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Overall Rating
4.25

Awesome: 43.56%
Worth A Look44.55%
Just Average: 7.92%
Pretty Crappy: 0.99%
Sucks: 2.97%

8 reviews, 53 user ratings


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Miracle
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by Robert Flaxman

"About as good as a sports film gets."
4 stars

It's hard to make a sports movie based on a true story. "Sports movie" is already one of the most clichéd genres out there, with about 99 out of every 100 having a feel-good ending. Taking a true story where the only way you could not know the ending is to have been born after 1975 and never paid even the slightest attention to sports only invites problems. Fortunately, Miracle avoids most of them. Though not without cliché moments, the latest offering from Disney - suddenly the studio of the feel-good sports true story - is a fun retelling of the story surrounding a game that anyone over the age of 30, sports fan or no, is likely to remember.

Miracle starts by framing itself in the context of the time. The opening credits play over a montage of the 1970s, essentially to show those too young to remember how lousy a decade it had been in many ways, especially politically. Later in the film, characters are shown reacting to the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as well as sitting in long lines at the gas station.

Meanwhile, Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) successfully convinces USA Hockey that he's the right man to lead a team of amateurs to the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. Brooks is confident, developing a style that he feels can beat the Soviet Union, the best team in the world, at their own game. Brooks' system involved far more practice time than Olympic teams of the past had used - but Olympic teams of the past hadn't won anything since 1960, and USA Hockey was willing to give Brooks a shot.

The film spends most of its time showing the evolution of the team, focusing only the last 15 or 20 minutes of a movie that passes two hours in length on the game with the USSR (not the gold medal game, as is sometimes mistakenly believed, but the filmmakers can be excused for relegating the Finland contest, a dramatic afterthought, to an epilogue). It is, of course, difficult to have 20 characters, so a few are concentrated on: temperamental but talented goalie Jim Craig, team captain Mike Eruzione, and defenseman Jack O'Callahan in particular. Other players, like Rob McClanahan and the "Conehead line" of John Harrington, Mark Pavelich, and Buzz Schneider, get some face time but little development (well, no one, save maybe Craig, gets too much personal development, but that's just going to happen), while at least a quarter of the squad is almost totally ignored. This is the sort of thing that could easily not work, but there's never really a problem.

That's probably because this is Brooks' movie. He carries the film from start to finish, from matter-of-fact, all-business demeanor as he sells himself to USA Hockey, to steely-eyed, hard-driving determination to mold his players into a team, to his inspirational speech before the USSR game (only slightly changed from real life - in real life he read off an index card, but that's not very cinematic), to his final, private moment of euphoria after the 4-3 win over the Soviets. Whoever played Brooks had to run the gamut, and Kurt Russell is the perfect choice. Russell makes the role his own and does everything he can with it - this isn't a character-driven film, so that's only so much, but he performs to the best of his abilities, and he's fun to watch.

The sports scenes are fun to watch too. Most of the actors playing USA team members were former hockey players (many making their film debut), and it shows in the realistic feel the hockey scenes have, from practice right through the final game.

The film only has a couple problems. The first is minor - at the end, some of the Russians can be seen wearing the knowing smile that too often turns up in film, especially sports movies, that says "We deserved to get beaten, because we're the bad guys." It always leaps out at me as unrealistic - how many competitors smile after losing? - and is especially corny here because so much is made of how the Russians never smile, as part of their intimidation factor. This ranks right up there with the Russian crowd cheering on Rocky in Rocky IV as "silly sports movie developments featuring Communists." It's particularly disappointing because apart from this, the film never makes the mistake of getting too jingoistic.

The other problem is that there are not as many "chill scenes," the barometer by which all sports movies are measured, as there should be. Eruzione's winning goal and Al Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles?" call each pass, but somehow, the tying goal against Sweden and Mark Johnson's goal with one second left in the first period against the Soviets come up short, and they should have been there. It would have been a more exciting film had those scenes reached potential. (It's ironic that the two scenes that produce goosebumps are the two that everyone remembers and is waiting for, as opposed to similarly dramatic goals that would be a little more unexpected to most viewers.)

These are, despite all the words I just devoted to them, fairly minor complaints. While it cannot always stay out of the realm of cliché, Miracle does a mostly commendable job of avoiding it, or at least never making it look bad. Russell's lead performance is great, and the hockey looks good, if occasionally choppy in the way it's edited together. (Eruzione's goal, even though it produces the chills, is cut a tad clumsily, as are a handful of other on-the-ice scenes.) The film as a whole is better edited, with little filler and a good pace. Overall, the film is solid entertainment and not even that bad as a historical text.

Miracle is not a perfect sports film, but it gets the job done.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8662&reviewer=385
originally posted: 10/10/04 05:21:29
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User Comments

9/11/15 Anne Well done. You are with the team and coach all the way! 4 stars
10/07/09 Anita totally surprised by Kurt Russel's performance - I had to remind myself it was him. 5 stars
10/03/08 PAUL SHORTT A THRILLING, INSPIRATIONAL CHARACTER STUDY 4 stars
8/30/08 Shaun Wallner The storyline is well made! 5 stars
12/01/06 shagtex just keep yelling USA over and over and stay home 1 stars
11/30/06 SabresFanatic Think David vs Goliath only with the brillant Herb Brooks coaching David to victory! Great 5 stars
11/09/06 Anonymous I think this movie was the best. My mum and dad are like fanatics of this...me too, now :] 5 stars
10/03/05 Angeli Grace One of the unforgettable achievements in the USA sports history. I love it! 5 stars
8/12/05 ES Hockey? I thought this thing was about America dominating the world 2 stars
2/10/05 Jeff Anderson Along with SLAP SHOT, this IS the greatest hockey film of ALL TIME in spirit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
1/06/05 Poopy McPoop Crap I just wanted to be the only one who rated this movie bad...i really liked it tho 1 stars
12/22/04 Landshark The best medicine for wounds of the long-suffering hockey fan 5 stars
11/18/04 Zeus Greatest moment in sports history. Got to love it 5 stars
10/29/04 Lee ausome 5 stars
6/13/04 Spiderfan50 Dream On! It'll be hard to find a better hocky movie! 5 stars
5/31/04 Ryan Absolutely incredible, best hockey movie I've ever seen. Any fan of the sport needs to see 5 stars
5/31/04 maggie saw it three times and bought the dvd which is great 5 stars
5/30/04 prongs inspirational movie 5 stars
5/30/04 Frazier A patriotic sports movie that gives us national pride 5 stars
5/27/04 Matt Great movie for Hockey fans!!! 5 stars
5/18/04 ryan ransom i loved it i got some while watching it!!!!!!!!1 5 stars
4/16/04 Robyn Jamil-Walid Intense;watchable;a little too self-indulgent at times;subplot with wife mostly annoying. 4 stars
3/30/04 Alex This movie is very inspiring. This is a great movie for the whole family. 4 stars
3/29/04 Mike V It was a Disney movie before it was a Disney movie. 5 stars
3/16/04 Chris I like the movie alot but it played it safe a little to much. Still a good see. 4 stars
3/15/04 Mike Sierchio I knew the story intimately and still found myself on the edge of my seat. 5 stars
3/14/04 E-Rock A well done movie. Game sequences are nicely edited, and the story is well-adapted. 4 stars
3/13/04 Jillian Truly something inspirational, shows us how it is a team comes together when its needed 5 stars
3/09/04 Bob Gifford Overachieves typical expectations 5 stars
3/07/04 Edler A very solid, well made, well acted, entertaining, and inspiring movie. 4 stars
3/03/04 m.gallegos Great! I was on the edge of my seat,even though I knew how it would turn out! 5 stars
3/03/04 Sarah I thought it was fantastic, i saw it in the U.S and wasnt sure what 2 expect, but i luvd it 5 stars
3/01/04 Wendranh Slow to build excitement, but worth it. 4 stars
3/01/04 ashley bevis 4 good sex call gary betts on 01303 243289 5 stars
2/21/04 Tom Bonner Great movie! I remember this like it was yesterday and what it for the US. Kurt is perfect! 5 stars
2/20/04 Ross Riley Best Sports Movie Of ALL TIME 5 stars
2/19/04 Koitus Could have used more footage of exhibition loss (7-3); or other Olympic games. 3 stars
2/15/04 Edler Oh yeah! A great sports movie with amazing insight into the dreary and depressing 1970's. 5 stars
2/15/04 Claire Proce excellent movie... we need more of this kind!! 5 stars
2/15/04 Kev Enjoyable, but it lacked meaning and development 3 stars
2/15/04 Bobbie K Entertaining; but would like to have seen more depth to other characters 4 stars
2/14/04 Joker94 Great Film, if you can't see that, you have no heart! 5 stars
2/14/04 ajay I enjoyed this movie... 4 stars
2/10/04 luke good but beating soviets overshadowed winning the gold 4 stars
2/09/04 Jeremy Sexton Loved every minute of it. I would have stayed for another hour of film! 5 stars
2/09/04 Tyler Bauer Great. Top Notch. Fantastic. 5 stars
2/08/04 Vicious Yanks shouldn't make hockey films. 1 stars
2/08/04 Brad good 5 stars
2/07/04 bullit16 I felt like I was 7 again watching the games on TV. Wonderful! 5 stars
2/07/04 david a may generall a good film; uplifting and will get your tear quotient for the week met. 4 stars
2/07/04 Glen Hull Very entertaining 4 stars
2/03/04 Carly O'Conner Loved It 4 stars
2/03/04 Nicole Great movie. Whatever I was expecting, it was better. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  06-Feb-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 18-May-2004

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