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Mystery, Alaska (1999)
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Review Date: October 03, 1999
Director: Jay Roach
Writer: David E. Kelley and Sean O'Byrne
Producers: Howard Baldwin, Karen Baldwin, David E. Kelley
Actors:
Russell Crowe as John Biebe
Hank Azaria as Charles Danner
Burt Reynolds as Judge Burns
Plot:
A small wintery town that prides itself on its dignity and game of hockey, soon find themselves on the receiving end of a proposal from the actual New York Rangers. The NHL team want to challenge the small town goobers to an exhibition game, after a flattering article about their rich tradition of hockey fills the pages of Sports Illustrated.
Critique:
I love hockey. You don't have to like hockey to like this movie, but being Canadian, and liking hockey, both allowed me to appreciate this film's universal message on a deeper level. Three films which kept resonating in my mind as I watched this small but effective film, were the underdog done good flick, RUDY, the character driven small town tale, BEAUTIFUL GIRLS (9/10), and the bigger budgeted FOR LOVE OF THE GAME (7/10). Consider this one an amalgamation of the three. Sound like you've "been there, done that"? Maybe. But this movie worked for me. It's about heart. It's about drive, inspiration, pride, tradition, love of a game which anyone, including non-hockey fans, could truly appreciate. It's also about relationships and the hardships that people have to endure to survive a small town micro-culture, a feeling of second banana to a sport, and opportunities missed and achieved. I don't live in a small town, but I am always smitten by films of these kind which successfully convey the small town feel to someone who has never been. It's easy to see how many of these communities are deemed to be extended families, as every little thing once does somehow seems to affect every one else in the group. So strange.

Not only was this film able to convey this atmosphere convincingly with many sharply written characters all grieving on some level or another, but even more importantly, it was able to resonate the importance and deeply ingrained feeling of love for a sport, which allowed us to feel for these characters, and obviously, root for them in the big game. You should know that this film does not feature a lot of hockey play. In fact, I would say that it is more of a character-driven film based around a common "obsession" which happens to be the game of hockey. There are funny moments, dramatic moments, touching moments, and obviously moments of fun hockey. I enjoyed all of the performances in the film, except for the Burt Reynolds character who seemed a little too narrowly drawn for my taste, but kudos to Russell Crowe and the rest of the gang for portraying these folks as real human beings, instead of stick figures from the minds of Hollywood execs. There is also a cute cameo near the end of the film (Read the little known facts if you really want to know who it is) which seemed soooo appropriate for this movie. Some may find this film corny and derivative, but God help me if I didn't enjoy its every moment. Another unnamed critic hailed this film to the "Rocky of hockey", and despite the complete banality of that statement, I would have to agree in respect to its intent. If you're in the mood for a feel-good, character-driven drama featuring some good performances, funny and tender moments, then this is one that you should definitely check out.
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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12:11PM on 01/23/2006
Yes, the plot has been done before; yes, we all know how the movie is going to end, and yes the plot has been done before. So what? The plot will continue to be done over and over again because it makes for good film (most of the time).

This is a very good movie that adds a little something to that 'root for the underdog' flick - adult comedy and adult themes - and they share equal screen time. There's not a movie out there like this that combines those two elements. It was always either
Yes, the plot has been done before; yes, we all know how the movie is going to end, and yes the plot has been done before. So what? The plot will continue to be done over and over again because it makes for good film (most of the time).

This is a very good movie that adds a little something to that 'root for the underdog' flick - adult comedy and adult themes - and they share equal screen time. There's not a movie out there like this that combines those two elements. It was always either one or the other.
This flick combines cheating wives, old flames, jealous husbands, father-son strained relationships - as well as cussing 5 year olds, trigger happy store clerks, premature ejaculation, and Mike Myers cameoing as a announcer.

Oh yeah, the game of hockey kicks ass. I'm not from Canada, but am a big sports nut, and hockey is one of those sports I can watch on TV and at the stadium with equal interest.

Of course, Russel Crowe wasn't the superstar he is now, but he's still does a great job of leading the way and the supporting cast does a kickass job of portraying both the comedy and the drama. Again, not original, but I can still watch this several times and not get tired of it.
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