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“Nice Princess”
ice princess  
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There’s been much in the news about Disney divorces. Pixar is leaving. Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the leaders of Disney’s art house division Miramax, are exiting. There is a fear that there will be a dearth of respectable product from the Mouse House. However, there is still one thing that Disney does extraordinarily well, as exhibited by “The Pacifier”’s $72 million take in under three weeks. Walt Disney Studios has the ability to take a high concept, a low budget, and connect with audiences. Their latest entry, “Ice Princess” offers up the “Rocky” outline – underdog succeeds at sporting event, all the catchphrases and clichés and still manages to sparkle, thanks to a talented cast and an infectious heroine in Michelle Trachtenberg.


Casey Carlyle (Trachtenberg) lives an invisible existence at her high school. Regarded by the few that even acknowledge her as a science-geek, she lives outside the fringe in her small town, knowing very few of her classmates, none of the popular ones. She lives with her mother (Joan Cusack) a driven woman who missed out on a higher education and blames that on their low-income lifestyle. Casey’s mother dreams of Casey attending Harvard, a dream Casey assumes she shares, but fate will reveal her own calling.

A physics project introduces Casey to the sport of figure skating. She first observes the girls at the rink to calculate the mathematical equations necessary for a skater to improve her game. Needing to personalize the assignment, she picks up her ragged skates and takes lessons. It doesn’t take long for her to realize her innate talents as a competitive skater.


From there, you can hear the “Gonna Fly Now” theme blaring, as she practices, falls on her face and practices again. From then, the plot follows the points a three-year-old would expect. I could list the points, but I wouldn’t want to give the story away to the 2-year-olds. Needless to say, if the lines of children prevent you from seeing this opening weekend, you could still write a skeleton of “Ice Princess” after renting “The Mighty Ducks,” “Little Giants” and “The Big Green.”


So why recommend this film? Because it doesn’t star Emilio Estevez, Rick Moranis nor Steve Guttenberg. A cast of likable actors who fit snuggly in their roles can savage many weak scripts. If you’re not having a riotous time, at least you’re in the company of comforting people, like having lunch with a close circle of friends. Trachtenberg embodies every girl: polite, conscientious, and ambitious. You want her to excel, you wish you could get on the screen and help her out anyway possible.


Kim Cattrall displays a cold indifference and calculation as Casey’s coach. The character is surprisingly complex, one filled with cunning, anger and shame, but one built with an icy armor. After years of brilliantly playing the sexually charged Samantha on “Sex And The City” it’s intriguing to see a varied role.


Hayden Panettiere continues her role in Disney films as second fiddle to the lead whether Denzel Washington (“Remember the Titans”) or Kate Hudson (“Raising Helen”). Panettiere playing the snotty popular girl who slowly warms to Casey’s acts of friendship, registers the thought processes that lead her to respect Casey, a girl she once disregarded. Many films’ relationships are dictated merely because the script demands, but Panettiere’s talent allows this change of heart to occur organically.


My only problem is with Joan Cusack, not the gifted actress per se, but Disney’s casting of this comedienne several times as a drained den mother here and in “Raising Helen.” Casey’s mother has been written as a thankless, colorless role.


“Ice Princess” would never survive a dissection, the whole is much better than the sum of its parts, but a charming cast goes a long way, and “Ice Princess” reaps the rewards of Michelle Trachtenberg. Grade: B-

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