movie, and the Halloweentown movies. The Sneak Peeks menu offers additional spots for The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (presented in widescreen, though the movie apparently won't be), Aliens of the Deep, ESPN Sports Figures, and Radio Disney. With the menu's "Play All" option , these various promos run just shy of ten minutes altogether.

Inside the white keepcase, in addition to a standard two-sided insert summarizing scene selections and extras, you'll find yet another bonus feature of sorts: a free 4-month subscription to Teen People (echoing an identical offer found inside Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen exactly on year ago).

A still from the animated "Ice Princess" main menu Look at that ice princess go!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Ice Princess targets solely for the young female population, which explains its modest $24 million box office gross. While the cast performs commendably, the film never aspires to anything more than diversion, and the proceedings of pop music montages and transformation convince you that you have seen this before, even if you've only watched two hours of the Disney Channel. It is not a terrible film and not even a very bad one, but one which only seeks to fully please maybe one or two out of five family audience members. In what is seeming like a new trend for this year's Disney DVDs, the disc boasts top-notch video and audio but a fairly light offering of bonus features. All things considered, for anyone who is not a young girl fond of formulas, Ice Princess is a rental at best.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Related Reviews:
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004) The Princess Diaries (2001) The Princess Diaries 2 (2004)
The Pacifier (2005) Freaky Friday (2003) National Treasure (2004) Pooh's Heffalump Movie (2005)
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl (2008) Remember the Titans (Director's Cut) Make It or Break It: Volume One
Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas Blades of Glory 17 Again (2009) Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007)

The Cast of Ice Princess in Other Disney Films:
Inspector Gadget (1999) Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (1999) A Bug's Life (1998) Dinosaur (2000)

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Reviewed July 11, 2005.