Ice Princess is the type of movie that lays everything out in the first scene. As Casey Carlyle (Michelle Trachtenberg) skates gracefully on a small pond in front of her house without a care in the world, her mother (Joan Cusack) taps on a windowpane from inside and holds up a math book.
Need to know anything else about the plot?
More problematic than the film's obviousness, though, is the way the academics vs. athletics conflict concludes. It's not particularly which one comes out on top-this is a sports movie-it's who has to apologize. (Here's a hint: The apology takes place at an ice rink.)
This is becoming as much a cliché as the other plot devices found here, but it's much more frustrating. It echoes the weakest aspect of Finding Nemo, an otherwise fantastic film. Nemo, in a jarring moment early in the story, literally says to his dad, "I hate you." Yet who is it who apologizes at the end? Not Nemo-it's his dad.
Why are all of these parents groveling before their kids? Because in movies, mothers and fathers regularly discover that they are impediments to their children's happiness and success. Because they cramp their kids' style and give them something more than personal fulfillment to consider.
This mars a film that otherwise offers some really nice moments. Ice Princess is rated G, a rarity which gives the movie a kind of lo-fi charm. Most of the obnoxious, teen comedy "realism" that soils similarly aimed efforts is absent. Casey's mom isn't a complete noncharacter either: The always reliable Ms. Cusack, playing a bookish feminist, comes out of her shell to confront Casey's coach (Kim Cattrall) with a strong statement about honesty and integrity.
Ice Princess is enjoyably lightweight and occasionally stirring. Young girls should like it. The problem is that the movie's message is an all-too-common hallmark of modern fairy tales like this one.