By Eugene and Anna
The Cutting Edge 3: Chasing the Dream is the Cutting Edge franchise’s attempt to duplicate the success of the Bring it On movies by adding mild racial tension to a figure skating pair that swaps the genders in the figure skater/hockey player formula of the first (classic!) Cutting Edge movie. Zack is a poor little rich boy figure skater with a dangerous reputation. When he causes his skating partner and ex-girlfriend to break her ankle in an ill-timed lift, he’s left without a partner before nationals! What can he do?! After challenging a team of Mexican hockey players at his grandfather’s ice rink, Zack meets Alex, aka Alejandra.
She’s a fiery Latina who gave up her dreams of figure skating but still manages to display some smooth moves when beating Zack at hockey. Zack asks her to try out to be his partner. The movie’s forgettable subplot centers around Zack’s former partner Celeste and her ill-fated romance with her coach. Of course, the best possible coach for turning a hockey player into a figure skater is Jackie Dorsey, the daughter of the couple in The Cutting Edge. Will Zack and Alejandra find love and figure-skating success? With a movie as predictable as this one, do you even need to wonder?
I have a fairly high tolerance for stilted acting and wooden dialogue, but the first few scenes of this movie made me wonder what I’d gotten myself into. Zack wakes up after a night of debauchery and spends his time eating Cheerios while shirtless and replaying videotapes of his most recent second-place performance. The opening displays a profound lack of chemistry between Zack and Celeste, although I enjoyed seeing the fan in the background who stalks Zack as he watches his partner being loaded into a ambulance. There’s a little bit of humor as Zack tries to beat a hockey team using figure skating spins and jumps, and the introduction of Alejandra was so cliched I found myself amused by the slow motion hair toss as she took off her helmet and revealed herself as a woman before punching Zack in the face. The moment this movie won me over was the introduction of Jackie Dorsey as the new coach. Of course she’s the only one who can coach a figure skater/hockey player team! And when she slapped down the yellowing sheets of paper detailing the deadly Pamchenko move I decided to just give in to the cheesiness of it all, despite the fact that the movie is incredibly bad. I enjoyed the way the rival skaters signaled their evilness by dressing in progressively shinier costumes and the use of fog machines and back lighting to disguise the stunt skaters for each routine.
It is too bad that there’s so little character development, with the filmmakers just content to vaguely evoke rom-com story lines without following them up. Zack has a strained relationship with his distant and wealthy grandfather. Alex keeps making vague comments about Zack’s lack of masculinity. Because the actors never react with any amount of depth to the dialog it is hard to feel much for the movie other than amused recognition of elements from The Cutting Edge. I have to admit that this movie did inspire me to seek out the trailer for The Cutting Edge 2: Going for the Gold and I am afraid I may have to watch Jackie Dorsey’s adventures with an extreme sports rollerblader. Likewise, I may find myself in front of the TV in a couple weeks watching The Cutting Edge 4: Fire and Ice. I can’t help it. I may have an addiction to bad ice skating movies.
Anna acts like eating Cheerios shirtless is such a bad thing. I would like to say for the record, had the roles been reversed and Alejandra was introduced with a scene of her shirtless eating Cap’n Crunch, that I may very well have declared this to be the greatest movie ever made. Also, she clearly forgets the infamous Fog Machine Death March in Albertville 1988, where 300 figure skaters died. Never forget.
The Cutting Edge succeeded because it gave us (i.e. men) the opportunity to shamelessly enjoy figure skating, while also feeding into our masculinity issues by presenting us with Doug Dorsey, tough-guy hockey player and all around dude’s dude, to relate to. The key to getting guys on board with the movie was giving us a guy we would like, then showing his struggles for greatness in both his personal and professional arenas. By the end of the movie, you couldn’t care less if Doug was trying to win gold in shuffleboard, you wanted him to succeed, and you wanted them to fall in love. You were invested.
It’s no surprise that the straight-to-TV The Cutting Edge 3: Chasing The Dream is severely lacking in that very important aspect, instead presenting us with Zack Conroy, the handsome, rich and talented figure skater with a killer self-destructive streak. To compensate for the fact that he is not only extremely unlikable, but also competes in an extremely emasculating sport, they have turned the male protagonist into a Lothario, a millionaire playboy that might as well have a flashing sign above him at all times saying “THIS IS HOW DUDES ARE!” On the other side, the female lead is Alejandra Delgado, a woman hockey player (sorta) who has always had a dream of being a great figure skater!
Furthering the whole movie’s construct of gender swapped roles, she is emotionally closed up, goes by a guy’s name (“Alex”), and is ethnic and urban in the sense that being ethnic and urban makes you automatically “tougher” and perhaps less “feminine.” The movie is a disaster of gender and race stereotypes (they regularly eat tacos in this movie), to the point where you wonder if the whole movie was based on the single sentence synopsis, “What if SHE was the hockey player,” and a roomful of a writers lazily filled in the rest of the details without any consideration for nuance.
The only times the movie works is when it invokes the spirit of the original movie. Yes, they do the Pamchenko. Of course their coach is the daughter of the couple from the first movie. Obviously, they make a toepick joke. And as unintentionally offensive as it may be, I won’t deny the fact that echoes of The Cutting Edge and the structure of an underdog story were enough to elicit some form of emotional reaction when you finally hear Alex’s answer to Zack’s original question, “Will you skate with me?” It wasn’t much of a reaction, but it was enough to make someone out there think that the The Cutting Edge 4 is a good idea (release date: March 14, 2010).
It must be so tough, Eugene. Here you have this tremendous man-crush on D.B. Sweeney who “feeds into your masculinity issues,” yet it nurtures your affection for him because The Cutting Edge was one of the high points of his career. He’s mainly starred in forgettable TV shows like Harsh Realm, Jericho, and Life as We Knew It. We can only hope that one day he will strap on his (metaphorical) skates again to provide a relatable everyman focus to yet another romantic comedy.