Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews




picture - Pop Star on IceFilm Review

by William Gooch

published June 26, 2009


Pop Star on Ice

not rated

currently touring in film festivals


For those who love Olympic-size egos, the grit and grime of competitive sports, and men in sequined unitards, Pop Star on Ice is a guilty pleasure. Known for his off-center, sparkling wit and his open criticism of a sport that places too much emphasis on pyrotechnical feats and less emphasis on the beauty of skating, three-time U.S. national champion Johnny Weir lets it all hang out—well, almost—in this intriguing behind-the-scenes documentary about the every day grind and glamour of an American ice skating pop icon.


For those unfamiliar with the world of competitive figure skating, this most glamorous of Olympic sports is a hotbed of rivalries, media overkill, and sports branding. Competitive figure skating is big business, and Johnny Weir has always been an enigma in that world of product endorsements and all-American apple pie charm. Directors David Barba and   James Pellerito confirm in Pop Star on Ice that, although Johnny may not exactly be the type to sell breakfast cereal—a hedonistic shopping excursion or a bacchanalian rendezvous in Vegas fits his personality more—he is good fodder for the press. And that is what makes this documentary and Johnny so appealing. Instead of the carefully choreographed, politically correct sound bites we usually hear from most athletes, Johnny Weir holds nothing back, letting the cavalcade of irreverent verbosities flow fast and furious.


picture - Pop Star on IceWeir is unapologetically a media blitzkrieg. When Weir refers to his competitive outfits as, “sparkling onesies,” it is clear that this a skater who is not trying to fit into the United States Figure Skating Association’s (USFSA) image of how American male skaters should represent themselves.  Although the stolid Evan Lysacek, the current World Champion, is the more palatable spokesman, Pop Star on Ice convincingly demonstrates that Weir is a more interesting subject and makes much better copy.  Weir reflects a new embrace of metrosexual images that redefine images of masculinity and sportsmanship.


Kitschy costumes and tongue-in-cheek repartee aside, Pop Star on Ice is fundamentally about the dedication and hard work it takes to not only get to the top in competitive figure skating, but also the doggedness required to stay there. Pop Star on Ice details the many practice hours Weir spends on the ice; the run-throughs and double run-throughs of his long and short programs; the off-ice fitness regimen; the drudgery of constant travel to international competitions, and most poignantly, his on- and off-ice battles with long-time coach Priscilla Hill. Weir sums it up: “10 years, 5 days a week on a freezing ice rink; that is my life.”


And all this hard work and self-determination has produced a new kind of American champion. While the USFSA struggles to maintain a more traditional image of the male skater, fans are embracing a skater that not only marches to his own drum but is also bringing back those elements of grace and beauty that have long been missing from competitive men’s skating.


williamgooch @


Pop Star on Ice is scheduled to screen in gay/lesbian film festivals on June 27 in San Francisco, July 10 and 11 in Philadelphia, and July 12 in Los Angeles.  Johnny Weir is currently training for the 2010 U.S. National Championships and the Vancouver Winter Olympics.


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