Miracle (2004)


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Kurt Russell is no stranger to Disney. Since the late 60s, he joined the Disney Studios and acted in many films including The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit, The Barefoot Executive, Superdad, etc. He even lent his voice to Disney’s The Fox and the Hound. Heck, when Walt Disney died, legend states that the last words he left were “Kurt Russell” which he had scribbled onto a piece of paper!

"You sure that story's true? I think what really happened was that he scribbled 'Tom Hanks' on a piece of paper!"
“You sure that story’s true? I think what really happened was that he scribbled ‘Tom Hanks’ on a piece of paper!”

So, I’m kinda surprised that I’m only now reviewing a Kurt Russell film on this blog. To top things off, it’s one of his later Disney appearances! That said, it’s not a bad film to start with either.

Based on the true story of the “Miracle on Ice” event that took place during the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, Miracle introduces a new generation to this phenomenon. Without any further ado, let’s take a look at Miracle.

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

The opening credits play to a quite well-made montage of events showing how America was changing in the 1970s. Some of the events seen includes the Vietnam War, Watergate Scandal, 26th Amendment, women’s lib movement, video games being prominent, the 200th birthday of the USA, energy crisis, Elvis’ death, etc. It was basically a time when America was looking for, or perhaps, needed a miracle.

We then cut to Herb Brooks, played by Kurt Russell.

I don't know if it's a correct representation or not, but his Minnesotan accent in this movie is awesome!
I don’t know if it’s a correct representation or not, but his Minnesotan accent in this movie is awesome!

Herb is an ice hockey coach who’s been assigned to coach the American team competing in the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Americans are the underdogs with the champions being the Soviets who have won the gold medal for ice hockey in every Winter Olympics since 1964. Herb is determined to do all he can to make sure that the American team wins or at least presents a challenge, despite most of the hockey bigwigs frowning upon his psychological methods of coaching.

Soon, tryouts are being held in Colorado in which 26 guys (out of the hundreds who show up) will be selected to join the American team. As time goes by, 6 of these players will be dropped, since the rules say that the team can only have 20 players.

As Herb tries to train the boys with the help of his assistant coach, Craig Patrick, played by Noah Emmerich, the boys have to learn how to put away their past differences, rivalries, and even allegiances to become Team USA. He trains them harder than they’ve ever been trained before sometimes bordering on nigh tyrannical methods.

"I assume that the moat has already been filled, Coach Patrick?"
“I assume that the moat has already been filled, Coach Patrick?”

Let me just take a moment to talk about these boys. There are too many of them to name, mention, or even go into their personal side stories in this review. But one thing that popped up in my research was that these boys were chosen primarily for their hockey skills rather than their acting skills and I think this shows. I’m not saying that they’re horrible actors; I’m just saying that it’s pretty evident that for some of these guys, this is the first (and maybe even only) movie that they’ve ever been in. You can see the amateur dramatics of it all. And although this makes the film lose some points in the acting department, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

This film is a hockey film. Hockey is the primary goal. It’s not meant to be a film with Shakespearean drama, Agatha Christie suspense, and Nicholas Sparks’ romance. This is a sports film, first and foremost, and we shouldn’t forget that.

Anyway, the training goes as good as it can, but the boys aren’t giving their 100% to the game. This is evident when they lose a game in Norway to the opposing team and are mostly interested in the hot blonde Norwegian girls in the audience. To discipline the boys, Herb does something that became famously known as Herbie’s Day. After the game is over, Herb showcases one of his nigh tyrannical methods by forcing the boys to skate back and forth between opposing lines on the hockey rink (correct me if I’m wrong, hockey fans).

Somehow I was expecting a Volkswagen Bug to show up!
Somehow I was expecting a Volkswagen Bug to show up!

He has them do this over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…Herb actually gets the keys to the rink from the guy who’s supposed to clean the rink because it’s so late. Nevertheless, Herb keeps pushing the boys to do these exercises even if some of the boys look like they’re going to die. It’s quite an uncomfortable scene to watch and even Coach Patrick starts to show some hesitance in helping Herb with this.

The whole ordeal ends when after hours of this, one of the players announces his name and shouts that he’s playing for the United States of America. I’m not sure how the player came to the conclusion that that was what Herb was looking for. Maybe Herb just wanted these boys to remember who they represent during these troubling times. Or maybe Herb is teetering on a level of madness and genius, I don’t know. In real life, the skating exercises actually ended when one of the normally mild-mannered players broke his stick on the glass in rage.

