Come on Ducks… move that puck! You think
the Hawks are tough? Wait until we play the Soviet Union’s Pee-Wee team! This is Movie
Night! Hello and welcome to Movie Night, YouTube’s
#1 movie review show, I’m your host, Jonathan Paula. Tonight in the first of our special
summer episodes, I’ll be reviewing three classic hockey films, in celebration of the National
Hockey League’s annual Stanley Cup Championship going on this week between the Chicago Blackhawks,
and my hometown Boston Bruins. We’ll begin with the movie, “Slap Shot”. Released in February of 1977, this comedy
film directed by George Roy Hill grossed almost $30-million at the box office, and depicts
the story of a minor league hockey team that resorts to violence and fights to help bolster
their waning popularity in a struggling mill town. Far too handsome to actually be a hockey
player, the timelessly talented Paul Newman leads the cast of misfit rejects and quirky
characters – whose bygone vernacular is often offensive and crude, but undeniably funny.
When one character rudely tells Newman he sucks dick, the charming leading man smugly
retorts, “All I can get.” – which is perhaps why the salad-dressing salesman also stated
this is his personal favorite of his many movies. The R-rated story develops rather
slowly over its 123-minute runtime, and no real plot is established until the half-way
mark, but despite the poor pacing, it’s still entertaining. Perhaps due to the film’s age
and style, I was initially bored and unimpressed with the film so many have called one of the
best sports-movies ever. But the more I thought about it, the more I enjoyed with the goofy
humor, original characters, and believable performances. Featuring more fist-fights and
high-sticking than actual puck-slinging, the rowdy team even takes their punches into the
stands during one crazy hectic moment. The visual style, costumes, and music are all
instant throwbacks to a different era, and watching this movie today plays out like a
sort of 1970’s time-capsule. Between all the shouting and improvised antics, some of the
dialogue can be difficult to hear – and although amusing, it’s doubtful I’ll be compelled to
watch this picture again. Capping-off the raunchy proceedings off with a bizarre and
non-traditional ending, this is however a great guy-flick, especially for hockey fans.
“Slap Shot”, a “Juvenile antics provide fleeting enjoyment.” Now lets bring in the rate-o-matic for my
score… a GOOD. While I understand and appreciate why many hockey fans hold this film in a special
place in their hearts, I for one wasn’t as impressed by it… Paul Newman is always great
to watch, but otherwise, I have to score it a SIX. Tonight’s poll question is an obvious
one: what’s your favorite sports film? Leave your response as a comment below. Our next
hockey film tonight is “The Mighty Ducks”. This family-friend sports comedy film by director
Stephen Herek was released in October of 1922, and became a big hit, earning five-times its
$10-million dollar budget, spawning two sequels, a cartoon show, and even a professional hockey
team sharing its namesake. Emilio Estevez stars in perhaps his most iconic role, as
a showboating defense attorney forced to coach a rag-tag group of inner city kids at pee-wee
hockey. The story is quickly established via simplified dialogue and an overtly formulaic
flashback prologue: all of it sharing parallels to other sports films, especially its football
counterpart, “The Little Giants”. The eclectic gang of Minnesota children featuring several
familiar child-actors, including Danny Tamberelli from “Pete and Pete” fame, and Joshua Jackson
– future “Dawson’s Creek” and “Fringe” star in a more prominent role. Jackson plays match-maker
to his mom, and Estevez, in an extremely hurried romantic sub-plot. Their chemistry is playful
and authentic: making it easy to root for them to succeed, especially when we’re introduced
to the unrealistically evil and exaggerated opposing head coach (played by Lane Smith),
who tells his team, “It’s not worth winning if you can’t win big.” Normally, announcers
wouldn’t exist at the pee-wee level, but their curious inclusion allows them to serve up
plenty of exposition, making the consequences of the games even easier to follow. At 100
minutes, it’s a well-paced and light-hearted film that never gets boring or uninteresting.
The score by David Newman is low-key and innocuous, eventually making way for a musical montage
to Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations” 80’s classic, as the team causes havoc by roller blading
through a shopping mall. Emilio’s deadpan persona is a humorous counter to the kids’
slapstick tom foolery, making for an amusing film, but rarely a truly laugh-out-loud one.
