Mystery, Alaska

dir.jay roach
st.russel crowe, hank azaria, burt reynolds and colm meaney
Coming out soon enough.

Mystery, AlaskaThe greatest hockey film ever made is George Roy Hill's 1977 Paul Newman vehicle Slap Shot. To begin with, let's acknowledge that the phrase "greatest hockey film" doesn't suggest that the film is actually any good. It's just the best of its type. For example, The Mighty Ducks is undoubtedly the greatest hockey film ever made for kids, but its also the only hockey film for kids ever made, unless the sequels are considered as separate entities. What I'm getting at here is that the hockey movie is a small, almost non-existent genre, kept alive with an effort like this every few years, and that each effort is so "original" that a film like Mystery, Alaska might suddenly seem oddly enjoyable for some odd reason. After enough explosions and hip non-sequiturs the idea of unshaven men playing hockey is no doubt a lot more appealing. It's also good news for publicists looking for quotes along the lines of "The best hockey film since....". Still, things could be worse. We could be watching Youngblood, a Rob Lowe hockey film that was a low point for everybody involved, including a cherubic Keanu Reeves who chose the film as his springboard to delayed success. Youngblood is a mess, a piffle, a soap-opera on ice, a banal love story, a movie where Patrick Swayze gets knocked unconscious by a Neanderthal rival and forces Rob Lowe to fully test his incipient manhood by avenging Swayze's pre-Dirty Dancing downfall.

Now that we've had a brief history of ice hockey in modern cinema, it's time to turn out critical attention to Mystery, Alaska. It s a bland, tedious, double-episode serving of David E. Kelley "quality writing". It s about small-town values. It s about watching Russell Crowe fall to bits in front of your eyes. It s about the worst film I saw all day until I bumped into a cinematic effort a few hours later called Cut which knocked my senses for a thorough six and made me doubt the existence of any kind of god in such a cruel, cruel world. Couples fight and then get back together. New Yorker's are threatened with weapons. Burt Reynolds learns to love his son. Oh how the dogs stack up.

As you may have sensed from my none-too-subtle sarcasm and Paul Newman based reminiscing, I didn't enjoy Mystery, Alaska very much. I m assuming that anyone who has stuck with me this far won t take a shine to its televisual mediocrity, so I guess I m giving this puppy a definite thumbs-down. While I'm at it, may I be so bold as to suggest you save yourself the time and money and go rent Slap Shot instead. Let us all enjoy the aged charm of Newman. Let us wait for the next hockey film together.

Adam Rivett
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