The complaint that there are no good movies to take the children to is so justified that it seems a shame to weaken the case by pointing one out. But "Ice Castles" is just that: a good movie to take the children to.
This does not mean that it's destined to become a "classic," which seems to be the only category for children's films besides "junk." It's simply a good film that children should enjoy and parents feel it worthwhile for them to see. It has a sentimental story, but that's better than the usual dumb good-guys-bad-guys stories; it's corny, but that's better than the cheap smartsyness of most youth films.
Part of the idea was to make "A Turning Point" of the ice. It's funny to see Tom Skerritt, the same actor who played the father of that film's young dancer, on her bittersweet way up, playing the father of this film's young skater on her bittersweet wawy up. However, it's a good, reassuring role, and he still plays it well.
"Ice Castles" also does fairly well with the business about how much hard work goes into success in a physically demanding field, which has a lot to do with why parents will approve of the movie. It does not do this as effectively as the "Turning Point" scene in which satin toe shoes are removed to reveal ugly, calloused, bloody feet, or even as thoroughly as the rough coaching sessions of the young rider in "International Velvet."
But "Ice Castles" has its own value because it then takes off in another direction. The skater has an accident and goes blind. After a violent reaction period, she is forced back onto the ice by those who love her best -- her father, her former beau, her first coach.
There is restraint in the telling of this story. The accident is shown in silence, and the next sound is a cheerfully matter-of-fact discussion among the skater's doctors. For her first blind moments back on the ice, any simple pity the audience might feel is jarred by having the camera report, instead of her faltering, the vague, shadowy, scary world she's expected to navigate.
Roles are also fashioned with piquancy added to the goodness. Lynn-Holly Johnson is beautifully fresh as the heroine, but the slight hardness of being packaged for the masses is just hinted before her success is taken away. Robby Benson, as her beau, shows a normal amount of jealousy and selfishness before getting caught up in the excitement of re-training her. Skerritt as the father and Colleen Dewhurst as her amateur coach are sketched in as people with disappointments of their own, around which their lovingness is built.
And if it makes the children cry -- well, it's good for them.