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Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice
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by Jack Sommersby

"Surprisingly Good Sequel"
4 stars

The original came out twenty-five years before, and though Paul Newman returning would've been too good to be true, this is fine Saturday-afternoon viewing.

The straight-to-video Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice is the sequel to the 1977 Paul Newman star vehicle, and I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed it. Is it better than the original? In some ways, yes -- it’s not as uneven, isn’t appallingly photographed, doesn’t have a bum scene anywhere in it, and the hockey sequences are just as good (though lacking the brilliant Dede Allen’s hair-trigger editing). And while star Stephen Baldwin isn’t anywhere in Newman’s class, obviously, he’s believable and contributes his finest performance since his excellent work in the title role in Bruno Barreto’s underrated crime drama One Tough Cop. The George Roy Hill-directed original gave us the second-rate minor-league hockey team Charlestown Chiefs of a dying steel-factory town, whose Newman’s irresponsible Reggie Dunlap was the player/coach of; their losing season was enlivened by the arrival of the recently-acquired Hanson brothers, three virtually-identical, Coke-bottle-thick/eyeglass-wearing cretins whose roughhouse antics on the ice started drawing crowds and got the rest of the players back to their prime (which was fine, because the Hansons were completely bereft of any discernible athletic ability; their prime weapon was their taped fists rather than their hockey sticks). It was the ultimate audience-pleasing picture -- shamelessly manipulative but chock-full of enough entertaining lowbrow humor to sate the masses, and without so much as a speck of intelligence weighing it down. In the sequel, the Chiefs have regressed to their place at the very bottom of their division. They’ve racked up a pathetic total of ten wins in the last two seasons, with Stephen Baldwin’s player-coach Sean Lenden, a former NHL up-and-comer whose career was sidelined by accusations of having been paid to take a dive when he missed an easy goal in a crucial game, unable to give his lackadaisical team of misfits the necessary motivation. But some good news appears to arrive with the buying-out of the Chiefs by the multi-billionaire Richmond Claremont (Gary Busey), a staunch “family values” conservative businessman who wants to relocate the team to Omaha, Nebraska, and double the players’ salaries. In addition, Sean’s coaching position is taken over by Jessie Dage (Jessica Steen), the granddaughter of a famous hockey legend, and this chauvinistic bunch initially has as much respect for her as an armchair-warmongering president who never bothered to serve in the military. Then comes the catch: they’re to serve as patsies for Claremont’s Harlem Globetrotter-like team the Omaha IceBreakers, to be the brunt of the slapstick jokes perpetrated onto them for all to see. They’re to intentionally play inept, falling down and getting humiliated in front of thousands; and whenever the Chiefs object, Claremont, with nothing but dollar signs in his eyes over the commercial possibilities for a league without “un-Christian” violence, buys them off by doubling their salaries again. Will Sean, constantly bombarded by debt collectors (his answering machine is full of messages from them), ultimately allow his and his players’ dignity to remain compromised?

I thought Baldwin a titanic terror with his abrasive work in A Simple Twist of Fate and Bio-Dome, but here, with his hair grown moderately long and clad in mostly navy-colored clothes, he looks fantastic, with a contemplativeness and laid-back assuredness that keeps us on Sean’s side throughout. Though it must have been tempting, Baldwin forgoes two-fisted machismo and instead builds the character from the inside and vivifies just enough without showboating; he more than holds his own on the screen, and whether it was the director’s doing or Baldwin’s, he comes off as a lot more vulnerable than before, which results in a protagonist who we can have something of an emotional stake in. You can believe that Sean is there for his teammates, and we can see that it pains him to sell them on Claremont’s scheme for the sake of earning a lucrative bonus. (Perhaps too schematically, it echoes Sean still being seen as guilty of taking easy money to have thrown that crucial game.) Baldwin has never been this relaxed and appealing, and he matches up very well with Dage, who plays the no-nonsense coach without an ounce of “the cutes.” Jessie doesn’t take any guff, and what keeps the character fresh is her undiluted love for the game and steadfast dedication to making all of the Chiefs play to their fullest potential, so when Jessie realizes she’s been double-crossed by Claremont (she’s been told the Chiefs will eventually play some “real” games against Claremont’s squeaky-clean-image Icebreakers when in fact it’s the fey ex-Broadway choreographer staging the goofy on-ice hijinks who has say-so over everything the Chiefs do in front of the crowds) Sage lets us see Jessie is disappointed in her gullibility but willing and able to stand up to her powerful employer even if it means losing out on the title of coach even though she knows the title is now a sham. Then there’s the always-welcome Busey, who’s clearly having a ball playing the duplicitous Claremont, who can effortlessly segue from charming to mendacious at the bat of an eye; he’s like one of those filthy-rich television evangelists who can put up the most disarming of fronts while sublimating a not-so-holy intent -- Busey is able to suggest Claremont’s sleaze is so quintessential you can practically see it permeating out of his pores. The movie doesn’t have the gloriously profane dialogue of the original (you won’t be quoting from it over the years) and, aside from the returning Hansons, the other players aren’t particularly interesting, but since the three central characters have been so well-cast, this isn’t too much of a detriment. And while Peter Markle’s fine 1986 Youngblood still boasts the best hockey sequences cinema has to offer, the ones here will more than do. Director Steve Boyum has been a stuntman and stunt coordinator for over twenty-five years, so his competency with action shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; but he’s also adept at composition and timing, which keeps the action from looking like it’s mere B-roll by a second-unit director. Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice can more than stand its own ground, and it’s a shame the studio didn’t have enough confidence in it to give it a theatrical release. But for those willing to take a chance on it, it offers up its own little rewards.

The DVD boasts an informative behind-the-scenes featurette and a superb transfer.

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originally posted: 03/25/15 02:59:41
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User Comments

12/07/07 Charles Tatum Busey and Baldwin actually good, but still unnecessary sequel 3 stars
9/19/05 Natasha Azari I love hockey,especially the film Slap Shot 2. 5 stars
2/14/05 Jeff Anderson I'm a huge hockey buff & SLAP SHOT is a great hockey film, but this poor sequel SUCKS X 2!! 1 stars
10/05/04 Jackie Plot - bad. Writing - stinko. What are DH (!) and CKR doing in this dreck? 2 stars
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  26-Mar-2002 (R)



Directed by
  Steve Boyum

Written by
  Broderick Miller

  Stephen Baldwin
  Jessica Steen
  Gary Busey
  David Hemmings
  David Paetkau

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