The PG-rate sports adventure contains no surprises,
and is predictable to a fault: but its harmless entertainment for all families and hockey
fans can enjoy again and again. “The Mighty Ducks”, “Simplistic hockey fun for kids.” Here’s the rate-o-matic with my rating…
a SEVEN. This is your quintessential Disney sports movie… the quirky good guys against
the underdeveloped bad guys in the most basic and thrilling of sports scenarios, nothing
outright exciting or original here, but there aren’t many missteps either. I thought it
was GOOD. Finally tonight, another Disney film: “Miracle”. More than doubling its $28-million dollar
budget, this biographical sports drama was released on February 6, 2004 – and fun fact:
was the first film I ever officially reviewed, way back on my high school movie review show.
Opening with a 3-minute credits montage that serves as a history lesson on the cold war,
this leisurely paced 135-minute story chronicles the unbelievable true story of the 1980 US
Olympic Mens ice hockey team, on their arduous journey to defeat the mighty Soviet team,
undefeated for twenty years. Kurt Russell stars as famed hockey coach Herb Brooks, whose
no-nonsense approach makes him a tough character to relate to, but he does a fine job in the
role, sporting Minnesota accent, and period-accurate hair and plaid clothing. Believing the “professional
all-star” system to be flawed, Russell recruits a band of amateur players, defending his curious
selections by stating, “I’m not looking for the best players… I’m looking for the right
ones.” Much like their off-screen counterparts, these players are portrayed by amateur actors
– many starring in their first film role, primarily chosen for their skating ability,
rather than their acting chops. But that being said, the gentrified group of 20-somethings
do a fine job with the excellent writing, portraying the realistic characters with ease.
Director Gavin O’Connor uses commanding close-ups and wide-shots to vividly tell an intimate
drama mixed with a furious sports epic. The 70’s era soundtrack features classic background
tracks from J. Geils, The Blue Oyster Cult, and Aerosmith: perfectly setting the mood
and atmosphere for every scene. One particularly powerful scene, has the unrelenting and punishing
coach pushing his team long past the breaking point in an emotional montage until one of
them finally stands up to him. The PG-rated drama features quick glimpses of
a cold war brewing behind the scenes… heightening the consequences of the big US/Soviet match
up that much more. Unfortunately though, aside from a few throwaway lines of dialogue, very
little of the Russian team is explored: in fact, not a single one of their players ever
utters a line of dialogue… making the constant “USA… ” chant during the films ferocious
climax a bit one-sided. That said, if you’re American, it’s impossible not to feel pride
during the film’s final moments, depicting the so-called, “Miracle On Ice”, perhaps the
most important and memorable event in Olympic history. Faithfully accurate to the actual
games it meticulously recreates, even iconic sports broadcaster Al Michaels appears as
himself, having rerecorded all of his original commentary for the movie. A rarity amongst
sports films, in that it meshes conflicted characters, a great story arc, and well-shot,
and brilliantly executed play of the game itself. This is an emotional, dramatic, and
undeniably fascinating picture that easily transcends the usually limited genre of sports-films
– one that is equally rewarding on multiple viewings. “Miracle”, a “Compelling and inspirational
hockey drama.” Here’s my rating now… a NINE. A film I still
remember fondly nine-and-half years after first watching it, I was able to appreciate
this picture’s accomplishments in the technical and acting categories even more upon re-watching
it early this week. A fun, exciting, thrilling, and memorable adventure, I have to score this
an AWESOME. Finally tonight, lets see what you’re saying about films currently playing
in theaters with some tweet critiques. If you see a new movie in theaters, Tweet
your review with the #JPMN hashtag to have it featured on the show. Be sure to follow
me on Twitter or Facebook for updates between shows, and to help decide upcoming reviews.
Earlier this week, I posted my thoughts on the new “Hobbit” trailer, so keep an eye on
the Movie Night Archive channel for more exclusive trailer commentaries, and an organized library
of all our past reviews. Once again, my name is Jonathan Paula – thank you for watching
Movie Night, I hope to see you, right back here for the next episode.