waynepygram.com: Double-Feature Theatrical Movie Review: D.E.B.S. and Ice Princess

waynepygram.com: Double-Feature Theatrical Movie Review: D.E.B.S. and Ice Princess

You're doing that babbling thing again. Alternatively, I do not get the point of this concept, nobody tunes in to HBO for the static, that is not a beloved sound.

(D.E.B.S.)
What is it? Theatrical-release movie from 2005 or so, about 90 or so minutes long. It's also apparently a light remake or inspired from a super-obscure 50s/60s movie called Teenage Gang Debs? It's also effectively an expanded version of a 2004 short/student film with basically an identical plot.
Where did it air? Well, like I just said, theatrical-release movie so originally it could be seen in theaters. As for today...that's a really good question, actually. I just happened to have caught it in time to have the DVR record it back about a year ago (and only recently got around to watching it), on one of Starz' 480p channels nonetheless. Yes for whatever reason they didn't want to bother to have it on one of their actual high-def channels, the whole damn reason you got the Starz package in the first place, whatevs. Despite programming my DVR to record it any and every time it appeared on TV since, well...it hasn't. So, ok, fine, I'll hunt through my local library's system and see if they have it. They don't. Ok, maybe through inter-library loan? Nope. My librarians can't find it from any library system in the entire country. That said, it's apparently available on Google Play for an ok price, and it's also available on DVD on a compilation disk that also includes Charm School, Feel the Noise and Seeing Double. Unless Seeing Double is referring to a DCOM or something, Charm School's the only one I've ever vaguely heard of.
Who stars in it? The most recognizable name by far is going to be Jordanna Brewster, most famous for espousing the virtues of living life a quarter mile at a time with her older brother, Groot Riddick. Beyond that you've got typical yeoman (or woman, I suppose) players who tend to be in B-ish and, let's face it, C-ish roles like that or television work. Of those the most famous is probably going to be Megan Good, who you might recognize from the (thankfully!) short-lived FOX series Minority Report, one of the very first reviews on this blog and the first to establish the precedent of occasionally venturing outside of the tween/teen genres especially if something's just bad.
Why are we reviewing this? Well, it's a silly teen/college-age adult movie that's surprisingly entertaining and deserves a fair shake, especially given how apparently obscure it is.

I keep thinking that the late 90s and early 2000s was the beginning of this trend of movies marketed to older teens and newly-minted adults with the start of the first American Pie, but really it's a trend that's been going on since the 50s if not far earlier and it's never really died down, becoming less a "trend" and more a genre in its own right, even if its not thought of in the same vein as say action movies or general romcoms. That said, I think there's just that...something that serves as a tell towards what decade a certain one of these movies is made. D.E.B.S....certainly has that feel, although (like the best movies of this genre and period, like Mean Girls of around the same time) it's not so punishing that it comes off as dated but rather nostalgic (or perhaps I'm just colored by how I see the movie). Unlike Mean Girls, which is actually a very brilliantly composed script utilizing the best talents and genius of Tina Fey, D.E.B.S. takes quite an opposite approach - being cheesy as hell, but a winking parody of this demo and genre (and all the other genres it borrows from) with a pretty interesting story and an actual message to tell not deeply buried underneath at all.

The D.E.B.S. themselves are...an extremely vaguely defined organization of exclusively teen girls who are trained as...well, again it's extremely vague but they're international police super spies, or something. Apparently there's a hidden test in the SATs and certain responses measure you're ability to be an assassin, a seductress, a leader or even a liar which apparently is what all super spies are good at. And then these girls get recruited and do...super-spy stuff. And date guys from the CIA and FBI during missions.

And then we have Jordanna Brewster's character (Lucy Diamond - yes really, and now I'm getting flashbacks to The Mysteries of Laura which has ruined The Beatles for me, permanently) who...is a supervillain for some reason? And, oh yeah, she's a lesbian. Spoiler alert: this movie's about lesbians. Her main lackey hooks her up with a female Ukrainian assassin to date, and the D.E.B.S. and the CIA think it's a meeting for, well, supervillain-y stuff.There's a big shoot-out and during the ensuing chaos the main character Amy (played by Sara Foster) runs into Lucy and...well they basically suddenly discover that they have a lesbian attraction to each other despite Amy's big lug of a CIA boyfriend whom she not-so-secretly hates. 

