Release: February 6, 2004
by Kevin Lang
At the end of the 1980 Olympic hockey game, just before goalie Jim Craig wrapped himself in the U.S. flag, sportscaster Al Michaels asked the enormous television audience watching the game, "Do You Believe in Miracles?" Actually, the game was taped and aired later in the evening, but it didn't matter. Now, twenty-four years later, what became known as the Miracle On Ice, has been immortalized once again, this time on the big screen in the Disney film "Miracle," directed by Gavin O'Connor ("Tumbleweeds," 1999).
The movie, starring Kurt Russell ("Dark Blue," 2002), was a semi-inspiring, semi-enjoyable family oriented film that chronicled the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team's journey to the gold medal, or I should say to their defeat of the Russians. The U.S. team actually had to beat Finland for the gold medal, which was only very briefly shown in the movie. The vast majority of the film was dedicated to the teams training and eventual match-up against the Soviet Union.
The opening of "Miracle" attempted to remind the audience of the state of the country in 1980. After this brief introduction, which only showed a few clips of world events, such as the gasoline crisis and the U.S. hostages in Iran, the filmmakers all but abandoned this side of the story, except for a scene where we saw Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) watch a brief broadcast of the hostage situation on TV and another scene where assistant coach Craig Patrick (Noah Emmerich) drove into a long line at the gas pumps. These brief scenes did little to recapture the general mood of the country at that time.
I was three-years-old in 1980, and I have no recollection of the state of the world then. I wanted to feel this more during "Miracle," perhaps through several minor characters not associated with the Olympics, who we could have ended up watching the big game with, so we the audience wouldn't be the lone spectators. It could have been a group of guys sitting around a local hockey bar, or maybe even one of the brothers of an Olympic player, who was back home working part time at a gas station. This could have helped the younger audience understand the mood of the country better. The film could have also developed the players a little better, such as the relationship between Jim Craig and his father.
In the end, director
Gavin O'Connor accomplished the basic goal of telling an inspirational
story about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and their upset victory
over the Russians. He did so in a commendable manner, by making something
that is rare nowadays, a family film that is not animated. Yet, near the
end of the movie when I was watching the big game against the Russians,
I felt the urge to get up and leave the theater. I wanted to find a television
guide in order to check ESPN Classics for a re-airing of the real 1980
Olympic game. I was growing a little tired of the mediocre performances
on the screen in front of me. I wanted to see the real performances. I
wanted to get in a time machine and go back to 1980. Then I could see
the look on my father's face as he stood next to his three-year-old son
that day. His eyes glazed over with excitement as he yelled into the kitchen
to my mother, "The U.S. won! Hey Nancy! We beat the Soviets."
And at that moment for my father, when a breath of hope filled his lungs,
I imagine anything was possible.
Review written February 2, 2004, CTF.
ChasingtheFrog.com, CTF Media