February 11, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 73  

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Disney’s very patriotic Miracle

Directed By: Gavin O’Connor
Starring: Kurt Russell, Eddie Cahill, Patrick O’Brien Demsey and Noah Emmerich

By Ian Denomme
Gazette Staff

Finally, a Disney movie about hockey that doesn’t involve Emilio Estevez or knuckle pucks.

Miracle tells the true story of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team’s improbable run to the gold medal, now known as the “Miracle on Ice.”

The film is based mostly on head coach Herb Brooks (Russell) and his efforts to put together a team capable of defeating the powerful Soviet Union.

Brooks creates a team made up of unknown college hockey players who are expected to have no chance against the Soviets. His first goal is to make the team a family and assure his players they will be conditioned as well as the Soviets.

Among his unknowns he finds stars in goaltender Jim Craig (Cahill) and team captain Mike Eruzione (O’Brien Demsey), but above all — in true Disney fashion he finds his players have heart and the will to win.

Although there is very little mention of that game, the film reaches a climactic point in a semi-final game against the Soviets.

Russell does an unexpectedly outstanding job as the late Brooks, mastering the famed coaches attributes and mannerisms. The film is also a posthumous tribute to Brooks, who died in a car accident last year. His accident came just days after filming was complete and he was never able to see the film.

Unlike hockey movies of the past, the on-ice scenes in Miracle are actually good. There are no flying V’s or triple deeks like in the Mighty Ducks — every play was carefully choreographed and every hit, shot, save and goal is real.
However, the camera moves fast when showing the action and odd camera angles take away from how well it was all done.

Another impressive element was the use of actual footage from the Olympics used throughout the film. It is used mostly for the play-by-play of the games including Al Michaels’ now famous, “Do you believe in miracles?”

Miracle is still, however, a Disney movie, and there is a very pro-American, patriotic feel to it. There are scenes that include news reports about the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and newspaper headlines about the American hostages in Iran.

The Soviet team is also made to look very intimidating. Head coach Viktor Tikhonov never speaks but occasionally glares across the bench at Brooks, while captain Boris Mikhailov approaches every face-off looking like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV telling Rocky, “I must break you.”

Despite its biased shortcomings, Miracle is well done in every aspect. If only it was about the 1972 Canada-Soviet Summit Series; it could have been the greatest sports movie of all time.



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