"Never mind, Coach Patrick. We don't need the moat anymore. Send the alligators back to Florida."
“Never mind, Coach Patrick. We don’t need the moat anymore. Send the alligators back to Florida.”

Anyway, as the months go by, the boys start working better together as a team and becoming the hockey team that Herb wants them to be. Meanwhile, Herb deals with keeping the boys in line, cutting his team down to the required 20, and balancing his home life especially his relationship with his wife, Patti, played by Patricia Clarkson.

I feel that I've seen her before in multiple movies, but when I look at her IMDB credits, I've probably only seen about 2 of her movies...weird!
I feel that I’ve seen her before in multiple movies, but when I look at her IMDB credits, I’ve probably only seen about 2 of her movies…weird!

Herb’s team even plays an exhibition game against the Soviets in Madison Sqaure Garden, which the Soviets, not surprisingly, win. Things aren’t really looking good for them for the actual Olympic games.

"You might wanna send for those alligators to come back, Coach Patrick."
“You might wanna send for those alligators to come back, Coach Patrick.”

Good thing we don’t have to wait long, as soon it’s time for the Winter Olympics which are taking place in Lake Placid, New York, this year. Everyone is nervous, but the Americans prove themselves to be championing underdogs when they tie the Swedes and beat the Czechs, Norwegians, Romanians, and West Germans. Soon it’s time to play the Soviets, this time for the real thing!

The game is an intense one and one that everyone is holding their breath over. The Soviets are looking to keep their reputation as the best hockey team while the Americans are both hopeful and frightful about how they’ll perform against the Soviets.

The game is an exciting one to watch and the Soviets lead the sore 3-2 in the second period. But in the third period, the Americans make 2 more goals. With only a matter of seconds left before the time runs out, the Soviets try desperately to win, or at least tie the game, but the buzzer sounds as famed sportscaster, Al Michaels, utters his famous line, “Do you believe in miracles? YES!”.

Nationalism through sports!

When the buzzer sounds, the Americans have beat the Soviets 4-3. The Soviets are flabbergasted and disappointed at this while the Americans are overjoyed! Everyone from the American team to the citizens to Herb Brooks himself sees this as a victory! Some look at this at not just a hockey win, but a defeat of communism by capitalism. Because of this victory, the American team eventually wins the gold medal for ice hockey that year. The movie ends with a montage of all the actors in the movie and what their corresponding hockey player persona is up to now.

And that was Miracle! I’m not much of sports guy, hence I don’t know much about hockey nor do I watch many sports movies, but out of all the ones that I’ve seen, this has always been my favorite!

The way that we see the hockey team develop under the watchful eye and training of Herb Brooks creates a story that the moviegoer wants to see. The way that we, in the 21st Century, are shown all the goings-on in American during the 1970s is done quite well to give us an understanding of what this game really meant to the average American at the time. And Kurt Russell plays Herb Brooks remarkably! I’d rank him along with Emma Thompson and James Mason in terms of best Disney live-action performances.

Not to mention he gets to deliver a famous speech.
Not to mention he gets to deliver a famous speech.

However, I can’t say that this movie isn’t without its faults. While Kurt Russell was a superb actor in this film, most everyone else wasn’t as I mentioned earlier about the actors who played the hockey players. Also I can’t say that the flow of the movie was perfect. I felt some scenes were unnecessary and some were focused on for too long or too short of a time.

But, that’s not to say that this film is in any way, bad. What else can I say? Kurt Russell and Disney go well together…at least in this film!

(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)


So, the final score for this film is 27/35 = 77.14% (C+) !

The next review will be posted on September 7th.

26 thoughts on “Miracle (2004)

  1. You know, this is one of those events the US and maybe Russia considers important…but no one else even cared. I only know about it because it came up in American media so I finally looked it up to get what they were talking about. (So nope, I have never seen the movie, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they never bothered much with releasing it outside the US, just like “The Miracle of Bern” was made for the German market first and foremost).

    1. Are you much of a sports fan? You always seem to make broad declarations about all of Europe which my friends abroad routinely deny.

      1. Do they? Well, perhaps if you are really interested in Ice Hockey you might know it. But if there is anything I have learned from being a football fan is that certain events are seen differently by different nations.
        I am not a hockey fan, but I do follow the Winter Olympics (they are more fun than the summer Olympics).

      2. Yeah and they disagreed about the Muppets, Wizard of Oz and Narnia. We had foreign exchange students growing up and I was curious so asked them along with a facebook forum I’m in with international patrons. Anyway I’m sure it depends a lot on family, area, parents, etc. I think you may be right about enthusiasm or general consensus but any nation is very diverse with a wide range of tastes and opinions especially now that there isnt the separation there used to be between cultures (and so many speak English wherever you go I’m sure helps).

