A ‘Miracle’

Let’s clear up one thing: “Miracle” (Walt Disney Pictures) isn’t “Mighty Ducks 4,” a joke I’ve heard made about the film numerous times. Instead, “Miracle” is a fairly solid film that, surprisingly enough, fails to bore.

The film begins with a montage of footage depicting the growing list of depressing major events of the late 1960s and ’70s (Nixon declaring “I am not a crook,” the fall of Saigon, gas shortages) that set the stage for 1980. The Olympics are being held in Lake Placid that year, and it is Herb Brooks’ (Kurt Russell) intention to beat the elite Soviet hockey team, which has not been beaten since 1960 – and with it lift the spirits of the nation.

To achieve his dream, which he narrowly missed doing in 1960, Brooks assembles a ragtag team from all over the nation, claiming that he’s “not looking for the best players, (he’s) looking for the right ones.” The team grows together, becoming a force to be reckoned with under Russell’s strict guidance. The film’s final major sequence is the game against the Soviets, which of course (*SPOILER ALERT*) the United States wins.

The film’s script does slip into clich? at times, especially in scenes depicting the tension between Brooks and his wife, as well as the rest of players who have past relationship conflicts. Also, the running time seems like it could have lost 10 or 15 minutes. But luckily, what could have been a sentimental, over-the-top ‘inspirational tale’ became a well-made sports film that fleshes out a well-known story. Kudos should be given to Russell, whose performance as Brooks stands out as believable and natural as he delivers one surprisingly good Minnesotan accent. Real-life hockey players with fresh acting lessons under their belts portray the team members, but any amateurism is surprisingly absent. In fact, the scenes showing the team becoming a cohesive unit on the ice are taut and well-directed.

On the whole, “Miracle” is a good, painless film to behold.

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