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Overall Rating

Awesome: 43.56%
Worth A Look44.55%
Average: 7.92%
Pretty Bad: 0.99%
Total Crap: 2.97%

8 reviews, 53 user ratings

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by Scott Weinberg

"Walt Disney Presents: Miracle on Ice!"
5 stars

Rare is the genre in which Formula and Predictability are so highly celebrated; chick-flick rom-coms generally don't mix things up too much, and many of those are full-fledged blockbusters, so clearly "originality" is not always of paramount concern in the moviegoers' minds. The same certainly holds true for the Sports Movie, a sub-genre of movie whose motto seems to be 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'

Miracle is a "ficitonalized" retelling of the legendary Olympic Games of 1980. It was in these games that the U.S. Hockey Team, long seen as the laughing stock of worldwide competition, rose from the ashes of a crappy decade and gave the country something to love, celebrate, and talk about for 24+ years. The U.S. hockey squad was a shambles, and the juggernaut of the globe was, of course, the seemingly unbeatable Russian squad. Guess where we're headed, folks.

It's certainly not surprising to see a 'based on actual events' movie version hit the screens; what's surprising is that it took this long! But after hitting it big with both football (Remember the Titans) and baseball (The Rookie), the Disney folks were looking for another sports tale to tell. I'm sure it didn't take too much wondering before someone came up with the Miracle concept.

Getting off squarely on the right foot, the producers hired Kurt Russell to play coach Herb Brooks. One cannot understate how important it was to get a guy like Russell for this part. Despite his lifelong career of making movies, Kurt Russell has never exactly been seen as a "movie star". He, along with movie-freak favorites like Dennis Quaid and Jeff Bridges, is just one of those actors who feels like a family friend; we invite them into out homes a few times a year, but we rarely go visit them at the cineplexes. In a career laden with performances both underrated and overlooked, Russell's work in Miracle ranks among his very best.

Despite all the hockey-rink heroism, Miracle is all about the coach. And since any coach recently appointed to the U.S. Olympic Team has a whole lot of work to get done, we obviously need the long-suffering & quietly supportive wife. In almost all cases, this is a throwaway character, a talking head devised only to "up the ante" when the big game finally rolls around. Such is not the case here, as the wife character is fleshed out with a few extra dimensions, plus (and this is why casting directors exist) whoever hired Patricia Clarkson for this role knew what they were doing. This actress could make the reading of a sugar packet sound hypnotic, which makes the requisite "Family Moments" of Miracle feel like much more than simply filler wedged in amidst the hockey games. (By the way, those hockey games rank among some of the most exciting and convincing sports footage ever created for a movie. And I've seen a whole lot of Sports Movies!)

The screenplay by Eric Rich (although credited to Eric Guggenheim; don't ask) is evidence of a writer who has seen all of these sports movies, and is intent on avoiding the most overused cliches. The collection of young players are, throughout the movie, consistently portrayed as a team. Although a few of the guys (particuarly goalie Jim Craig) get a few plot threads of their own, Miracle is not even remotely interested in the meandering melodrama that comes when you wedge nine subplots into a movie that really only needs three or four. For a sports flick, the screenplay for Miracle is surprisingly efficient, and while there ARE a handful of moments you may be able to predict, Roth's screenplay tones down the schmaltz and successfully ups the sincerity.

And if you're making a movie with a pro-American stance (especially in this day and age), it's important to not overladle the sap. This is one of Miracle's most impressive feats: the chest-thumping chants of "U.S.A.!!" are presented within a historical context that makes sense, and director Gavin O'Connor (Tumbleweeds) simply does NOT overplay his hand. Miracle is not about how the United States "rules"; it's about the power of redemption on a national scale. At a time when American citizens truly needed something to be happy about, they got a miracle. And that this adaptation of those events turned out to be so heartfelt, so warmly nostalgic and so damn exciting (especially when you consider that, hey, we already know who won that game) is a minor miracle in its own right.

Used to be that I'd roll my eyes up at a Live-Action Sports Flick from Disney ("Cool Runnings", anyone?), but after seeing Dennis Quaid as the baseball's oldest underdog and Kurt Russell as the brilliant Herb Brooks, I'm beginning to think that the Mouse House is onto something here: the "Hire a Solid Screenwriter, Snag a Great Actor and Go From There" plan. Anyone for basketball?

