When Mystery, Alaska's amateur hockey team accepts a challenge to play against the New York Rangers, the entire population must put their petty differences aside and pull together as their small town becomes the center of a nationally televised event. Written by
Burt Reynolds' character name Walter Burns is the same as the editor of Cary Grant's character in His Girl Friday (1940). Reynolds starred in Switching Channels (1988), a remake of His Girl Friday (1940), as the character originally played by Grant, named Walter Burns. See more »
When the Rangers first arrive in Mystery and are passing by the Mystery players they appear to be much taller and larger than the Mystery players, which is also noted by several of the Mystery players. When the two teams shake hands at the end of the game, the players on both teams appear to be roughly the same height and build. See more »
Seldom have I come across a script so good for a premise so slight...
... That a film so seemingly inconsequential pays such care and attention to its characters is to its utmost credit. Before viewing I mistakenly assumed this was a gig Crowe took only because he needed the career-boost. How wrong I was!
We've all essentially seen this before in one form or another; underdogs band together to reaffirm pride for their history and heritage, all thanks to the great leveller we've come to know as 'sports'. Sure, all the expected clichés are present, and I did get a little annoyed at just how MUCH hockey was in the last segment, considering I'd previously been enjoying the character details too much to really care about the event that unifies them - but it's the rich characterisation that prompts many a smile, delighted laugh and one or two moments of poignancy. It's 'fuzzy' - and I guess perhaps manipulative - without being sickening, and that must come down to Kelley's background in the world of populist TV. There are enough sharp lines to offset the sentiment, so you don't tend to bristle when it's there!
Jay Roach really impressed me with this one, as it proves that he's more than 'adept' enough to handle a little pathos, too; a branch of comedy I somehow don't see the Austin Powers franchise extending toward... ! Although the final game is a bit 'dull' from my perspective, the hockey training scenes are inventively shot; keeping the speed and fluency of a viscerally exciting spectacle. Burt Reynolds again excels after "Boogie Nights", with a completely different performance this time - 'quiet dignity' instead of brash smarm.
Really it's unfair to single out, though, from such a fantastic ensemble. It's the sense of togetherness and perfect encapsulation of small-town spirit that makes this work, and if you're searching for a movie to lift your gloom then it's no 'Mystery' where you should look: Alaska... ! 9/10.
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