When I began this column, I originally intended to devote it to the teen actors who filled my childhood days with adolescent longing – cute youngsters like 3 Ninjas star Michael Treanor, the subject of last week's post – but watching the Olympics this weekend got me nostalgic for a certain figure skating romantic comedy that earned multiple replays in my VCR throughout the mid-90s. In a weekend filled with thrilling hockey games and the opening rounds of the pairs figure skating competition, I couldn't help but think back to the movie that combined the two ice sports in glorious fashion in the spring of 1992: The Cutting Edge.
My Movie Crush: Doug Dorsey in The Cutting Edge (1992)
Played by: D.B. Sweeney
The Cutting Edge opens with a prologue set during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, where hockey player Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney) and pairs figure skater Kate Moseley (Moira Kelly) are hungry athletes going for the gold in their respective fields. Both Doug and Kate leave Calgary with uncertain futures; he's lost much of his peripheral vision, eliminating his chances of playing in the NHL, and she takes a tumble on the ice thanks to her malcontent partner. Two years later, Kate and her new coach, Anton Pamchenko (Roy Dotrice) have exhausted all prospective male skaters; in a last-ditch effort, they enlist Doug – rough and untrained, but desperate for another shot at the Olympics – and the unlikely pair make their way to the 1992 Winter Games, falling reluctantly in love along the way.
As far as sports movies-slash-romantic comedies go, The Cutting Edge was a trailblazer. Its formula has since been copied many times over – including in two subsequent sequels, both of which I dare say are watchable, as well as the figure skating satire Blades of Glory – but few films of this subgenre come close to matching its wit and energy.
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Much of the credit goes to the pairing of Moira Kelly and D.B. Sweeney as the bickering opposites who s-l-o-w-l-y come together on the ice and, in classic screwball romance tradition, in romance. Their respective journeys make for compelling standalone stories: she's the poor little rich girl who must ditch her pride in order for a shot at success (and love); he's a hard-headed athlete who allows himself to embrace, and excel at, a sport his beer-swilling working-class community considers effeminate. And while Kelly's fine turn as the prim and snooty Kate is admirably multidimensional, it's Sweeney who really made it work for me and captured my teenage heart as the roguish Doug, who gradually falls for Kate despite her flaws.
Because in 1992, D.B. Sweeney was a hunk.
The 30-year-old Sweeney had come off of a string of supporting turns in films like Eight Men Out and Memphis Belle and had appeared on the mini-series "Lonesome Dove" by the time he landed the lead in The Cutting Edge. His Doug Dorsey was cute and cocky; more importantly, in a sport filled with sequins and spandex, he was a man. And though Doug was a virile charmer (check that "morning after in the Olympic Village" opening scene), despite the fact that he totally hooked up with that Lorie Peckarovski skank, we knew his heart belonged to Kate because of the way Sweeney looked at Moira Kelly when she wasn't looking. Moreover, Doug may have come from the tough and masculine world of hockey, but in The Cutting Edge, he was the one who said "I love you" first. (In a way, The Cutting Edge was a reverse Pride & Prejudice, with Doug at times playing the Elizabeth Bennett role and at others, the pursuing Mr. Darcy.)
The banter in The Cutting Edge was comprised of classic opposites-attract, prissy girl vs. lunkhead boy exchanges, usually concerning Doug's steep hockey-to-figure skating learning curve. ("Toe pick!") As a tomboy, it was gratifying to see a female character in a position of athletic superiority over her male counterpart, even when the crux of the story and its central romance depended on whether or not Doug was strong enough to twirl Kate around, her head inches from the ice, and hurl her into the air in the dangerous Pamchenko Twist. (She only trusted him to do it without killing her when he told her he loved her. How sweet!)
I'm reminded of the training drama, the naked ambition, and the romance of this perfectly paired odd couple every time the Winter Olympics roll around. Which of these competitors are the Kate Moseley and Doug Dorsey of these Olympic games? (Perhaps the USA's Amanda Evora and Jeremy Bennett, who are dating each other... and competing in the Olympics with other partners!) Which team will bust out the cheesiest outfits imaginable? (Germany's Savchenko and Szolkovy, AKA Team "Send in the Clowns," hands down.) Most importantly, who's going to bore me to tears with another fluffy, classical number and who will be the rebels who dare to kick a little ass?
Where Are They Now?
In the 2006 sequel The Cutting Edge: Going for the Gold, Christy Carlson Romano plays Jackie Dorsey, the grown daughter of Kate and Doug who has her own ambitions for Olympic gold and, like her mother did before, must mold a rascally non-figure skater into a prospective pairs partner (and love interest).(Kelly and Sweeney do not reprise their roles.)
In real life, D.B. Sweeney popped up in films like Fire in the Sky and Spawn but had more success on TV ("Strange Luck," "Life As We Know It," "Jericho," "Crash"). Co-star Moira Kelly followed suit, appearing in '90s films like With Honors and voicing the adult Nala in The Lion King and its sequels before popping up on "The West Wing" and "One Tree Hill." Meanwhile, Terry O'Quinn, who played Kate's father, went on to befuddle my every waking moment as John Locke on "LOST" and writer Tony Gilroy penned flicks including Dolores Claiborne, Armageddon, the Bourne films, and Michael Clayton – none of which, I'd argue, achieved quite the sparkle and magic of this, his screenwriting debut.