The Cutting Edge 3 has pulled the ice-romance genre out of the shadows of the Cold War and into modern-day America — where wealthy, white, Botticelli-bodied men flirt without reservation with middle-class, Hispanic, Botticelli-bodied women. And in 2008 (a far cry from 1992), chasing an ice-skating dream is not just about gold medals and beating the Soviets; it's about family, and loyalty, and betrayal, and empañadas and how the insidious creep of gentrified construction can hamstring an entire ethnic neighborhood, and how none of that matters as long as there's love.
Succeeding spandex'd forefathers D.B. Sweeney and Ross Thomas is Matt Lanter as Zach Conroy, a hottie somewhere between the ages of 18 and 26 who practices pair-skating at the swanky new sports center his grandfather built in downtown Wherever (Seattle? Toronto? Either way, there's some kind of space needle on the skyline). He's perhaps the country's only dangerous figure skater. His reputation for risk-taking precedes him, and the only woman who dares skate with him is Celeste Mercier, a pale blonde. Unfortunately, within the first 10 minutes of the film, Zach throws Celeste wildly and she fractures her ankle. Three months of rehab. No nationals for her.
Zach is charged with finding a replacement partner who can match his graceful recklessness. He finds her after challenging her brother to a game of 6-on-1 ice hockey, during which Zach scores goal after goal using his stick as a partner — think Fred Astaire with a Dirt Devil beating Sampras on grass — until Alejandra "Alex" (easier to pronounce) Delgado enters the ice and soundly schools him. Alex, you see, is a hockey player. It took two Cutting Edge movies to finally get to the inverse of the first. Hockey and figure-skating, you see, are enormously similar. It's easy for a figure skater to pick up hockey, and vice versa. Body-checking and triple toe loops, for example, both require the skillful manipulation of momentum.
Anyway, look how far we've come: a woman hockey player who quips, "I don't go for guys in leotards." This says a lot for both the brownish people movement and the heterosexual gymnast movement. In 2008, women can be tough and men can be graceful. Women can also be Puerto Rican (or Mexican...or...Colombian?), though men are still generally white and muscular and look good in any kind of T-shirt.
Alex (played by Francia Raisa, of Honduran descent, although, inexplicably, her sister's name is Italia, according to IMDb) practices under the exacting eye of coach Jackie Dorsey (played by Christy Carlson Romano, returning to the franchise after her cheek-soaked triumph in Cutting Edge 2: Going for Gold) and Zach does his best not to fall in love. But love finds a way. Zach tackles Aleja—Alejarno—Alex into a pool at his mansion in the 'burbs; she watches him sleep at her dim, reddish apartment in the city. Amidst all this courtship are villainous rivals and a protective Hispanic brother and a bosomy Russian (the Soviets never really go away) and the race for nationals. Then there's the botched routine where Zach slices Alex's head with his skate and, miraculously, no blood is drawn. But everyone knows he's a risk-taker, so it's really no one's fault but hers.
But the important question raised by The Cutting Edge 3 is this: Can we, as humans, achieve both true love and a gold medal at the same moment in time?
The previous installments of the trilogy both concluded that yes, we can, but I never believed it until this time around. Here's why:
To win nationals, Alex and Zach must complete the Pamchenko jump. When their coach suggests this, Zach (heretofore a risk-taker!) retreats. The move might cause career-ending or life-threatening injuries, he says. The move involves the man picking the woman up by an ankle, swinging her up and down and around at greater speeds and parabolic angles and throwing her up into the air, after which the pair spins identically but at different heights. It ends with the man catching the woman on her way down as they both come out of their spins. Alex, who has negotiated similar moves while trying to score short-handed goals in hockey, says they should go for it. In 2008, a Puerto Rican can be a risk-taker and a woman and a hockey player.
Simply put, the Pamchenko jump is a metaphor for entering into an interracial courtship or, at the very least, a courtship that will anger your pale ex-girlfriend and/or your new girlfriend's hotheaded Hispanic brother. [SPOILER ALERT.] When Alex and Zach execute the jump and, seconds later, profess their love for each other, the full weight of the film washed over me, like a zamboni over ice. The Cutting Edge 3 says it's possible to achieve love, even if your WASPy grandfather bulldozed your girlfriend's kin's casa (Cuban for "house"), but the genius of the film comes right after. The story ends right after the kiss. We never know if they won the physical gold medal because it doesn't matter: Alex and Zach have won the gold medal of each other's hearts, and that's something that can never be taken away, even if they are accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, which, to be honest, they probably were, because who could execute the Pamchenko move without some mid-level steroids, at the very least?
I really have to see this movie again.