Based on a high-concept premise if ever there was one, Fox Family Channel made-for “Ice Angel” involves a macho hockey player who is reincarnated as a female figure skater: in other words, “Heaven Can Wait” meets “Ice Castles.” With off-the-scale potential for campiness on the one hand and unbearable cheesiness on the other, telepic actually skirts both, delivering instead a bit of charming gender-bending whimsy before disintegrating into generic schmaltz.
Director George Erschbamer gets the movie off to a fast start, spending barely a scene introducing us to Matt Clark (Aaron Smolinski), confident captain of the U.S. Olympic-hopeful hockey team and master of the haranguing pep talk. In terms of his personal life, we learn only that his best friend is goalie Ray (Thomas Calabro) and his girlfriend is Danielle (Judy Tylor), before storyline dispatches Matt to Saint Peter when he’s hit in the head by a hockey puck.
Turns out angel Allan (Brendan Beiser) had been distracted by the excitement of the hockey game and accidentally caused Matt’s death, so to make up for the error, Allan returns Matt to the living in what’s supposed to be an appropriate vessel, another human with heart set on achieving Olympic gold.
Matt awakens to discover himself in the body of Sarah Bryan (Nicholle Tom), otherwise known as “Princess Sarah,” leading contender for victory in ladies’ figure skating before she lapsed into a coma after an accident on the ice.
Horrified and clueless about how to behave as a girl, Matt awkwardly takes over Sarah’s life, confounding her befuddled parents with her beer-guzzling and astounding her coach (Alan Thicke) with her newfound adoration of hockey.
Erschbamer goes for the broad humor of the situation early on, and lead Nicholle Tom (“The Nanny”), along with many of the surrounding players, including Gwynyth Walsh and Andrew Johnston as the parents and Dolores Drake as the ever-smiling nurse, catches an amusing, off-beat tone. Even Tara Lipinski begins to show some comic potential as Sarah’s catty rival before being forced to become the bland best friend instead. As a whole, in fact, movie loses its comic energy as it enters the skating rink and becomes even more heavy-handed when it moves to the Olympics.
Primary flaw lies with an underdeveloped teleplay by Scott Sandin and Rob Kerchner, which begins to take itself too seriously for the one-dimensional characterizations set up early on. Then again, with a premise like this one, who needs characters?
Tech credits, including some well-done special effects in the early scenes, are strong.