Miracle

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By Mark Ramsey | 2004/02/08

Miracle is the story of the journey to victory of the underdog USA Olympic hockey team over the heavily favored Soviets during the 1980 Olympic Games.

While this upset was unquestionably a great achievement, it’s only a “miracle” if it’s accompanied by the image of the Blessed Virgin on the Zamboni, if you ask me.

But what better moment for a movie that takes us back to a time when the only revealed boob in the Jackson family was TITo.

Kurt Russell plays the American coach, the one hero now or ever named “Herb.” Kurt is a marvelous actor who never seems to get his due, and he is predictably terrific, even with a Minnesota accent and a head of hair several decades younger and several owners removed from his own.

miracle_ASU.jpgWow! Not one follicle moved during the entire movie, and his razor-sharp hair part remained as straight and clean as the day the Army Corp of Engineers installed it.

What’s really mysterious is that his hair’s shade of brown is natural neither to nature nor to the papier maché with which it’s constructed.

The Soviet team is as heavily favored as Kurt’s pants are heavily plaid. But Kurt has an idea – a secret way to win. He’ll devise a hybrid playing method, a mix of the Soviet and Canadian styles. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I think it involves sucking vodka out of a maple leaf.

“I’m not looking for the best players,” Coach Kurt says, “I’m looking for the right ones.” Or did he say the White ones? Most of these kids are from Boston and Minnesota and other cold weather fun spots where youths grow up learning to respect adults whose hair was burgled by the prop department from Bill Shatner in T.J. Hooker.

See, Kurt has some ghosts to kill. He’s trying to win as a coach because he lost his chance for the big one as a player when he was disqualified for “hair impersonating a hockey helmet.”

Coach Kurt puts his boys through several months of intense conditioning which, for the most part, includes skating back and forth down the line, again and again, until these kids are ready to drop. “The last time I saw this much sliding up and down something cold,” said one player, “it was a girl named Tiffany on a pole.”

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But wouldn’t you know, all that hard work whips these fresh-faced kids into a winning team more than capable of showing the fearsome Soviet ice-capadenicks how to go puck themselves.

The best thing about a movie from Disney is the assurance that even in the macho, swaggering world of amateur sports, the worst expletive you’re likely to hear is “H-E-Double-Toothpicks.” And that comes only when the pressure is intense, as in “That Soviet goal was after the buzzer, darn it all to H-E-Double-Toothpicks!”

I don’t know much about hockey, except that a goalie has more than a passing resemblance to Jason Voorhees, and that all games are better with a rousing soundtrack. But I’ll take this movie over real hockey because you can actually see both the puck and Patricia Clarkson.

The symbols of good meet the symbols of empire-like evil, and the result is much waving of flags and crunching of massively buttered popcorn. Everybody loves a winner, especially when that winner is the underdog wearing red, white, and blue, with a mean hat trick.

It’s always funny when the theater audience forgets it’s a movie and explodes in applause. I suspect that most of them have never seen a goalie – especially not in front of their refrigerators.

“Tonight we are the greatest hockey team in the world,” says Kurt in an inspiring speech at the climax of this movie. “This is your time.” And right he is.

To lots of Americans, this was the last hockey game there ever was. It was a corner turned in the battered national psyche, a dawn of new hope and pride.

It was more than a hockey game, of course, and Miracle is more than a movie.


Photos Copyright ©2004 Walt Disney Pictures

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