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  Ice Castles Skate Mates
Year: 1978
Director: Donald Wrye
Stars: Robby Benson, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Colleen Dewhurst, Tom Skerritt, Jennifer Warren, David Huffman, Diane Reilly, Craig T. McCullen, Kelsey Ufford, Leonard Lilyholm, Brian Foley, Jean-Claude Bleuze, Teresa Wilmus
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Nick Peterson (Robby Benson) has returned home from college, determined to quit. His girlfriend Lexie Winston (Lynn-Holly Johnson) is delighted to see him, but he still has to explain to his parents why he is back, the reason being that he wishes to pursue his ice hockey career as he believes he is good enough to turn professional. Someone else who skates well enough to go pro is Lexie, as she has a promising talent as a figure skater, although she thinks at sixteen she is too old to start thinking about making a life on the rink and setting sights on the Olympics. However, she might just be wrong about that...

Before Blades of Glory happened along, the most famous ice skating movie was probably Ice Castles (well, OK, maybe The Cutting Edge was a contender), a sickly sentimental tale of triumph through adversity that wouldn't have looked out of place in the television schedules as one of those Disease of the Week efforts. For half the film you'd have no idea that this was was where it was all headed, as it plods along following the soap opera style story of Lexie's budding career as she persuades a coach (Jennifer Warren) to take her on, and has boyfriend trouble with Nick, but all this is going somewhere.

It appeared to be pandering to those who have a problem with success too easily won, as it's plain sailing for Lexie up until her accident. Apparently believing that nobody would want to see a straightforward sporting achievement picture, director and co-screenwriter Donald Wrye (a television director who remade this in 2010) opted to put an obstacle in the way that on the face of it would present an insurmountable impediment, but this is meant to be inspirational in a fatally unironic manner. So not only do we have Lexie and Nick's relationship threatened when a sportscaster falls for her (and he must be ten years older than her at least - well, that's not creepy at all, is it?), but this leads her to take a tumble on the ice.

Of course, this is nothing that your traditional Hollywood weepie of the Golden Age would have batted an eyelid at, but given the lack of gloss it has here Lexie trying to carry out a tricky move while in the huff results in her crashing into some furniture thoughtfully left on the ice during a party. For some reason this simple bump has her rushed to hospital in a coma, whereupon she wakes up to discover she is blind - oh, dear, there goes her chances of winning the figure skating championships. But she can't let the fact she cannot see anymore hold her back, and Nick takes this opportunity to whip her into shape for a hard to believe comeback - and also to get a kind of revenge on her for walking out on him for Humbert Humbert.

What a nice guy. Or not, but we're supposed to consider his harsh treatment of Lexie as something charming, which should give you some idea of how misguided this all is. And yet, there are quite a few viewers who have succumbed to the dubious appeal of Ice Castles, and take it in the spirit as it was intended, that is not as a sadistic meteing outing of punishment on an Icarus-like young girl who unlike the character from myth, gets her shot at redemption. It could be that final scene which clinches the film's fans' appreciation, as it shows Nick's training paying off and Lexie managing to compete in the championships in spite of her handicap which none but the select few (and us watching) know about, yet this is absolutely ridiculous and more likely to elicit laughter in the cynical: naturally she performs well, Lynn-Holly Johnson was a professional figure skater herself and crucially, she wasn't blind! The reaction to this is split down the middle, you either cry or scoff at this farcical and oddly unpleasant effort. Syrupy music by Marvin Hamlisch.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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