I grew up watching figure skating. Brian Boitano, Scott Hamilton, Kurt Browning, Midori Ito ... I remember when Tonya Harding went whacko and Nancy Kerrigan got in her way. I remember when Michelle Kwan first came on the scene and blew everyone out of the water. And, by coincidence, skating fans around the world are commemorating the passing of Sergei Grinkov today. Sergei was one half of the most amazing pairs team the world has ever known.
I also remember watching a movie called "Ice Castles" as a little girl. The film starred an actress named Lynn-Holly Johnson and a guy named Robby Benson (yes, the same guy who went on to voice Beast in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast.") The film was especially interesting to me because Colleen Dewhirst had a role in the film, and I already knew and loved her as Marilla from "Anne of Green Gables."
Consequently, when I was contacted by a movie production company and they asked me to review a remake of "Ice Castles," I was all over it like sparkly make-up on a skater's face.
This version was released just this year and stars little-known ice skater Taylor Firth as our main character, Alexis Winston, a girl who loves to skate on the pond near her home. Her mother was a skater and she mimics moves she saw her mother perform, but she's never entered any competitions. When the opportunity presents itself, her father and her aunt, also her coach, support her in competing, and she places very well. Skating coach Aiden is in the audience, and he invites her to come train with him.
This will constitute a huge sacrifice for all involved. Alexis has been seriously dating Nick, and her training will take her away from him for long stretches of time. He's in college on a hockey scholarship and is trying to get noticed by a scout, so he's gone a lot as it is. They make a vow to keep in touch and be there for each other as often as they can.
But Alexis soon learns that the world of a figure skater isn't always pretty dresses and applause. The other girls at the training center are rude to her, and Aiden is harsh. Only her love of skating keeps her there, and a little at a time, she and Nick start drifting away from each other. Soon, she and Aiden start drifting toward each other.
Her newfound star status unsettles her, and she just wants to get away for a while. Finding a frozen pond, similar to the place where she first found her roots, she goes out to skate, but the ice quality isn't very good and she gets injured, losing her sight.
The remainder of the movie consists of her learning that there is life without vision, and that she can still skate - a very interesting process as she learns to feel the ice rather than seeing it.
I always had a soft spot in my heart for the original movie, but this remake is far better. The acting is better all the way around, and Taylor Firth is a great skater. She even did her own stunt skating, and we're going to be seeing a lot of her on the ice. But it wouldn't surprise me to see her do more on the screen, too. In addition, the original movie hinted that Alexis had been sleeping with her coach, even though there weren't any actual scenes, but this film was very clean. I actually wished we could have seen a little more development in the relationship between Alexis and Aiden in this version so it would all make sense a little more, but I would feel very comfortable letting my daughter see the remake where I wouldn't if she were to see the original.
Michelle Kwan does make a brief appearance, but unlike Taylor Firth, she has no natural acting ability and should stick with her amazing skating. Love ya, Michelle ... but ... you probably know that acting's not your bag.
If you love figure skating, romances, or just good films, check this one out. It will be well worth your time.