Sports and movies usually mix about as well as oil and water.
Whether the film is unrealistically violent (“Any Given
Sunday”), a sappy cliché (“Rudy”) or just
plain stupid (“Major League”), the sports movie usually
proves to be a yawner.

Kate Green
Courtesy of Disney
Quack, quack, quack … oops, wrong uplifting hockey movie.

“Miracle,” Disney’s recreation of the
triumphant 1980 United States Olympic hockey team, defies the curse
of the sports genre. Yes, “Miracle” does lay on the
inspirational moments with the subtlety of Dick Vitale calling a
college basketball game. Sure, the ending to the fabled
“miracle on ice” game is well known and too often
referred to during Olympic telecasts. Of course, it seems silly to
make another film about the young Americans surmounting great odds
to beat the dominant Soviet hockey team.

So what? What’s wrong with cheering for the unambiguous
hero? Every breath-stealing scene of this story is true. Maybe this
moment in history was custom made for Disney, but that does not
detract from this vivid portrayal of an inspiring team.

If anything, “Miracle” gives too little attention to
the actual, heroic game. The middle of the film is long, and most
of it takes place off the ice. Even still, the focus on the
chemistry and camaraderie of the team is worth watching a little
less hockey.

It is in fact the portrayal of the team and Coach Herb Brooks
(Kurt Russell) that makes “Miracle” great. Eddie Cahill
(TV’s “Felicity”) as goalie Jim Craig and
newcomer Patrick O’Brien Demsey as team captain Mike Eruzione
stand out among a great cast. Russell does not steal the show, but
his steady, honest depiction of Brooks is worthy of the recently
deceased coach’s legacy.

“Miracle” even pulls off a feat rarely accomplished
in the sports movie genre: It creates realistic athletic action.
Unlike Disney’s previous hockey film “The Mighty
Ducks,” there are no flying V’s or knuckle pucks. The
hockey in “Miracle” is exciting enough to capture the
attention of young children but realistic enough to keep hockey
fans from squirming in their seats.

Voice-over work from Al Michaels adds to the film’s
realism and allows fans to really become absorbed in the game.
Michael’s final shout of “Do you believe in
miracles?” is perhaps the most famous call in sports history,
and it will send chills down the spine of any audience member.

Disney might lay the cheese on thick and it might be a
clichéd story, but “Miracle” is an exciting
film. Remember that this story is true and just try to keep from
cheering when the game-clock hits zero.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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