- Movie Rating -

Ice Castles (1978)

| December 31, 1978

When I was in the fifth grade, there was a girl that sat next to me who was forever reading a series of teen romance anthology novels, the pattern of which was always the same: two young upper-class white kids fall in love, have a tragedy and then eventually have to encourage each other enough to get back in the ring – they were always good at something.  It didn’t matter the activity.  They could have been good at music, diving, running, drawing, skating, racing, didn’t matter.  The girl fell on her face and could only be propped up again by the Sealtest man of her dreams.

I wonder if my classmate ever discovered Ice Castles because it fits right into that formula.  She would not have been alone.  I remember this movie wrenching many tears from many young girls of the early 80s, and having seen the movie for the first time last night and, yeah, I can see where a young girl of 11 or 12 might have been moved by it.

I am not, you should know, a young girl of 11 or 12.  I am a cynical man well past 40 who endured this dreck with a scowl on my face, rocks in my heart and a drink in my hand (Smirnoff in Coke to be exact).  But in the interest of trying to figure out what my classmate saw in this formula, I dove right in.

The story is exactly what I expected and sooo much less.  Coasting on the pattern of the oldest and most reliable formula possible – the princess who finds her true love – the story involves Alexis Winston (played by a rather irritating Lynn-Holly Johnson) a promising young figure skater who is getting along in years, at least for a figure skater, and is kept under the caring thumb of her stern father (there’s always a stern father).  She has a near-do-well Cute Boyfriend named Nick (Robby Benson at his dreamiest) who resents her talent despite the fact that he clearly loves her.

As you might imagine, when the Olympics come calling, she leaves Cute Boyfriend and Stern Father behind and heads for the Big City.  There she falls in love with a no-good Much Older Man.  Just when it seems that All Is Right With the World, the Unthinkable Happens.  She succumbs to a Potentially Career Ending Accident and loses her sight (not sure why she can’t re-train as a blind skater, but okay).

Anyhoo, While Alexis balls herself up in self-pick, Nick finds his purpose by Encouraging Her to Get Back On Her Feet.  He makes his case to Stern Father at the dinner table:

“I don’t know if she can do it, I just know that she has GOT to try.  If she doesn’t try, it’s gonna be second-best for us.  Whatever it is, Hell man, she can skate.  Now, I don’t know who took that seriously in the first place, even her.  But she can!  She just won the sectionals – that’s all the skaters in the middle of this damned country and by-God that’s saying something.  Not trying is pointless and cruel.  Not trying is wondering your whole life if you gave up too soon.”

Ice Castles stays at that level, even during the All Is Lost moments when Nick tries to get her back on her feet and she falls down and whines “I hate you . . . I really hate you.”  The movie is as corny as Kansas and runs the cliché handbook step by step.  Marvin Hamlisch’s sudsy score doesn’t help and night does the drippy tough-love dialogue (see above).  I can certainly see what a generation of young girls in the late 70s and early 80s saw in this material but as a world-bitten man over who is well over 40, I’ll just finish my drink and go to bed.

[reviewed February 5, 2021]

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1978) View IMDB Filed in: Drama