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Miracle (2004)

If you believe in yourself, anything can happen.

Directed by:

Gavin O'Conner

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 135 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Playing like a sort of ‘Mighty Ducks’ for grown-ups, this flag-waving ice hockey epic takes the wonderful experience of seeing hard graft and teamwork pay off, and rams it so far down our throats that all who watch it are destined to be left pooing stars and stripes for weeks.

It’s the true(ish) story of how, in the run-up to the 1980 Winter Olympics, grouchy American hockey coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) was charged with taking a bunch of inexperienced college kids and moulding them into a team capable of taking on the world’s best. Boasting an off-puttingly rubbish hairstyle and appalling array of plaid sports jackets, he cleverly gets his players to fear and dislike him so much that they also end up respecting him and wanting to play for each other. But can Brooks’ Battlers (I came up with that one all by myself!) do Uncky Sam proud in the inevitable end-of-film showdown with the Soviet Union (Boo! Hiss! Red swine!)? Duh, what do you think?

There’s no mystery in ‘Miracle’: we all know what’s going to happen. If a background knowledge of the sport hasn’t already filled you in on what the outcome was, then the movie’s title and poster pic certainly will. There’s also the niggling issue that, for those of us hailing from anywhere other than the US, the idea of describing any American Olympic conquest as a “miracle” is stretching the definition of the word just a little (then again ‘Fairly Unlikely’ might not have had the same ring to it).

The movie’s real success is the performance of Russell, who hit the pies to play the master tactician and motivational expert who made this history-making team of amateurs tick. Even more so than the recently-released ‘Coach Carter’, the film steers its attentions away from the players themselves in order to concentrate solely on the man at the top, and Russell proves himself up to the challenge. In fact, most of the team are so irrelevant by comparison that the guys cast to play them were chosen on hockey skills first and thesping ability second (as a result, a large chunk of the cast are complete unknowns making their big screen debuts).

But ‘Miracle’ is guilty of taking itself way too seriously. Unnecessarily long, the sheer inevitability of the outcome leaves us with what is basically nigh-on two hours of watching a team train, followed by a final game which drags on to the point of nausea. It’s a pity, because clearly there is a story worth telling here, but director Gavin O’Conner’s handling of the material left me feeling essentially detached from what is supposed to be tale highly-charged with emotion. And, as much as I was impressed by Russell’s part in the whole thing, the real “miracle” would be getting me to sit through this again.

It's Got: Patricia Clarkson as that faithful old cliché, the grumpy wife who wants her hubby to spend more time with the fam. Why can’t they just understand??

It Needs: To be shorter. And better.

DVD Extras A 20 minute ‘Making Of’ documentary, and a handful of out-takes. Version reviewed: Miracle (2004) also available Miracle (Amazon.com) DVD Extras Rating: 3/10

Summary

US hockey fans may well love this opportunity to revisit former glories – but everyone else is likely to be left as cold as all that ice.

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