A review of “Miracle” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: PG for fine for most ages

Run Time: 2 hours

 

 

          A whole generation of moviegoers isn’t familiar with the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team and their improbable rise to glory.  I remember the thrill of their victory as if it were yesterday.  Underdog goalie Jim Craig skating the length of the ice with an American flag draped on his shoulders and scanning the crowds for his father was a seminal moment in American sports.

          Unfortunately, and not unexpectedly, the cinematic re-creation of this historic Olympic dream doesn’t inspire the ecstasy of the actual event.

          Kurt Russell carries the mantle of Herb Brooks, a no-frills hockey coach who walks the walk and talks the talk.  Working with a ragtag group of talented amateur hockey players, Brooks pushes his boys well beyond their comfort level, doggedly determined that the fledgling athletes be the first team to train hard enough to skate with the dominant Soviet hockey club (Olympic Gold Medalists in every Winter Olympics from 1960-1976).

          The rest is history.  On a wing and a prayer, not to mention indomitable pluck and determination, the-little-team-that-could subdued the Eastern Block powerhouse, and how.

          Miracle has oodles of historical sentiment to work with but chooses to travel a conventional road. Shades of The Mighty Ducks rather than David slays Goliath. Its lively character arcs are grossly underwritten, placing them in traditional roles that dumb down the entire effort. Uber-talented Patricia Clarkson (Oscar nominee for Pieces of April) is utterly wasted as Brooks’ patient, cardboard-cutout spouse; Russell fares slightly better as the film’s emotionally-masked core.

The script is Disney’s standard nod to building dreams, spewing out saccharine bon mots with ease.  Think along the lines of “Common men go nowhere; you are not common” and you get the picture. The inspirational strains of swelling strings emphasize the film’s desire to hammer home its milquetoast objective.

          And then there’s the hockey.  Pushy, tenacious and downright dirty, the game itself gives way to the kind of drama necessary to go the distance.

          Miracle’s message is clear and true to form – fight for your dreams with a vengeance.  Herb Brooks proved it a lofty goal and America will forever be the better for it. The cinema will not.