Mystery, Alaska

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 04/01/00 00:37:19

"Why did this film cop so much shit? It's a fun time, dammit!"
3 stars (Average)

As much as it needs to be said WAY up front that Mystery Alaska is in no way something that could be termed as "art", it's safe to say that this Jay Roach sports-comedy is a lot closer to value for money than 80% of films that have hit screens this year. It's a sports movie, dammit, and you have to give those babies a bit of slack or we'd just end up shitcanning the entire genre. No, Mystery doesn't have the tension of Youngblood, the humour of Major League or the game-time atmos of the non Kelly Preston-afflicted portions of For Love Of The Game... but it also doesn't have the nausea of Major League 3, the cliche of Any Given Sunday... or James Van Der Beek.

I can't skate. I have no favourite ice hockey team. I can't even see the frickin' puck most of the time. An ice hockey movie? Oh lordy, there better be some nudity in this baby or I'm leaving after the "turn off your cellphone" ad.

Sadly, there's no nudity here. But there is a lot of pleasant fun, a bit of humour, the usual cast of backwoods quirky characters that pop up whenever the name "Alaska" is uttered... Isn't there any such thing as a non small-town, inbred, simple-but-happy Alaskan? If you took Hollywood as any sort of indicator you'd think that whenever you mutter the word "Alaska" an eskimo pops out from behind your screen and offers you a Humpback Whale BLT. It's like the Hollywood ideals that every black guy is in the hood, every Irish family dances a jig and downs a pint on the hour every hour and that Australians are beer-guzzling, sex-obsessed hicks who live in the desert...

Hey, we don't live in the desert, OKAY?!

So anyhow, movie decent. It's the story of an Alaskan (leave me alone, eskimo!) smalltown ice hockey team who for many years are happy playing themselves on Saturdays but are thrown into turmoil when a Sports Illustrated story sees them pitted against the New York Rangers in an exhibition match. It can pretty much be summed up in the concentrated script exert below:

Crusty old judge: "Oh no, how will this change our little town? We can't be a part of civilication!"
Town mayor: "He slept with my wife! He plays hockey good. Want another go?"
City slicker: "I'm from the city, so I'm shallow and stupid."
Sheriff: "I have a mullet haircut. Don't hate me."

You get the idea, lots of David E. Kelley inspired (I'm damn sure he doesn't write dick of what he gets his name to, so I won't say David E. Kelley written) cliche and stereotype. The usual sports movie formulas (everything builds up to a big game, we're supposed to root for the underdogs, one player must be over the hill, one must be a mad shagger, one must be big and stupid, blah blah) and when all is said and done you just know it comes down to one last shot. Is that a spoiler? If yes, you've clearly never seen a Hollywood sports movie before in your life. Go rent one, ya putz.

The end of Mystery Alaska does have a twist. Not a particularly life-chainging twist, but enough of a twist to grant it "kinda different" status alongside it's brethren. I'm not going to go into it, but I will say that I've heard it was dictated by the NHL.

It doesn't involve nudity. But there is a bra shown earlier.

A little hokey, very uninspired, but the total is definitely more than the sum of it's parts. Mystery Alaska is a no-brainer, but you just don't mind. It's just supposed to be fun. On that count, it delivers.

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