Time: 119 mins.
SYNOPSIS: When Mystery, Alaska's amateur hockey team accepts a challenge to play against the New York Rangers, the entire population must put their petty differences aside and pull together as their small town becomes the center of a nationally televised event.
BOTTOM LINE: Filmed before Russell Crowe became an international sensation, this underdog sports comedy written by television impresario David E. Kelly, is held aloft by Crowe's subtle and intense performance. There's just something about him, even in a film with a plot as tried and true as this. He plays the oldest member of a small Alaskan town's local hockey team. These people live and breathe hockey, learning to skate before they can walk, mostly because there's really not much else to do. An opportunity for the local team to play the NY Rangers in their own backyard sends the townspeople into a tizzy. The PR from a game like this could put Mystery on the map, which not everyone considers a good thing. Problems abound as the team prepares for the biggest game of their lives, placing the fate of the game in the balance.
This is mostly a light comedy, but it wouldn't be David Kelly if it didn't have some truly heartfelt moments. The film has an episodic feel, with too many characters to really get a handle on, that plays better on TV than it would in the theater. The only person with any depth to their role or their acting is Crowe. McCormack and Reynolds are the only ones who come close to his level and there parts are fairly forgettable. It captures small town life pretty well, though I doubt life in Alaska is really like this. The hockey sequences are quite well-shot and exciting, especially the ones for the big game. Clearly everyone cast knew who to skate, which is a plus. A decent feature effort that is enjoyable enough and has the smarts to end on a realistic note. A real Crowe-pleaser.