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Case Number 18240

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Ice Castles (2010)

Sony // 2010 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Christopher Kulik (Retired) // February 3rd, 2010

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All Rise...

We bet you can't guess what Judge Christopher Kulik made his ice castle out of.

The Charge

Take your chance. Find your strength. Live your dream.

Opening Statement

A little tearjerker named Ice Castles was released on New Year's Eve 1978. While the reviews were rather mixed, the film would endure as a cult romance, now cherished as a three-hankie classic. Sure, the story was short on originality and high on sentimentality, so much it practically screams to be re-titled as The Miracle Skater. Still, fans could care less.

Now, we have a 2010 remake courtesy of Sony, set to premiere during the Winter Olympics.

Facts of the Case

Alexis "Lexie" Winston (figure skater Taylor Firth) lives in Iowa and dreams of being an Olympic skater. When a coach notices her natural talent, he takes her under his wing and presents her at the next Regionals, where she becomes a audience-pleasing sensation. As her success rises, Lexie also becomes intimately close with her coach, much to the dismay of her hometown boyfriend Nick (Rob Mayes, Bones).

When Lexie goes blind after a freak accident, her dreams seem to be crushed beyond repair. To lift her spirit, her supportive father Marcus (Henry Czerny, The Tudors) gets her out on the ice again, while Nick comes back to help her gain the confidence to skate again. Will she be able to compete again, despite her disability?

The Evidence

I'm sure most guys would rather jump into a freezing pond than watch Ice Castles, slamming it as being the ultimate in chick flick sappiness. As for yours truly, I'm not ashamed to say I actually like it a lot. Yes, I'm a guy, and yes, I love to see sh*t blown up every once in awhile. For some reason, however, the original Ice Castles moved me upon initial viewing and it remains a touching love story full of well-developed characters and realistic heartache. Real-life skater Lynn-Holly Johnson (For Your Eyes Only) was utterly convincing both on and off the ice, and even pretty-boy Robby Benson did well with the material. Plus, it was not as family-oriented as one might expect, as it sported a healthy dose of profanity and a nod to sexuality (including implied pedophilia), giving it an appropriately rough edge.

Don't get me wrong, though: Ice Castles was no masterpiece. Still, many of the lines ("We forgot about the flowers!") have become iconic, and it still has the indelible power to make one reach for the tissues. Not to mention Marvin Hamlisch's poignant score and Melissa Manchester's tender love theme "Through The Eyes Of Love," have become staples at weddings.

So, with the original so well-remembered, fans are no doubt wondering if the remake measures up. Uh, not even close. In fact, this is one of the worst remakes I've viewed since Glen Morgan's atrocious version of Black Christmas.

The new Ice Castles has been scaled down so much in terms of story it expunges the romantic spark and tragic undercurrent found in the original. I cringed practically the entire way through, as it shamelessly goes down a juvenile route to utter disaster, going so far as pointlessly re-vamping Manchester's theme and giving Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan an obligatory cameo. I don't know what possessed director Donald Wyre to update his romantic favorite; however, to be fair, he wasn't responsible for the revision of his original script (which he co-wrote with Gary L. Baum, who passed away in 1983). The re-write was done courtesy of Karen Bloch Morse, who served as script coordinator for over a dozen episodes of Dawson's Creek. Got an idea of what this new Ice Castles is like now?

Now, the problems I have with Ice Castles are endless, but I shall only list the primary offenses.

Why dump Beulah?
In the original, Lexie's hometown coach was a good-hearted woman named Beulah, who ran Waverly's ice rink. Beautifully played by celebrated stage actress Colleen Dewhurst, Beulah emerged as the true heart of the picture. She was the only one who managed to get through to Lexie when she locks herself away in the attic, emerging as an emotional catalyst to a broken girl who morbidly wears her dead mother's clothes. In the remake, the character was discarded entirely, and Morse throws in an aunt who says hardly a word and is only seen sitting on the couch. What was the point of that?

Why isn't Nick pissed off?
Say what you will about Robby Benson's acting skills, but he was actually quite good in the original as Lexie's boyfriend. Smartly, he didn't play Nick as the hot hometown boy cliché, but instead embraced the character's conflicts with conviction. They included a) his uncertainty regarding his future and b) his true feelings for Lexie after she cheats on him. When he returned to Lexie after her accident, he was constantly torn as to whether he wanted to hurt her or be her boyfriend again; he almost took pleasure in forcing her to do an axle and seeing her fall down on the ice. In the remake, Nick shows up again almost as if she never cheated on him, simply helping Lexie gain initiative again. As you can see, emotion and development weren't part of Morse's agenda. On top of that, Mayes is a boring Zac Efron clone who gives a performance that's one-dimensional in the extreme.

