Mystery, Alaska (1999)

I wrote this review awhile back, and I still enjoy the movie, but it’s become more of a guilty pleasure for me.  I can recognise that it ultimately isn’t that good, and have adjusted my ranking accordingly, but at least it isn’t insulting to hockey fans.

Directed by the man who directed all three Austin Powers movies, Jay Roach, Mystery, Alaska was intended to be one of the ultimate David vs. Goliath sports movies of all time.  A small Alaskan town has their local hockey team featured in a Sports Illustrated article written by a former local boy (Hank Azaria).  The NHL sees the article and thinks it would be a great idea if the Mystery team played the New York Rangers in an exhibition game, during the league’s All Star Break.

One of the things that I really liked about this movie is that they didn’t shy away from all aspects of big league sports.  The NHL Players Association has a problem with the exhibition game and actually goes to court to try and stop it from taking place.  The local judge (Burt Reynolds) is disgusted that a jury made a mockery of his courtroom because the accused (Michael Buie) was the leading scorer on the team.  In my opinion, it’s one of the more real fantasy sports movies to ever be made.

Long-time Captain and Sheriff of Mystery, John Biebe (Russell Crowe) is nearing the end of his playing days and he knows it.  I think Crowe does more with this role than he ever did in the overrated Gladiator, showing off his heart and humour in a much more subdued fashion than the bluster of Maximus.  Mary McCormack is wonderful as usual, playing the wife of Biebe as well as she played the wife of Howard Stern in Private Parts.  It’s a testament to her abilities as an actress that she can be winning as the wife of a multi-media superstar, and still seem believable as the wife of a relative nobody.

The supporting cast seem to be the kind of people you’d see walking around a small town; big fish in a little frozen pond.  Ron Eldard brings some shining charisma to his character, the local lothario that seems to have bedded every woman in town, including Mayor Scott Pitcher’s (Colm Meaney) wife, Mary Jane (Lolita Davidovich).  Azaria plays his reporter character as a Big City slimeball to start, slowly slipping back into the small town underdog, regretful of his outsider status.

Even though it’s a Disney-produced movie, it’s not your most typical of family fare.  The amount of f-bombs dropped in this one would probably make Michael Eisner soil himself, not to mention the teenage sex, adultery, and premature ejaculation! You’ll find out that Stevie Weeks (Ryan Northcott) is fast at everything.  Anyways, I liked Mystery, Alaska a lot (Note: not as much as I used to), and it’s probably my second favourite hockey movie of all time (Note: I don’t think that anymore).  For some reason, it seems to ring true to me, and I’m a big fan of the underdogs as well.

3 / 5

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About SkoochXC
Long-time blogger, Canadian, cine-snark-aphile, Tweeter and generally lonely hearted guy.

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