'Skating to New York': Film Review

Skating to New York Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment

Skating to New York Still - H 2014

Falls through the cracks

Five Canadian teenagers attempt to skate across a frozen Lake Ontario in this coming-of-age drama

It's not surprising that Charles Minsky's Skating to New York looks terrific, since the debuting director is a veteran cinematographer with a lengthy list of credits including such Garry Marshall films as Pretty Women and New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, the strong visuals are the main selling point of Skating to New York, a wanna-be Stand by Me about five Canadian youngsters who embark on an adventure involving walking across a frozen Lake Ontario from their dead-end Canadian town to New York State. While the film does an excellent job of capturing its icy setting, it falls woefully short in the storytelling department.

Based on a novella by Edmond Stevens, the film geared for younger audiences aims to be a coming-of-age drama featuring teenage protagonists facing a variety of personal issues: They include Casey (Connor Jessup), whose parents (Jason Gedrick, Michelle Nolden) are experiencing marital issues, and Rudy (Wesley Morgan), whose macho father encourages him to start fights during hockey games. Joining them on their perilous quest is Rudy's kid brother Art (Gage Munroe); the cocky Boney (Dylan Everett); and the science-minded Jimmy (Matthew Knight), who not so helpfully provides his friends with detailed descriptions of what exactly will happen to them should they should fall through the ice.

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And of course one of them does, in one of the several mishaps that occur during their frigid excursion that also includes an encounter with an eccentric, shorts- and sandal-wearing cigarette smuggler and his shotgun-toting sidekick. They also come across a pair of blue jeans frozen in the ice, which may or may not belong to a dead body.

Like its central characters, the film mostly skates on thin ice, only briefly coming to life in such moments as when the boys glide merrily across the frozen lake or engage in a dangerous jump over a hole that seems to stretch on forever. The scenes set on solid land, such as when — spoiler alert — Casey experiences a dispiriting surprise when they finally make it to the other side of the lake, are far less involving.

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The young actors go through their strenuous physical exertions with admirable conviction, but their characters are insufficiently developed for them to be truly engaging, and the adult performers fare even worse. And while the story is apparently based on real events, one certainly hopes that it doesn't inspire impressionable youngsters to attempt a similar stunt.   

Production: Navemar
Cast: Connor Jessup, Wesley Morgan, Gage Munroe, Matthew Knight, Dylan Everett, Michelle Nolden, Jason Gedrick, Niamh Wilson
Director: Charles Minsky
Screenwriter: Monte Merrick
Producer: Wendy Japhet
Executive producers: Avi Reik, Sandy Kroopf, David Hamilton
Director of photography: Francois Dagernais
Production designer: Peter Cosco
Editor: Ken Blackwell
Costume designer: Alex Kavanagh
Composer: Dave Grusin
Casting: Jason Knight, John Buchan

Rated PG-13, 93 minutes