“Toepick!” Although it isn't a true remake, you definitely get the sense that the figure skating favorite Ice Castles may have inspired one of my favorite '90s sports romantic comedies, The Cutting Edge.
In Edge, a beautiful diva and Olympic hopeful learns to trust her new partner-- a Midwestern hockey player suffering from an eye injury-- all the while falling in love with him as they double axle their way to the championships.
And while Edge was made roughly fifteen years later, it wasn't until I watched Donald Wrye's remake of his sentimental two-hankie classic Ice Castles that I discovered the echoes and influence between the works.
Essentially, in Castles we follow a beautiful Midwestern Olympic hopeful who must learn to trust her aspiring hockey player boyfriend after an eye injury, if she wants to have any hope of a career on the ice.
Obviously, the earlier work is played for inspirational tears and Marvin Hamlisch themed romance a la The Way We Were and it's still the type of "women's weepie" to be counted on for a good cry decades later whereas Edge is a slightly sexier yet still tame PG rated romantic comedy that happens to involve drama.
Yet the anger that D.B. Sweeney's visually injured hockey player had in Edge resonates with the hockey player boyfriend played by Rob Mayes in the 2010 Ice Castles, whether the screenwriters were aware of it or not.
Although it's a truly unnecessary remake since essentially the story is the same, save for a few edits here and there, all the same, it's an extremely polished, high quality production that excels on most levels, easily acing its technical criteria this time around. And it achieves these merits not simply because all of the classic components are still in place, considering they've employed the same director, an original screenwriter, used the Oscar nominated song, and choreographers just one degree away from the original but also because in 2010, they decided to hire a professional skater for the lead.
Able to ensure that we're not pulled out of the movie by cut-aways and stunt doubles, impressively, Ice Castles is authentic on and off the ice when it comes to the sport. Additionally, it's moved with the times and changes in the level of competition by casting skater Taylor Firth for her screen debut, which immediately adds credibility but also makes her much more fascinating to watch, given her fittingly guileless, natural approach.
The angelic looking Firth slips as easily into the laced up skates as she does into the Iowan accent of our main character who-- having skated since she could walk--, is plucked out of obscurity soaring through the air from her favorite skating pond in the woods to the fast-track to national competition when a high-powered coach offers to train her for Olympic glory.
Forced to separate from her widower father as well as her college hockey player boyfriend (Mayes), Firth travels to Boston where, predictably just when she's about to take off, tragedy strikes, necessitating our heroine to look “Through the Eyes of Love” one more time.
While undoubtedly, you'll be struck much harder if you haven't seen the original film, as-- perhaps tensed up so much expecting what would eventually occur-- I didn't require wads of tissues this time around, but it's nonetheless a tender, family friendly, and sensitive remake that proves that great stories never age.
Due to the minor changes this time around and the truncated running time to ensure that two time Oscar nominated documentarian Wrye's movie would fit the TV alloted slot, admittedly you do find yourself a bit fuzzy on the details. While in addition to the “making-of” featurette that includes an interview with the lead actress from the original and more comments by cameo Olympic Medalist Michelle Kwan, deleted scenes are also contained on the DVD release.
However, I couldn't help but think would've played better if they'd been edited back in the film itself as an extended edition DVD in the tradition of high profile made-for-TV offerings from the Disney Channel. Essentially, some plot points are rushed and others aren't well-developed at all and-- since 2010's Castles built up the boyfriend character to a more three dimensional effect-- the fact that it seems to be missing some important transitional sequences makes its flaws easily apparent.
Yet, technically, its superior cinema-level craftsmanship puts most family cable movies to shame with a nice blend of sophistication and intelligence in its handling of the subject matter. Moreover, its new release helps us recognize that every decade needs an opportunity to embrace the toepicks to be found in the oft-ignored genre of female underdog sports movies like Castles and Edge.
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