Ice Princess

The only thing wrong with “Ice Princess” is that I am not enough of a 14-year-old girl to appreciate it. In fact, I’m not really a 14-year-old girl at all. I mean, I watch “American Idol,” but that’s as far as it goes.

I was one of many film critics to receive indignant e-mails from people who loved “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and who insisted that, since I am not black, I was unqualified to review the movie anyway. Leaving aside my suspicion that if I had loved it they’d have had no qualms about my qualifications, it’s absurd to think a person has to be in a particular demographic to have an opinion on whether or not a movie is good.

For example, as stated, I’m not the target audience for “Ice Princess,” and while watching it was not unpleasant, it certainly was not the high point of my week, either. Yet I can still write a fair review of the film because I can see how well (or unwell) it does what it’s trying to do, and how well (or unwell) it will reach its audience.

Fourteen-year-old girls will probably like “Ice Princess” well enough. It’s one of those harmless, mildly inspiring, completely predictable tween films with pre-packaged conflicts and ready-made romances, the sort of flicks that appeal to the undiscerning and the easily entertained. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

We find ourselves in Connecticut, where Casey Carlyle (Michelle Trachtenberg) is a high school senior with excellent math and science skills and, if the few seconds of cursory support for this are to be believed, no social skills. For a physics project, she begins studying the kids who skate seriously at the local rink, attempting to observe and define the laws of physics that apply to excellent skating.

The world of ice-skating, it turns out, is cutthroat. You thought soccer moms were bad, wait till you see skating parents. The kids are decent enough, but their moms and dads are ruthless in their plans to propel their children to stardom on the skating circuit.

Casey takes some novice lessons to make her project more personal, and she finds she has a knack for it. She has a built-in enemy in Gen Harwood (Hayden Panettiere), a popular girl whose mom Tina (Kim Cattrall) owns the skating rink and is the most ruthless mom of them all. At some point when I wasn’t looking, Casey and Gen become friends, though, much to Tina’s consternation, as she sees Casey’s natural abilities as a threat to her daughter’s potential success.

Gen has a brother named Teddy (Trevor Blumas) who runs the Zamboni and is destined to be Casey’s boyfriend, although already I have spent more time discussing it than the movie does.

Casey’s mom, meanwhile, Ms. Joan Carlyle (Joan Cusack), is a severely sweatered literature professor with strong ideas about feminism who sees Casey’s future as involving Harvard and not pirouetting on frozen ponds. Skating at the competitive level is demeaning, she says, because of the spangly outfits the girls have to wear — and besides, it’s not nearly as useful as getting an education, right?

Since Joan is unsupportive, it only stands to reason that she will show up at The Big Meet just in time to see her daughter excel, at which point she will have a change of heart about the whole thing. Of course, this will only come after Joan warns Casey that she is giving up her dreams by forsaking Harvard to become a skater, to which Casey will reply, “They weren’t my dreams, Mom. They were yours.” This exchange is so common in movies that I cannot recall the last movie I watched that did not include it.

Directed for a paycheck by Tim Fywell (of 2003’s “I Capture the Castle,” also a girl-power movie) and written very basically by TV scribe Hadley Davis, the film is a drama more than a comedy, and that might be a mistake. For a drama to appeal to a young audience, it probably needs to be exceptionally inspiring, sad, or otherwise engrossing, and I don’t think “Ice Princess” is. All of its conclusions are foregone, and none of its characters are strong. It doesn’t stand out at all from the pack of similarly themed movies — but, then, maybe I’m wrong. I know I wouldn’t watch it again, but maybe the 14-year-old girls will eat it up.

B- (1 hr., 38 min.; G, nothing offensive (or original).)