Sunday, January 14, 2007

Movie Review: Mystery, Alaska 3 Stars

Mystery, Alaska is a hockey film that women will like. Which isn’t to say that this is a chick flick; on the contrary, Mystery, Alaska is indeed about the hockey. With David E. Kelley’s uncanny knack for making girlie things accessible to men and manly things accessible to girls, Mystery, Alaska is the perfect date movie.

On a glacial pond in the remote town of Mystery, the locals gather in a weekly ritual celebration hockey game. On the ice, all the small town politics, dalliances, trysts and feuds do not matter. The only thing of importance is the game itself. This is hockey pure.

An article in a sports rag rhapsodizing this local tradition prompts the NHL to challenge the locals to play against the New York Rangers in an exhibition. The media hype and frenzy, of course, wreaks havoc on the small town and its quirky inhabitants and threatens the sanctity of their game.

The implausible premise is enough to make you hrumph, but handled with David E. Kelley and co-writer Sean O’Byrne’s adept pen, the unrealistic contrivances never play out the way you’d expect them. The cast, under Jay Roach’s direction, makes the dialogue crackle; Russell Crowe, Hank Azaria, Ron Eldard, the underrated Lolita Davidovich and, of course, Burt Reynolds spark delightfully in this dulcet little sports movie.

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