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Ice Princess (July 16/05)

It almost seems unfair for a person like me to be reviewing a flick like Ice Princess; the movie's unapologetically been geared towards young girls, and there's little doubt that they'll eat up this zero-to-hero story with a spoon. And while star Michelle Trachtenberg delivers a sincere, engaging performance, there's not a whole lot here to hold the interest of anyone outside the film's target demographic.

Trachtenberg plays Casey Carlyle, a brainy student who discovers a passion for ice skating while researching a project. Though her crazy feminist mother (played by Joan Cusack) frowns upon the very idea of ice skating, Casey nevertheless begins the slow process of learning the requisite tricks and moves from a former champion named Tina Harwood (Kim Cattrall). Tina's daughter - Gen (Hayden Panettiere), a skating competitor - initially resents Casey for her natural ability, but the two eventually put their differences aside and become friends.

With the exception of the film's director, all the major players involved with Ice Princess are women - resulting in a distinct, estrogen-centric sort of vibe (even the movie's soundtrack is packed with wall-to-wall pop songs by female artists). The screenplay, by Hadley Davis and based on a story by The Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot, emphasizes themes of empowerment and friendship, while also including a number of exceedingly predictable plot developments (ie Casey's tearful reconciliation with her mother). This is typical Disney fare; slick and flawlessly edited, with few surprises and even fewer instances of originality.

And yet, Ice Princess remains curiously engaging throughout - thanks primarily to Trachtenberg's endearing performance. Because the actress comes off as genuinely likeable and wholesome, it becomes impossible not to root for her character to succeed and overcome various obstacles. Her charismatic presence isn't quite enough to warrant a whole-hearted recommendation, although it does seem clear that viewers of a certain age will find themselves enthralled by Casey's spunky attitude and self-actualizing story arc.

out of

About the DVD: Buena Vista Home Entertainment presents Ice Princess with an expectedly crisp transfer, along with a few interesting bonus features (including a commentary track with actors Trachtenberg, Panettiere, Trevor Blumas, and Kirsten Olson, two music videos, four deleted scenes, an alternate opening, and several trailers).
© David Nusair