Why is the father so lifeless?
Here's another example of dumping conflict for laziness. In the original, Marcus felt unsure about Lexie going into competition and eventually realized she'd become a woman who knew exactly what she wanted. Then seeing him break down in rage while in Beulah's ice rink after Lexie gots injured was an emotional high point, and Tom Skerritt (Alien) was excellent in the role. In the new version, it's impossible to tell how the father actually feels about Lexie's skating and success, and somehow he's able to drag her out to the pond and get her motivated within seconds. Yeah, whatever!

What's up with the music?
The original completely avoided disco songs and allowed Hamlisch's traditional and lovely score to enrich the emotion. In addition, Manchester's song wasn't interrupted for the sake of some stupid pop songs which Lexie listens to on an Ipod. Christian singer Britt Nicole is responsible for the many tunes on the soundtrack, including the update of "Through The Eyes Of Love," which was completely unnecessary. The end result gives the new Ice Castles a saccharine and sickly tone.

Where are Lexie's obstacles?
Evidently, Lexie has no problem getting perfect scores this time around and achieving success almost overnight. Oh, and she actually relishes the success and seems to be always ready to be photographed, almost as if she's been through the process before. Wow, there's realism for you! In contrast, the original Lexie had a raw talent which was virtually ignored at the first competition she skated at. Her age (at 16) also presented a problem, as she was deemed too old to enter competition for the first time. She was intimidated by success, and didn't give a damn because she loved the skating, not the attention. In the new version, the hazing she gets by the other skaters is minimized to just one jealous girl, and the coach's "why did you do a triple" speech is given after getting high marks at the Regionals, which makes no sense. (Originally, it was after the tryouts and the coach got on her butt for showing off.)

Taylor Firth is no Lynn-Holly Johnson
There's no denying Firth can skate. What about her acting skills, though? Well, let's put it this way, WHERE THE HELL IS TONYA HARDING WHEN YOU NEED HER? She doesn't have an ounce of Johnson's natural appeal, and she only achieves unmitigated laughter during the scenes where she's supposedly blind. Case in point, every time she kisses Nick she directly goes for his lips without even feeling his face?! Oh, and there is zero chemistry between her and Mayes. Stick to skating girl.

The Ending
Last, but certainly not least, the ending is executed all wrong. Fans know full well why the ending in the original is such a heartbreaker. The reason why it worked is because of patience, proper setup and dodging the obvious. Not that I'm trying to give anything away, but everything is set up in the original so we almost fear what's going to happen at the end. It's an old screenwriting rule: no set-up, no pay-off. Morse thought it would be wise to squeeze too many things into one scene, as if she was in a hurry to end the movie. The result is just embarrassment, with the pain comparing with that of a toothache.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The only recipient of a medal is Sony, delivering a top-notch DVD. Colors are bright, flesh tones are accurate, and no grain is visible anywhere in the 1.85:1 Anamorphic print. If that wasn't enough, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track (in five different languages, including English) is crystal clear, with Nicole's songs swelling up inside your speakers and dialogue perfectly discernible. Sony goes even further by providing subtitles in eight languages, including closed captioning.

Extras are mild, but welcome all the same. The best one is "Landing The Jump," a 13-minute featurette showing behind-the-scenes footage and showcasing interviews with numerous members of the cast and crew. The best moments belong to Wrye, although Johnson actually turns up, acting surprised Ice Castles is being remade. We also have four deleted scenes, totaling almost 7 minutes. Sony also seems determined to set some kind of record for trailers; they provide approximately 19 of them, including the one for the original film! If only they showed the same respect to the original, which is still only available bare-bones.

Closing Statement

Rent the original instead. You'll be much better off.

The Verdict

Sony is free to go. However, the film is disqualified from competition for its offensive existence. Guilty all the way!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 97
Extras: 75
Acting: 7
Story: 13
Judgment: 18

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
Subtitles:
• English
• English (SDH)
• Chinese
• French
• Korean
• Portuguese
• Spanish
• Thai
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Bad
• Drama
• Romance
• Sports

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Featurette








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