Ice Princess (2005)
★★★ / ★★★★
Michelle Trachtenberg stars as Casey Carlyle, a very intelligent high school senior who was on her way to attending Harvard University. Having a supportive but sometimes overbearing feminist mother (Joan Cusack), she decided to determine if there was an exact mathematical formula involving some of the moves in ice skating for a Physics scholarship. I’ve been wanting to see this movie ever since it came out but only recently did I finally decide to watch it when a friend mentioned it out of the blue. Even though the picture was a little wobbly with its acting (as most Disney movies designed for tweens and teens), I quite enjoyed it because it was nice to see a smart and multitalented girl going after her dreams. The characters also surprised me because at first I thought Hayden Panettiere was going to be a bully but it turned out that she had better things to do than to try to rule the school. It was so much more realistic than movies like “I Love You, Beth Cooper” (which I saw prior to this) in terms of story and character. I loved the scenes between Cusack and Kim Cattrall as Panettiere’s mother/skating coach. When they were in the same frame, there was a real sense of tension and a history in their respective characters. However, I didn’t care much for the blossoming relationship between the main character and the boy who drove a Zamboni machine (Trevor Blumas). It was cute but it felt forced because the film was really more about Casey’s struggle between what she wanted and what her mother wanted for her. Instead of spending time with the romance, I think those minutes could have been used to further explore the mother-daughter relationship and also Casey’s rocky relationship with her coach who happened to be a former ice skater herself. It had good comedic moments especially when the main character would converse with people she just met. She made me feel awkward because she couldn’t help talking about Physics (she really loves the subject). Granted, I understood some of the things she tried to say but it was really funny to me because I know some people like her. And I admit that there were times when I found bits of myself in her. I saw a lot of potential in this movie and it delivered most of the time. It was fun watching the ice skating competitions (with a cameo from Michelle Kwan) and I thought it was nice that it made fun of certain kinds of competitive personalities. If you’re in the mood for a harmless, feel-good movie with a good heart then this is a great choice to watch.
Beautiful Ohio (2006)
★ / ★★★★
Chad Lowe’s directoral debut is rather difficult to get through because it doesn’t rise above the stereotypes regarding depressing suburban drama. William Hurt and Rita Wilson have two sons: David Call, a certified genius in mathematics, and Brett Davern, who is rather ordinary. Michelle Trachtenberg complicates the storyline by filling in the role as the not-so-girl-next-door who the two brothers happen to be attracted to. The first part of the film is rather interesting because it explores the jealously between the two brothers–mainly Davern struggling to live in his big brother’s shadow versus stepping out of it. I could relate to the two brothers because they pretty much have nothing in common except for their unconventional parents. Things quickly went downhill from there because the dialogue mostly consisted of the characters discussing theories, influential musicians and citing quotes from renowned individuals. Their pretentiousness created this wall between me and the characters. Therefore, when something dramatic happens to a particular character or a revelation occurs, I found myself not caring. I didn’t find anything particularly profound that drove the story forward either. Lowe really needed something above the whole parents-not-really-caring-about-their-children idea because it’s all been done before by better films. Davern reminded me of Emile Hirsch in “Imaginary Heroes,” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but without the nuances of pain and complexity. If Lowe had explored the common theme of characters not understanding each other (literally through language or emotionally) in a more meaningful and not a heavy-handed manner, this picture would’ve worked. The revelation about a certain character in the end felt out of place. Don’t waste your time with this one.
17 Again (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
Even though I’m no fan of Zac Efron (he hasn’t yet proven to me that he can be a versatile actor), I have to admit that I somewhat enjoyed this movie. Granted, that enjoyment didn’t come from either lead actors, Efron or Matthew Perry; in fact, the supporting actors were the ones that stepped up to the plate and delivered the big laughs. Having been down on his luck, Perry gets a second chance to look like his seventeen-year-old high school self (played by Efron) after talking to a magical janitor/spirit guide. In that younger body, he’s able to find a relationship with his two kids (Michelle Trachtenberg, Sterling Knight) and fix his marriage problems with his wife (Leslie Mann). The only person that knows about the whole magical transformation was Perry’s best friend played by the hilarious Thomas Lennon. Lennon stole every scene he was in and I seriously couldn’t stop laughing because of the way he embraced his characters’ nerdy persona. (“Star Wars,” “The Lord of the Rings,” you name it, the geeky reference is there.) He was matched by Melora Hardin (“The Office”), the high school principal with a little secret that she expertly masks. What dragged this film down was its inability to stay away from syrupy scenes and lines, including the so-called dramatic slow motions during the basketball games. Its message was also very vague. I felt like the message it tried to convey was in order to stop feeling like outcast, one should join the basketball team because that’s where the opportunities are found. That would’ve been easily solved if Trachtenberg and Knight had friends who are astute, well-adjusted, and happy with where they are in life. Instead, the two of them are simply outcasts: Trachtenberg is dependent on her boyfriend (played by the lovely, though not-so-lovely in this film, Hunter Parrish) and Knight as a socially awkward loverboy. What this movie is trying to show is not real life and it’s a shame because I know for a fact that teenagers (especially teenage girls) will be drawn to this. “17 Again” has some funny material but I found it confusing in its core and very unrealistic in its portrayal of high school. Or maybe I just need to see Efron play a character who doesn’t know how to play basketball. Perhaps then the cheesiness will decrease exponentially.