Mystery, Alaska (1999)

Description   [from Freebase]

Mystery, Alaska is a 1999 comedy-drama film directed by Jay Roach about a fictional small-town ice hockey team that plays a game against the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League. It was shot in Banff National Park and Canmore, Alberta. The movie is about a small town in Alaska named Mystery, where hockey is the cohesive activity that unites the town. The "Saturday Game" is a weekly event of amature four-on-four pond hockey played on the open ice of the towns frozen lake. The team consists of ten local townsmen of varing ages and occupations with two goalies and eight skaters publicly scrimmaging each other every Saturday. As there are only ten spots on the team, in order to make room on the roster for the younger up-and-coming town players an older more senior member of the team must be kicked off the team. After an article describing the town and its players appears in the latest Sports Illustrated, a nationally televised exhibition game is scheduled between the NHL's New York Rangers and the hometown favorites in Mystery, Alaska. The New York Rangers' roster portrayed in the film is entirely fictional.


Mystery, Alaska

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.

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