I can't imagine a more polarizing sport (activity? hobby?) than figure skating. It seems to me that the ruling powers of the sport are always trying to make it appeal to a wider audience, but when we get down to the harsh reality of it, the Olympics are the only thing that draw significant attention to figure skating. Hollywood has figured out that there are four years of untapped potential in between each Olympiad, and so they have bestowed upon the world the Cutting Edge films. The Cutting Edge: Chasing the Dream is the third movie in the series.
The original film, The Cutting Edge, was a romantic comedy released in 1992 that starred D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelley as reluctant pairs partners, thrown together by fate and learning to work as a team. Of course, romance eventually ensues. Fast forward an entire fourteen years (come on, Hollywood, what took you so long?), and we had the straight-to-DVD sequel, The Cutting Edge: Going for the Gold. Now, Chasing the Dream is coming to DVD, also without a theatrical run, and the films partially responsible for inspiring Blades of Glory have become a franchise.
Matt Lanter (Brody from the TV show "Heroes") stars as Zack Conroy, a playboy figure skater whose relationship with his partner and ex-lover, Celeste (Sarah Gadon), has fallen apart. When Celeste is injured because of a mistake Zack makes on the ice, he decides to find another partner. A chance encounter with a group of Latino hockey players introduces the sassy and talented Alex Delgado (Francia Raisa, Bring It On: All or Nothing), and soon Zack is set on turning her into his next doubles co-champion, despite her lack of experience. This alienates his uptight coach (Stefano Colacitti), and causes Zack and Alex to seek out Jackie Dorsey (Christy Romano), the female protagonist from Going for the Gold, who is now in semi-retirement teaching little girls how to skate at a community ice rink. Jackie agrees to coach them.
The plot of Chasing the Dream is formulaic and screams, "straight-to-DVD." You'll be able to predict almost everything in the movie, right down to the use of a token super move that Zack and Alex can use to win the gold. The dialogue is corny at times but not generally horrible, although I'm not convinced that the writers actually knew anything about figure skating.
Purists of the sport should disapprove of many aspects of the film, most notably the fact that every competition scene takes place on a pitch black ice surface, save for spotlights on the skaters. (Real competitions are performed in full, flat lighting so that the skaters can actually see where they're going.) The on-ice stunts are poorly performed, with vague shots of flailing stunt people cutting to close-ups of Lanter and Raisa sliding a few feet along the ice.
With the soundtrack consisting mostly of pop-y rap music, Chasing the Dream feels largely like a teen movie, and 15-year-old girls everywhere should go nuts for it. I dub thee, "Bring It On on ice."
What can I say? Chasing the Dream looks great. The 1.78:1 image is enhanced perfectly for 16x9 TV's. The colors are incredibly rich, and there is a wonderful lack of artefacts in the image. This movie was essentially made to sell on DVD (after being shown on TV), and M.G.M. certainly got the video right.
It seems to me that, due to the increase in quality of film and video, the production design of modern movies is generally more colorful. From the green grass on a football field to the colorful interior of Alex's family's restaurant, this movie embodies that. Heck, watch this upconverted on a good, hi-def TV, and the image is so beautiful, it just might distract you from the lackluster filmmaking.
The only audio track on the disc is the 5.1-surround sound in English. It's put to average use, with the only sound in the rear channels being either the musical score or some ambient sounds (for example, birds chirping when people are outside). The dialogue and effects are good and crisp. The bass, so prevalent on the soundtrack, sounds good, too.
There are two special features on the disc. The first is a clip of a few deleted scenes that plays through all of them automatically. The second is an 11-minute making-of featurette. Annoyingly, it's not enhanced for 16x9 TV's. It's really an extension of the film, also edited to rap music, just introducing you to the filmmakers. In his on-screen interview, I swear that director Stuart Gillard (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III) looks to the side when he says that he directed Chasing the Dream, as if he's making sure no one is watching.
If you want to know what kind of movie The Cutting Edge: Chasing the Dream is, consider this: the song "Apologize" by Timbaland is edited to a dance studio scene. As high quality as the DVD itself is, I'm going to have to say "Rent It" unless another professional figure skating romance with a scene like that appeals to you.