Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch:
‘Ice Princess’ at the multiplex; a Hitchcock classic enlivened by Robert Benchley

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the April 7, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

The new Disney film Ice Princess is obviously designed for the niche group of tweeners and mother-daughter filmgoers. But to my surprise Ice Princess is a very good Hollywood movie. Parents in particular can be happy that such a fine G-rated film has been made.

Casey Carlyle (Michelle Trachtenberg) is a very bright physics student at a Connecticut high school. Her mother, Joan (Joan Cusack), lives for Casey getting a great college education, preferably at the Ivy League crown school, Harvard.

Her high school physics teacher suggests Casey do a special science project that has a personal feel to it. Casey has always enjoyed skating on a pond outside her home. So she decides to videotape skaters, and with computer programs find ways using scientific principles that will enable the skaters to improve.

So Casey goes to the Harwood Ice Rink and eventually gets permission to tape skaters. The owner and coach, Tina (Kim Cattrall), participated in the Olympics at Sarajevo. Casey meets three skaters who go along with her project. One of the skaters is Gen (Hayden Panettiere) who is Tina’s daughter. Gen is frustrated by the time-consuming schedule of practices. She eventually becomes a friend of Casey’s.

Casey then decides to take beginning skating as part of her project. With students much younger she puts on a parents’ show that is almost as elaborate as the old Ice Follies.

The crux of the movie centers on Casey coming to realize that she has lots of raw talent for skating. She begins to seek help and advice from Tina, who lets her wear one of her own old skating costumes.

But Ice Princess doesn’t follow the old Rocky script. There are a number of surprises and turns of events that make Ice Princess very interesting. There is lots of conflict between Casey and her mother over Casey’s chasing her skating dream.

There is also conflict with Casey and Tina. There is also lots of satire about pushy parents and their protegé daughters. The prima dona who must win at all costs comes in for comic portrayal. But this is also a movie about how popular teens can reach out to the nerds and become good friends.

Michelle Trachtenberg is very good as beautiful young teen caught in conflicting situations. She has four doubles to help her with her skating, but the movie integrates the skating scenes so well you hardly notice that Michelle is not doing all the skating.

Joan Cusack is a bit over-the-top as a mother wanting all the best for her daughter in a heavily controlling way. Kim Cattrall, who is also a mother, is impressively understated as the coach who has her own dark side. Trevor Bluemas provides the young love interest as Tina’s son who runs the Zamboni machine at the ice rink. Hayden Panettiere, as Tina’s daughter, plays a key part in the film and does it very well.

Ice Princess is a family film many adults will enjoy.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates Ice Princess G – General Audiences. The U.S. bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates Ice Princess A-1 – general patronage.

DVD Review

Last Fall Warner Bros. brought out nine of Alfred Hitchcock’s films in their Signature Series. One of those films I had never seen. It is the 1940 production of the World War II thriller Foreign Correspondent. And I am here to tell you that this film is a gem worth seeing more than once. There are overtones of later more familiar Hitchcock films. But above all, Foreign Correspondent is a wonderful story well acted, with lots of thrills, comedy, and romance that holds up well across the 65 years since it first was screened.

The New York Morning Globe newspaper hires a former crime reporter to travel to Europe in August of 1939, just days before the War in Europe begins. Johnny Jones (Joel McCrea) finds himself in London at a meeting of the Universal Peace Party, where a Dutch political leader is to speak. All of a sudden Mr. Van Meer (Albert Basserman) disappears. At the gathering Johnny meets Carol Fisher (Laraine Day) whose father, Stephen Fisher (Herbert Marshall), is the head of the peace party. Johnny immediately is infatuated with Carol.

All the principals end up in Amsterdam a few days later for a major peace conference. In a powerfully filmed set piece that makes Hitchcock memorable, a man supposed to be Van Meer is shot by a photographer as he climbs the steps to the conference. This leads to a tremendous chase scene that culminates at a windmill, where the real Van Meer is being held.

Soon there after, Johnny returns to London, where someone who is supposed to guard him in the city is really a hired killer who takes him to the top of the tower of Westminster Catholic Cathedral during a Requiem Mass. Edmund Gwen, whom we know as Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street, is the cold-blooded killer who does everything possible to murder Johnny.

Foreign Correspondent moves toward its dramatic climax as Carol, Stephen, and Johnny are on a Flying Clipper headed for New York just after war has been declared. The scene where a German ship fires on the Clipper and its suspenseful crash into the Atlantic is incredible. All this was done long before the technical effects we know about today. The survivors on a floating wing of the sunken plane fight for their lives, reminiscent of Hitchcock’s later film Lifeboat.

In the end good triumphs and boy gets girl. There is an epilogue of Johnny speaking by radio from London to Americans before Pearl Harbor, of the need for them to keep the light on in a darkened world.

Joel McCrea is perfect as the hero. The love story with McCrea and Laraine Day is captivating.

Robert Benchley plays a London Globe correspondent who has passed his prime. The great ironic American comedian also helped write some of the dialogue of the film. Hearing his dialogue and watching him act is reason enough to watch this film.

Albert Basserman won an Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1940 for his emotional role of Mr. Van Meer. His performance is well worth the Academy Award.

The black-and-white photography is perfect for such an involved mystery.

Foreign Correspondent is not one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous films, but it certainly is one of his best films.

There is no rating for the film, but I think in today’s world it would be PG.

(Father Caswell is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney, and Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane. His reviews frequently appear in the Cheney Free Press.)

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