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Mystery, Alaska (1999)

Mystery, Alaska was another one of the Russell Crowe films I wasn't too keen on seeing.  Having seen probably the first half a few years back and for whatever reason never really cared to revisit and finish where I left off.  But I'm glad I gave it another shot, while I'd still place it nowhere in my Top 10 Crowe films, Mystery, Alaska definitely gets better as it progresses.

In the small town of Mystery, Alaska there exists a long lived tradition of the Saturday hockey game.  The best hockey players in the town facing off against each other, honing their skills and having some fun.  But when their story gets published in Sports Illustrated the big boys come knocking.  A match-up between the New York Rangers and this Cinderella team of pond skaters becomes big news, but can the players and the citizens of Mystery handle all the pressure that is about to befall them?

Not being a hockey fan at all this film never appealed much to me, but I always enjoy a good tale of underdog achievements.  Unfortunately Mystery, Alaska is far from one of the best examples of that.  The first half hour or so is a little rocky, and probably why I gave up on it the first time around.  Hockey really takes a back seat to massive amount of vulgarity and sexual innuendo that seems to pass for the first 30 to 45 minutes of the film.  It's not until the second half that the story begins to get moving and focuses on the training and battle against the New York Rangers.  It was at this point that even a non-hockey fan such as myself found a little more enjoyment.

My biggest issue with Mystery, Alaska was time management.  For what the film has to offer, two hours is way too long, especially for a film that takes an hour before it even gets moving in the right direction.  The script itself is average and simply can't match up with films like Remember The Titans, Cinderella Man, Hoosiers, or any of the other classic guts to glory sports films.  In terms of the cast Mystery, Alaska definitely supports a crew of well recognizable faces, but no performance stands out.  Even Russell was a little lackluster compared to his filmography of unique characters, John Biebe is a pretty normal and safe role compared to what he's done prior to this.  Overall, I enjoyed Mystery, Alaska a little more the second time and actually finishing it this time didn't hurt, but there are too many other sports films on my list that excel this.


1 comment:

  1. i'm not arguing with your assessment of this film, but i thought you might like a bit of backstory. at some point before the release of this film, russell was told that the editors were going to focus on him and give his screen time first priority. he protested vigorously and insisted that it remain an ensemble film. the result is what you're seeing. he's a very generous man, both in his private life and on screen, and he didn't want to take away any of his colleagues' time in the spotlight. perhaps the end result is a less powerful film, but i still think it's a quiet little gem. i'm not a hockey fan, either, but i think this one is good fun.


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