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Mystery, Alaska  

John Biebe (Russell Crowe)
Judge Burns (Burt Reynolds)
Charlie Danner (Hank Azaria)
Skank (Ron Eldard)
Stevie Weeks (Ryan Northcott)
Directed by Jay Roach Written by David E. Kelley and Sean O'Byrne
Rated R for language and sexuality
Running Time: 118 minutes Distributed by Touchstone

Mystery, Alaska is a hockey film that tries hard to be very motivational. Mystery, Alaska is a tiny town that believes that hockey is a necessity. After former local Charlie Danner (Azaria) runs an article in Sports Illustrated about the town's hockey players, an offer arises. The New York Rangers propose to play an exhibition game against the Mystery team. After accepting the offer, Mystery becomes a town full of greed, confidence, and dignity. The Mystery hockey team is not your ordinary type of players. The town sheriff (Crowe) is the captain, a high school kid (Northcott) is there fastest skater, and their coach is the town's judge (Reynolds). Besides all the hype and distractions that Mystery is receiving, the team still believes in one another, and intend to give the Rangers a game they never expected.

Mystery, Alaska has its moments of a nice drama with humor, but the film tries to establish a medium that moviegoers have seen before. The film tries to give the inspiring feel of past sports movies like Rudy, Hoosiers, and Rocky.

The script for Mystery, Alaska was co-written by David E. Kelley. Kelley created the two hit TV shows, The Practice and Ally McBeal. Kelley's last motion picture writing attempt was last summer's dismal Lake Placid. Mystery, Alaska is written better than Lake Placid. Mystery, Alaska has nice dialogue, which is Kelley's strength in his writing style. The downside of the script its sequencing and plot points. The transitions just jump in from nowhere and then the film becomes predictable towards the end. Kelley did play hockey while he was attending Princeton, so he knows the rules and consequences of hockey, but he tries to make this film Hoosiers on ice.

Jay Roach directed Mystery, Alaska. Roach previously directed both Austin Powers movies. Roach does an admirable job with the imaging of the small town, hockey, and especially cold weather.

Russell Crowe is terrific as the hard nosed but quiet sheriff of Mystery. In my opinion, Crowe is going to be huge, and he is one of my favorite actors. He deserved an Oscar nomination two years ago as the hot-tempered cop in L.A. Confidential. Crowe has got some of the most intense eyes in Hollywood along with his deep stricken voice. Another aspect that is so admirable about Russell Crowe is that he is Austrailian, so he changes his accent in all of his work. I am looking forward to seeing his next film The Insider, which will open on November 5th. Burt Reynolds also does a nice job as the wise and grumpy old judge of the tiny town. The whole cast is full of decent actors, but they are all carried through the film on Reynolds and Crowe's shoulders.

Mystery, Alaska wrapped up filming nearly two years ago. The film scheduled to open last April, but the marketers of the film decided to push the film back to fall because it was schedule to open against The Matrix. This was probably a good move on the marketing and researching department of Touchstone Pictures.

Overall, the best thing in Mystery, Alaska is Russell Crowe. As I have said before a movie can only be good because of its actors, it has to have a good story. The film does have its moments, but it tries too hard to build up confidence and motivation.

Report Card Grade: C

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