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Mystery, Alaska (1999)


Oh no. Someone let David E. Kelley out of his cage for a second time this year. This time, the water in his Lake Placid is frozen over, giving us the setting for Mystery, Alaska.

The title’s surely a Mystery and gives you no clues about the film – so what’s it all about? Those expecting a schlocky horror flick like Lake Placid will be let down. Is it a surreal and light dramedy like Ally McBeal? That’s closer. Reality: Mystery, Alaska is simply a grown-up version of The Mighty Ducks. Hey, this is a Disney film.

And not a very good one. The first sixty minutes, which set up the unlikely premise of the New York Rangers flying to a nowhere nothing-town in the middle of the Alaskan winter to play a game of pond hockey, is one of the worst hours of film I’ve seen all year. Stonkingly boring stretches broken up by potty humor do not a fun viewing experience make.

History would tell us that hockey movies are supposed to be funny. Disney would seem to argue otherwise, claiming that this Cinderella story can be played like an Arctic Rocky. And maybe it can. For a while, I thought Mystery was headed into brave new territory – maybe a cautionary tale about the false pedestals we put our sports heroes on.

But pretty soon the Disneyfication hits and hits hard, and we’ve got the Against-all-odds-David-vs.-Goliath movie on our hands. And in its own bizarre way, that’s when the movie becomes watchable. At two hours flat, Mystery, Alaska is redeemed in its second half only by some unexpected cameos (that I won’t spoil here) and a surprisingly great game of hockey.

If you’re a hockey fan, you’ll enjoy the movie for the game alone. If not, you’re going to find yourself, ahem, out in the cold.

A cold day in hell.