Genre Spotlight: Mystery, Alaska

I play hockey and I fornicate, ’cause those are the two most fun things to do in cold weather.

Those who know me know that I am a huge hockey lover beside a movie lover. So when we decided to do a month dedicated to sports, it was a no-brainer for me. The only question was “What hockey movie to review?” 2004’s Miracle about the 1980 USA Olympic team was a consideration. I even contemplated 1986’s Youngblood with Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze. Sure there are The Mighty Ducks movies as well. Ultimately I went with 1999’s Mystery, Alaska. Sure there is also 1977’s Slap Shot, but I felt I couldn’t do that movie enough justice with a review for that is the Holy Grail of hockey movies.

Director Jay Roach, who brought us the Austin Powers series as well as the Meet the Parents series, gives us a feel-good movie about a small town that gets thrown into the limelight and how it affects all the towns people. When viewing this film it’s easy to say hockey is the main focus and in the forefront and for the most part it is at times, but if you look past the sport you view a story about a community so used to their ways that most individuals began to react differently when their lives are on focus.

What I love about this film is how everyone in the small town of Mystery in Alaska are all connected to each other and to the sport of hockey in one way or another. Russell Crowe plays the veteran on the squad that play weekend pick-up games like it’s their main part of life. However he is also the town sheriff and a family man. The leading scorer is the town’s grocery clerk. The man who eventually becomes the coach is the town judge. I love the small town love on display here.

The plot is simple and effective as a former townsman who left to make it big elsewhere gets the town featured in Sports Illustrated.  To further that concept he gets an exhibition game set for Mystery’s team to take on the New York Rangers of the NHL.  It’s all the happenings that go on when the game is announced up to after the game is played that is focused on here.

Crowe gives a great performance here as he struggles with balancing his family, work, and playing hockey while coming to terms with his age and the slowness that comes with that.  I really liked how the film focus’ on both his relationship with his wife (Mary McCormack) and the town judge played by Burt Reynolds.  Speaking of Reynolds, he gives  just as equally great performance as he struggles with feelings towards the exhibition game that will bring outsiders to his small town and towards his son (Scott Grimes) who plays for the Mystery hockey team.  The chemistry between Crowe and Reynolds plays out great like a father and son duo.  It would be easy to say it’s these characters and relationships that make the movie but it’s not…there are so much more.  The casting right down to the smaller side characters bring such life to the film.  Kevin Durand’s big oaf of a player to Ron Eldard’s woman crazed hound to Michael McKean’s big city sales rep add another dimension.  Hank Azaria even has a big role as the former townsman setting this whole thing up.

Mystery, Alaska shined in my eyes for its ability to bring the sport I love to the screen with such a rich background and side stories to keep me wanting more.

Plus as an added treat, look for Mike Myers in an almost unrecognizable role as a hilarious announcer doing his best Don Cherry impression.


Posted on September 30, 2011, in Genre Spotlight, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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