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originally posted: 02/14/04 20:06:15
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User Comments

9/12/15 Anne Well done. You are with the team and coach all the way! 4 stars
10/08/09 Anita totally surprised by Kurt Russel's performance - I had to remind myself it was him. 5 stars
8/31/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 5 stars
12/02/06 shagtex just keep yelling USA over and over and stay home 1 stars
12/01/06 SabresFanatic Think David vs Goliath only with the brillant Herb Brooks coaching David to victory! Great 5 stars
11/10/06 Anonymous I think this movie was the best. My mum and dad are like fanatics of too, now :] 5 stars
10/03/05 Angeli Grace One of the unforgettable achievements in the USA sports history. I love it! 5 stars
8/13/05 ES Hockey? I thought this thing was about America dominating the world 2 stars
2/11/05 Jeff Anderson Along with SLAP SHOT, this IS the greatest hockey film of ALL TIME in spirit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
1/07/05 Poopy McPoop Crap I just wanted to be the only one who rated this movie bad...i really liked it tho 1 stars
12/22/04 Landshark The best medicine for wounds of the long-suffering hockey fan 5 stars
11/19/04 Zeus Greatest moment in sports history. Got to love it 5 stars
10/30/04 Lee ausome 5 stars
6/14/04 Spiderfan50 Dream On! It'll be hard to find a better hocky movie! 5 stars
6/01/04 Ryan Absolutely incredible, best hockey movie I've ever seen. Any fan of the sport needs to see 5 stars
6/01/04 maggie saw it three times and bought the dvd which is great 5 stars
5/31/04 prongs inspirational movie 5 stars
5/30/04 Frazier A patriotic sports movie that gives us national pride 5 stars
5/27/04 Matt Great movie for Hockey fans!!! 5 stars
5/19/04 ryan ransom i loved it i got some while watching it!!!!!!!!1 5 stars
4/17/04 Robyn Jamil-Walid Intense;watchable;a little too self-indulgent at times;subplot with wife mostly annoying. 4 stars
3/31/04 Alex This movie is very inspiring. This is a great movie for the whole family. 4 stars
3/30/04 Mike V It was a Disney movie before it was a Disney movie. 5 stars
3/17/04 Chris I like the movie alot but it played it safe a little to much. Still a good see. 4 stars
3/16/04 Mike Sierchio I knew the story intimately and still found myself on the edge of my seat. 5 stars
3/14/04 E-Rock A well done movie. Game sequences are nicely edited, and the story is well-adapted. 4 stars
3/14/04 Jillian Truly something inspirational, shows us how it is a team comes together when its needed 5 stars
3/10/04 Bob Gifford Overachieves typical expectations 5 stars
3/08/04 Edler A very solid, well made, well acted, entertaining, and inspiring movie. 4 stars
3/04/04 m.gallegos Great! I was on the edge of my seat,even though I knew how it would turn out! 5 stars
3/03/04 Sarah I thought it was fantastic, i saw it in the U.S and wasnt sure what 2 expect, but i luvd it 5 stars
3/02/04 Wendranh Slow to build excitement, but worth it. 4 stars
3/01/04 ashley bevis 4 good sex call gary betts on 01303 243289 5 stars
2/22/04 Tom Bonner Great movie! I remember this like it was yesterday and what it for the US. Kurt is perfect! 5 stars
2/21/04 Ross Riley Best Sports Movie Of ALL TIME 5 stars
2/20/04 Koitus Could have used more footage of exhibition loss (7-3); or other Olympic games. 3 stars
2/16/04 Edler Oh yeah! A great sports movie with amazing insight into the dreary and depressing 1970's. 5 stars
2/16/04 Claire Proce excellent movie... we need more of this kind!! 5 stars
2/16/04 Kev Enjoyable, but it lacked meaning and development 3 stars
2/16/04 Bobbie K Entertaining; but would like to have seen more depth to other characters 4 stars
2/15/04 Joker94 Great Film, if you can't see that, you have no heart! 5 stars
2/15/04 ajay I enjoyed this movie... 4 stars
2/10/04 luke good but beating soviets overshadowed winning the gold 4 stars
2/09/04 Jeremy Sexton Loved every minute of it. I would have stayed for another hour of film! 5 stars
2/09/04 Tyler Bauer Great. Top Notch. Fantastic. 5 stars
2/09/04 Vicious Yanks shouldn't make hockey films. 1 stars
2/09/04 Brad good 5 stars
2/08/04 bullit16 I felt like I was 7 again watching the games on TV. Wonderful! 5 stars
2/08/04 david a may generall a good film; uplifting and will get your tear quotient for the week met. 4 stars
2/08/04 Glen Hull Very entertaining 4 stars
2/04/04 Carly O'Conner Loved It 4 stars
2/04/04 Nicole Great movie. Whatever I was expecting, it was better. 4 stars
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  06-Feb-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 18-May-2004



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