Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Forgotten Movies: Mystery, Alaska (1999)

Since I've become something of an ice hockey fan, I've started watching some hockey movies I never saw when they first came out, like this one. MYSTERY, ALASKA is set in one of those colorful, eccentric small towns that show up in movies and TV shows. The young men there play ice hockey on a frozen pond and are very good at it. A writer who grew up in the town sells a story about it to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, and he comes up with the idea of having the New York Rangers play an exhibition game against the local team. The NHL thinks this would be good publicity and goes along with it. Complications ensue, mostly humorous, a few more serious.

This is a pretty good film. A little on the raunchy side, but that seems to go with hockey movies, at least the non-Disney ones. A young Russell Crowe plays the local sheriff, who's also the oldest member of the local team. Burt Reynolds, proving that he was a pretty good actor when he was interested, is the crusty local judge, a retired player who winds up coaching. Hank Azaria is the guy who left town and became a writer. The supporting cast is good, as are the production values, and the hockey scenes are staged so you can tell what's going on.

MYSTERY, ALASKA was written by prolific TV writer David E. Kelley, whose work I either like (PICKET FENCES and the first few seasons of THE PRACTICE) or hate (pretty much everything else he's done). This movie is funny and well-written, though, and I think even non-hockey fans might enjoy it.


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

My wife, generally no hockey fan, likes this one a lot and will turn it on whenever she sees it playing. The cast was good and the movie was fun to watch.

thedarkman said...

Slap Shot is my favorite, but this film was pretty damn good as well. Most of us Canadians just call it "hockey ", but it I guess it avoids confusion with field hockey for some folks. It is my favorite sport, and there have been a few flicks over the years that have used hockey as a great backdrop or setting. Hope you continue to enjoy the great Canadian passion!

James Reasoner said...

Slap Shot is my favorite of the hockey movies I've seen. Normally I just call it hockey, too, but for some reason I felt like I should be more specific when I was writing this blog post. As for continuing to enjoy it, tonight my daughter (the person who turned me into a fan a couple of years ago) and I went to Dallas and watched the Stars beat the Penguins 3-2 in a very exciting game. This was my third NHL game. I've also been to a couple of minor league games and watched quite a few on TV. I think you probably have to grow up with the sport to fully appreciate it, but I know enough of what's going on now that I really enjoy the games. Growing up in Texas I hardly ever saw hockey on TV and never played it. It's actually the only sport I follow consistently now.

thedarkman said...

That's pretty cool. I go to see the Winnipeg Jets once in a while; going this Saturday when they will be facing Colorado. I'm only 2 1/2 hours away, but it's fairly expensive for two to go, plus an overnight stay in a hotel. Still worth it. If you have easy access to minor league hockey games, eat 'em up! Some of the most fun you can have for relatively little money, and the minors are hard hitting players!

Mike Doran said...

When I saw Mystery, Alaska, I couldn't help but notice the many similarities to Picket Fences.
Start with the move westward from Rome, Wisconsin.
Then, note the characters who have mostly been de-aged 10-15 years:

Russell Crowe = Tom Skerritt

Mary McCormack = Kathy Baker

Burt Reynolds = Ray Walston

Maury Chaykin = Fyvush Finkel

Maybe some others I can't call to mind just now; the only mayor in MA was Colm Meaney, as opposed to the parade of mayors on PF, but I think you get the idea.

Truth to tell, I liked Mystery when I saw it.
I did find the total ignorance of "critics" of the TV connections amusing, to say the least.
Really, none of them seemed to know about the TV show.

I did steal one of Mike Myers's lines for my own use:
"Hey, this isn't rocket surgery!"