Tweens will warm right up to ‘Ice Princess’

“Ice Princess”

Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by Tim Fywell

Written by Hadley Davis

Starring Michelle Trachtenberg, Joan Cusack, Kim Cattrall and Hayden Panettiere

Rated G/92 min

Two and a half out of four stars

You’ve seen it done a thousand times before: A young protagonist, up on stage, performs against seemingly insurmountable odds. The outcome looks grim-but wait! Right on cue, Mom/Dad/Grandpa walks through the backdoor of the gymnasium/theater/concert hall, still dressed for work after that mad dash from some very important meeting downtown. Their eyes meet, and Mom/Dad/Grandpa smiles and nods, as if to say, “Yeah, I was an ass, but now I’m here to love and support you.” Newly empowered, our protagonist goes on to wow the audience as the music swells, etc. etc.

You could make a weeklong marathon out of such scenes, including one from “Ice Princess,” a movie that will thrill 10-year-old girls in white-picket-fenced suburbs nationwide. Parents, however, take note: It’s not much better than the average Disney Channel movie, and it’s filled with about as many clichs.

Clichs are a funny thing though-they’re as good or as bad as the performances and the writing makes them.

“Ice Princess” has Joan Cusack, Kim Cattrall and Michelle Trachtenberg-all very appealing. It also has a script with enough teeny-boppin’ charm to, well, not quite raise it above the formula, but at least to make it bearable for anyone who doesn’t have a Michelle Branch CD spinning in his or her (probably her) stereo.

Trachtenberg plays Casey Carlyle, a brainy high school girl who brings her knowledge of physics to the ice-skating rink-she creates a program on her lap-top that calculates the fallacies of her fellow skaters. Geeky but cute, no? If you’d just tuck your legs in a little more…Voil! Nailed it!

Indeed, Casey’s computer program is so slick and so precise, it would take a group of programmers, or better yet, a whole team of movie-effects people, many months to design. However, Casey must be smarter than all of them put together because she creates it in what seems like a matter of days. That’s almost impossibly impressive, isn’t it? Plucky doesn’t even begin to describe this girl.

Over the course of her project, Casey discovers she’s quite the talented skater. However, obstacles abound: A jealous co-ed (Hayden Panettiere), a win-at-all-costs coach (Cattrall) and Casey’s mom (Cusack), who thinks her daughter should be going to Harvard, not wearing skimpy skating outfits.

Oh, and there’s a boy! Tee-hee!

Like I said, 10-year-old girls will eat this up. For adults, there are some “genuinely touching moments” between Cattrall and the daughter she’s pushed too hard. The always-entertaining Cusack brings her own, eccentric brand of kookiness to the fist-pumping feminist mother. Oh, and Trachtenberg and Panettiere are cute and engaging.

“Ice Princess” doesn’t break the mold, but it has a good, girl-power message for the tweens (The Spice Girls would be so proud…) and enough spunk from the cast to keep parents moderately engaged.

Now all we need is a knock-down, drag-out, cat-fight between Hilary Duff and Hilary Duff look-a-like Hayden Panettiere. I’d pay $7.50 to see that. On ice.

[email protected]