And...yeah, the rest of the movie is basically a Romeo and Juliet parable, except they're both lesbian chicks. And super-spies. Amy's best friend/chief lackey ends up getting pulled into one of their dates by accident and develops a crush on Lucy's chief lackey, and in addition to the lesbian Romeo and Juliet angle it starts to develop a "make love not war" message too. 

I mean...they're not bad messages, by no means. In fact, despite what you'd think would be  pretty heavy messages about finding yourself and sexuality...the movie's a pretty light, fun romp. Is it entertaining? Certainly. Is it more than that? Ehhhhh...just enough. Certainly by enough that it really deserves to be more remembered, and it's a ton better than many, many movies aimed squarely at this demo before or since but have lingered in the cultural memory longer for some reason.

Movie Grade: B+. I was really tempted to give this an A- but...that might be a bit much even for me.
Movie MVP: Jill Ritchie, whose Janet effectively serves as the glue to keep Lucy and Amy bonded until...well...they bond, I guess.

I mean that in the physical sense.

Extra Thoughts:

 - Just that...again, for however many times I've said it now, I wish this movie had a better shake than it ended up getting. It's not the greatest movie in the world. I don't even know if it's Mean Girls quality. But it is Mean Girls 2 quality at least. And before you start thinking that's a weird insult for a movie I just praised, Mean Girls 2 is the most underrated movie in history.

(Ice Princess)
What is it? Theatrical release movie from around...actually about the same time as D.E.B.S. and Mean Girls, 2005. Huh, two movies for the teen(ish) demo released at around the same time, I didn't even realize that until writing this. Oh, and Ice Princess is also a Disney movie. 
Where did it air? Well again, it's a theatrical movie so you originally saw it in theaters a whole dozen years ago. Wow, time flies. As for now...it's virtually perpetually on HBO OnDemand (which is how I saw it), so if you can watch John Oliver command Jamie Lannister to make sounds with his mouth, you can watch this movie readily and immediately. It's also probably occasionally shown on other cable networks but HBO's probably the best means given again it's ready availability OnDemand, and in 1080p glory and without any commercial breaks guaranteed. I bet it's also available readily on DVD too, if you'd like to buy it in physical media or get it from the library.
Who stars in it? Kim Cattral and Joan Cusack are going to be by far the most recognizable names especially for people who were older when the movie was released, but of course the main star is Michelle Trachtenberg who...I guess this was obviously meant to be her star vehicle but beyond this and a few other roles it didn't really seem to pan out ;_;
Why are we reviewing this? Well, it is a tween/teen live-action Disney movie....

This might come as a shock to you (unless you follow my Twitter feed which...I'm pretty sure is exactly two of you) but I absolutely adore figure skating (or "ice dancing" as us patricians call it). I remember being about 8 or 9 years old and after Saturday morning cartoons (yes that was a thing when I was that age) they'd usually throw up some sports-related event and usually I'd just change the channel because it was something I didn't care about, but one Saturday after cartoons the sporty-thingie was this ridiculously gorgeous girl gliding gracefully on this ginormous skating rink (how's that for some Cap'n Turbot-style alliteration?) and I swear it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen in my life (well, I was like 9 but still). And I'd been hooked ever since, looking forward to something extra after Saturday morning cartoons to watch every skating season (it's typically...well, right now, especially with the build-up to the Winter Olympics, but on non-Olympics years they have internationals around March, competitions around October-December, and January and February they have non-technical, non-judged, strictly artistic exhibition "spectaculars" which are my favorite because they usually choreograph with gymnasts and other performers to actually put a legitimate show together, usually with pop singers providing vocals. Last year it was Olivia Holt!) Without a doubt since that age figure skating's been my favorite part of the Winter Olympics - I developed huuuuge crushes on Tara Lipinski and Sasha Cohen (not that Sasha Cohen - ehhh, you wouldn't even know who the real Sasha Cohen even is anymore) and I spent many, many hours on the Internet staring at (work-safe, since that's all we had) pictures of them (and before you're wondering, they're both quite a bit older than me). And while the Saturday morning cartoons have gone away, the figure skating (and other random sports hodgepodges) are still around.

So anyway, obviously something like Ice Princess is going to grab my attention, with the multi-threat of being a figure skating teen Disney movie. In many ways it's like the DCOM Genius if it were about the main character's figure skating friend instead - a girl in her very last semester in high school is a physics genius, but she needs to do a physics project to win a Harvard grant; one day she stumbles onto an ice rink where her rival popular girl happens to be practicing figure skating for a competition but she's hit with the inspiration to do her project on the physics of ice skating; in the middle of the project she's bitten with the figure skating bug herself and decides to abandon the scholarship altogether to go pro full-time. 

