Ice Castles (1978)

Week of March 23, 2005

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What is it with Tom Skerritt and statutory-rape flicks? When he's sifting through scripts with his agent, does he say, "Put a green sticky on all the ones where middle-aged men take advantage of hot high school juniors"? In fairness, no one could blame Skerritt for agreeing to play the bone-smuggling patriarch in Poison Ivy, as C-list character actors only get so many opportunities to simulate sex with Drew Barrymore atop a baby grand (Skerritt: "Are you sure it looked like I was getting way up in there?" Director: "Tom pegs Drew on piano, take 58!").

Like Poison Ivy, Ice Castles features a controlling adult rapist and nubile teen prey. Only in this film, Skerritt isn't the one dropping lumber. The way Skerritt's alcoholic-widower character touches his daughter indicates that his boys are probably on fire, but the seduction of young Lexie, an ice-skating prodigy from small-town Iowa, is left to a thirtysomething television correspondent named Brian. Shockingly, the movie treats the ethically bankrupt journalist like just another viable suitor, pitting him against Nick, Lexie's high school sweetheart, in a mano a mano battle for her adolescent heart.

Usually when a creepy old guy makes a power play for a downy innocent, she runs away crying and he gets his ass kicked by her dad or boyfriend. Here, when Brian makes his move in Lexie's locker room, the ice queen welcomes it. When Skerritt arrives much later to set matters right, his solution is to give Brian a moment alone with his daughter to sort things out. The most unbelievable element in Ice Castles should have been Lexie's ability to regain her skating prowess after a freak practice accident renders her blind. Instead, the most unbelievable thing about this movie is its endorsement of pedophilic liaisons. -- Mike Seely

Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it.

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