I’ve been sock “skating” on hard surfaces since I was about five years old, when Ice Castles first triple-axeled into my life.
You might think this movie is a cheesy joke, made even more so when it was remade in 2010 as a straight-to-DVD mess that should have been an after-school special. But I’m here to tell you it’s not a joke. No, Ice Castles is a gritty drama filled with sparkling leotards and love, rugged men (and ladies) with beards and disco music. It deserves a place amongst the greatest sports movies — or at least ice skating movies — of all time. Here’s why:
– Ice skating features prominently throughout the movie. Even though the plot involves a struggling working class town, a dead mother, a love triangle, and, of course, a tragic accident that leaves the heroine blind, a good portion of the movie is spent on the ice. Between Alexis “Lexie” Winston’s ice skating and her boyfriend Nick Peterson’s hockey career, the skates take center stage.
– Ice skating is hard, but Lynn-Holly Johnson has the chops. Too many sports movies — especially those featuring skating — feature short, jerky camera angles spliced together to make it look like the actors are actually athletes. Johnson was a professional skater before filming the movie, and it shows. You can actually see her face as she leaps through the air with the greatest of ease. Now that’s believable. And it proves, once and for all, that it’s easier to fake blind than it is to fake you can ice skate.
– Robby Benson’s moony eyes and perfectly feathered hair make me weak at the knees. My whole life I’ve wanted someone to shout with such urgency, “Lexie, the flowers!” But since I’ll probably never stumble in darkness on the ice as people cast flowers of affection at me, I doubt this will happen. Thankfully, I have this movie on VHS from which to live vicariously.
– Tom Skerritt is a hairy, greasy babe. Over the years my Skerritt allegiances have shifted, from the buttoned-up officer Skerritt in Top Gun and Picket Fences to the fatherly figure Skerritt in Steel Magnolias and A River Runs Through It. I’m even a fan of the elder statesman Skerritt, spoofing himself in a clip from Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job! But it’s the dirty, broken-hearted widower Marcus Winston that is my favorite Skerritt of all.
– At first glance, the movie is steeped in melodrama, oddly juxtaposed against a mostly forgettable script. But once you’ve seen the movie a few hundred times, you will see that it is actually a cornucopia of some of the best movie lines of all time. Here, a random, out-of-context selection:
– Deborah: “It was a lousy triple!” Lexie: “You didn’t even see it.”
– “This is really fast ice, it feels really good!”
– “Why don’t you just go and try out for another hockey team?”
– “I don’t miss you any more, Brian.”
– “You sit in the attic, in your dead mother’s clothes …”
– “Here. There’s a hand in front of you. Grab it.”
And, of course, the first and last lines of the dramatic final scene:
– “Here’s for my mom.”
– Lexie: “Stay with me.” Nick: “You bet.”
But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself: