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Starring Kurt Russell
Written by Eric Guggenheim
Based on events of the XIIIth Winter Olympic Games, 1980
Directed by Gavin O'Connor

IN SHORT: Think of it as Rocky times twenty. [Rated PG for language and some rough sports action. 127 minutes]

If anything, Gavin O'Connor's re-creation of the events of the XIIIth Winter Olympiad at Lake Placid, New York will make you realize how spoiled we are by instant replay. We can't vouch for how much replay was used during the broadcast of the first medal round hockey game between the United States and the Soviet Union, our only gripe with Miracle is that announcer Al Michaels comes through in the soundtrack way too clearly. As best as we can remember the last ten minutes of the game, the only sound you could clearly hear was of the partisan home crowd yelling U-S-A! U-S-A! Of more importance, does the story as told on screen pack the same impact for an audience that doesn't have first hand knowledge of the event?

On the other hand, any movie recreating a sports event that we remember first hand that can get our fist clutched and pumping is a major achievement. Miracle succeeds on that account -- and if all we can complain about is the sound mix, there's very little else to disappoint any American who remembers that Olympic face off like yesterday.

For the younger readers who don't know the basics, it was once a Rule of Primary Importance that all competitors in the Olympic Games be non-professional athletes. If an athlete was professional in any manner, which screwed the legendary Jim Thorpe royally (although a racist argument can be made in his case), he/she was not eligible to participate. This was still the case in 1980, although the Soviet bloc got around the rules by utilizing members of their armed forces as amateur athletes. The Soviet hockey team, prior to the 1980 Games had won gold medals in the event in every Games all the way back to Squaw Valley in 1960. The 1960 games were also the last time the United States hockey team gold medalled, even without the participation of a young Herb Brooks, the last man to be cut from the team to bring the roster down to legal size.

Twenty years on, Brooks (Kurt Russell, click for StarTalk) still smarts from the cut, and his neck probably suffers an artificial ache from the medal which never hung from it. When we first meet the aging coach, the American Olympic Committee isn't all that thrilled with the idea of hiring the man to form and train the team. He's got seven months to form and pull a team together and, honestly, he isn't the Olympic Committee's first pick for the job. Nor its second. When he takes the job his family takes a back seat, which is something wife Patty (Patricia Clarkson) isn't happy about but she understands her husband's pain better than anyone.

Then, there is the team of collegiate players. We didn't know their names then. We don't get to know 'em now, either, with the exception of goalie Jim Craig (Eddie Cahill). The simple reason for that is that, ultimately, the goalie is always the hero or the goat. Either he stops the shots (hero) or he doesn't (baa-aaaa). From a '00 perspective, we can understand the hero worship shtick but Miracle is planted firmly in the 70s. Despite what you may see every week on the Fox Network, the Seventies were an awful time. A collapsed visual history, which accompanies the opening credits, gives a sense of how the country was racked with economic and political and social problems.

Perhaps it's just a bad metaphor that the first song in the film soundtrack is Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear The Reaper" (which is so overused that it should be retired as a Seventies icon) but the fact of the time is that every sports commentator of the time took it as a given that no one could beat the Soviet hockey team -- especially a team of kidlets (mostly) from Minnesota and Massachusetts whose festering collegiate rivalries stood in the way, even before hitting the ice as a team. Miracle crams the months of training and humiliating exhibition matches into a compact set of minutes, before getting down to the important stuff at Lake Placid. As a recreation of events, Miracle is a satisfying sit for us oldies. For those too young to know the events first hand, it works just as well.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Miracle, he would have paid . . .


Of course, we lived it. Nothing is going to compare to those heady days. Miracle, the motion picture, is a great family sit. Don't wait for the DVD.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.