It's about what you'd expect plot-wise, and it bears more than a little resemblance to an old movie from the 70s, Ice Castles (which incidentally would be remade for direct-to-DVD format in 2010, five years after Ice Princess - and yes, I've naturally seen both versions and even tracked down a copy of the super-rare novelization of the original movie).  And even if it is somewhat inevitably paint-by-numbers, it still leaves behind a beautiful tale of a young woman finding expression, beauty and legitimate (in fact near-superhuman based on how quickly she picked it up) talent in something she'd only very recently discovered. After all, I think most everybody knows the basic plot to Shakespeare's most popular plays even if they've never seen any of them, but in many ways it's the individual performances and the direction that sets the ever-permeating versions apart. And I think Ice Princess manages to add a little bit of that Disney magic people like to think of (or perhaps even think has been lost) to this story.

That doesn't mean there's more than a little wonkiness to the story, though. Especially regarding...ehhh...The Jumping Shrimp. Yeah. There's a scene almost right at the very end of the movie - in fact it's the second to last scene period, and the last scene featuring here - where the movie kind of goes off the rails and even a little bit out of character given how Casey (that'd be Trachtenberg) helped her out to even get to this point and what friendship they had to...make a point about the cutthroat world of competitive figure skating? I guess?

Movie Grade: B+
Movie MVP: Well, it's kinda hard not to go with Michelle Trachtenberg with this one, though Kim Cattral and even Hayden Penniterrie (yeah she's in this one, she's the "rival" girl, in one of her first teen film roles) come very close. Even Joan Cusack too. 

Extra Thoughts:

 - Yeah speaking of having crushes on figure skating stars...I say this of a lot of women but I think Carly and Gracie Gold are the most beautiful women on the planet.

 - And yes Gold is seriously their name. 

 - I might have even further bias towards this movie on top of what I already explained since the first time I ever saw this movie - well, about 40% or so since I tuned in during the middle of it and this was before I had a DVR or access to HBO OnDemand or HBO period - was over five and a half years ago during the summer of 2012, when I was just very recently engaged to, well, the woman who'd still later turn out to be my ex-fiancee and started me rolling down the path to...well, starting up and writing this blog. Needless to say that was still during the happy times of our relationship and at the time I thought Michelle Trachtenberg kinda looked like my ex (then again I pretty much say this of everyone). But...things, especially movies and TV shows for some reason, really have a powerful ability to take me back to that time which is why I got hooked on the shows and movies that really resonated with me during that time, which being how a chunk of those shows were Disney and Nick, led me to being hooked and eventually to this blog (and to the very closely related field of YA literature and ultimately to me becoming a YA expert and the job I'm...trying to get now). 

 - it might also explain why...I find the shows on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon severely lacking now in very early 2018 than I do compared to this same time of the year back in 2013 and the last quarter of 2012 especially.

 - or it could be with the likes of Bunk'd and Game Shakers the average quality of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon show just does legitimately stink in comparison now.

 - Speaking of YA, the history of Ice Princess itself is pretty interesting - the script is written by none other than Meg Cabot, who also gave us The Princess Diaries and Avalon High, which is of course a pretty well-known DCOM. Now, she didn't write the scripts to either of those movies - she wrote the books they're based on (believe me, the book of Avalon High is totes diffs from the DCOM). Ice Princess is, in fact, her sole scriptwriting credit and the only movie she's associated with that wasn't in book form first or in any form, just being a movie (and they still brought in a script doctor to come in afterwards). She has stated on her blog that scriptwriting...isn't for her, which is sad given how much I ended up liking this movie. Apparently in her original draft Ice Princess was going to be more like the DCOM Go Figure in reverse, where a girl fakes being a hockey player so she can go compete in figure skating instead. 

 - but still speaking on YA and my career goals this provides a unique opportunity - as part of the practice process to become a professional YA novelist, I'm going to write the fan-novelization of Ice Princess for Meg, and I'll be posting a link to this very blog, so stay tuned! In fact I was hoping to start work on it today but I ended up doing some housecleaning instead...and writing this blog entry, too.

 - oh and speaking of the garbage-quality Nickelodeon has gotten lately...yeah, tonight's episode of Thundermans was on at the same time I was writing it but the previews made it look like absolute terribad garbage not worth watching, so I didn't watch it. You're getting this reviewed instead.
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