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Mystery Alaska

Rated [R], 118 minutes
Starring Russell Crowe, Mary McCormack, Colm Meaney, Burt Reynolds, Hank Azaria
Screenplay by David E. Kelly
Directed by Jay Roach
website: www.mysteryalaska-themovie.com

633 souls live in the remote village called Mystery, Alaska. In the middle of the town is a huge pond that, when it freezes over for the winter, offers a cool black ice surface perfect for the weekly hockey games that are the focus of almost every conversation in town. Excepting, the talk, about who is sleeping with who. Or wants to. Or . . . well, you get the idea. Excepting the profusion of four letter words and the healthy sexual appetite in town, which is why Mystery Alaska has the [R] rating there is nothing here that David E. Kelley couldn't have worked into the late lamented Picket Fences, or any of his other hit teevee shows. His writing is terrific. It is sexy and funny and real enough that, even when a wacky situation takes center stage, everything stays on an even keel. So let us begin at the beginning, as all good fairy tales do: "Once Upon A Time, Wayne Gretzky was still playing professional hockey. . ."

At least according to the reports on SBC, the Sports Broadcasting Channel, sprinkled throughout the movie. Chuck Danner (Hank Azaria), a bum who left Mystery for life in the big city has landed the beloved hockey team a three page spread, with color pictures, in the latest edition of Sports Illustrated. He's taken his adjective laced symbolically overkill of a story to SBC and they smelled promotional opportunity. So did the NHL. In the middle of one fine, crisp day, a helicopter lands in the center of town, to debark Chuck with the news that he is bringing the New York Rangers to Mystery to play the local no-names.

Reality check here, folks: The idea that the Mystery no-names could go face to face with the New York rangers isn't so outlandish as it sounds. Think about it and check the records charts in the Sporting News. When you stop to consider that the Rangers average one Stanley Cup every 50 years or so -- they've been out-Cupped by a team from NEW JERSEY, for God's Sakes -- it's not that bad a match up.

Of course, it's Hollywood, and we all know what that usually means. Even if it doesn't, and I ain't telling, David Kelley is good enough a story teller to keep lots of other conflicts, legal and emotional, simmering at all times until he delivers just the right amount of warm fuzziness to make you feel that your hard earned movie dollars were well spent.

Russell Crowe, most excellent in LA Confidential is the sheriff of the town whose wife Donna (Mary McCormack) had a high school fling with Chuck. It being a small town, the sheriff is jealous. Also involved with that adultery thing is dim bulb Skank Marden (Ron Eldard), doing the nasty with the Mayor's wife -- Star Trek's Colm Meaney is the Mayor and Lolita Davidovich is the wife. Outstanding as the towns arch-conservative is Burt Reynolds, who sports the best toupee he's ever plastered on.

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


Killer date flick for us post teens, with enough young supporting characters that it's probably good enough for the kidlets, too. Highly Recommended.

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