        In America we have become strikingly regional when it comes to everything including movies or entertainment. For instance here in Utah a Christian film may do great and bomb in Portland where my brother lives. Sure there are national trends but it’s usually not large trends unless mammoth hits like a Frozen, Twilight or Harry Potter. Anyway it’s interesting to see.

        I am a huge Olympics fan but agree with you on Winter partly because we hosted them where I live here in Salt Lake in 2002 which was amazing experience! 🙂

      3. Concerning Narnia: I remember when the first movie came out I was at university and was taught by a native speaker who was really excited about it. We were a class of around 40-50 people, all studying literature, and they ALL said that they have never read the books and were barely aware of them (or not at all before the Disney announcement). When the musical Wicked was such a success, I spend all my time explaining people what the Wizard of Oz is actually about because they had never seen it and some people actually saw Wicked without knowing what it was referring to. Sure, if you are talking to people who do speak English and do have regular contact with American and British Media, well, they would naturally have a different perspective.
        Salt Lake 2002 was great. The best year for the figure skating competition ever – Despite the scandal. When they changed the rules, they took all fun out of it, it hasn’t been the same since then.

      4. Fair enough. I so agree on our Olympics. Not only to be there in person but so soon after 9/11 to have the world gather was pretty amazing. I remember when Sarah Hughes won that was so exciting! I went to a ton of events and it was one of the most fun things I’ve been a part of. We were also one of the only countries of recent years to make money on games not lose and still use all the facilities built which I’m kind of proud of.

      5. I guess it also surprises me because Judy Garland was huge in Europe. Her concert in Paris was a massive success and one of the most iconic moments of her career. I have 13 different versions of Over the Rainbow and one of my favorites is by French Jazz singer Leo Marjane. It’s so beautiful.

        My understanding is that Sesame Street was a global phenomenon with franchises all over the world. I know my friend in Israel has their own version of the show. So for all those reasons it always catches me off guard when you share your experience.

        Anyway doesnt matter. I was really just joking around.

      6. Over the Rainbow is very popular. But you don’t need to know a movie to like a song.
        And yes, Sesame Street is a global phenomenon. And I never said that it wasn’t. But Sesame Street in Germany is different from the version in the US (they didn’t simply take the episodes and dubbed them, they just take the shorts and put them together differently) and Germany has a really great children’s programming which a lot of people consider to be better than the Sesame Street. And the Muppets show, well, it depends on the age, some people know it, others don’t.

      7. I kept trying to remember why you think that I claimed that Sesame Street is not a global phenomenon…but the only thing I can remember saying is that I don’t like the Muppets movies because I myself have no connection to them. I don’t think that I ever commented on their global impact. I know I mentioned a couple of times that Wizard of Oz, Narnia and certain American Christmas classic don’t have the same impact on the foreign audience, but I don’t think that I ever said that about the Muppets.

      8. I could have remembered the Muppets incorrectly. Very possible. You just tend to speak in very bold broad statements, which is something I am inherently skeptical on but no big deal.

      9. But I feel bad about jacking Mark’s post. It was all meant in fun. I always appreciate your perspective even when it surprises me. 🙂

    2. Oh definitely! I didn’t mean to say that this was an important event for the world, but I did mean that this was important for America, at least for nationalistic people. I’m not nationalistic, but I understand how nationalistic people felt about this event.

      1. I actually was talking to Swanpride. She’s always saying nobody in Europe has heard of this or likes this and my friends in those countries always disagree with her. Sorry didnt mean to apply anything in your review. Meant more as a fun jab between friends

      2. Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that you said that…I just noted that this is the kind of movie which would work in one country better than in others. I guess.

  2. I would give this movie a B because I think it is very satisfying and I thought the hockey players did quite well. Not just for a first acting time but that they fit the parts and honestly they arent given that much screen time.
    I thought they did a great job making something that everyone knew the ending still exciting because you wanted to see the “how it happened’. I think this years McFarland USA has better characters and I was more emotionally invested in their story so I’d give that an A. This a B but I really do like it and for some reason it is one of the few movies made about the Olympics. You’d think that would be ripe with drama for the movies but if you include Munich I can only think of 5. Isnt that surprising?

    Anyway glad you enjoyed it not being a sports or hockey fan. USA! USA! USA! USA! 🙂

    1. I beg to differ and felt that the hockey players were on screen for quite some time. I was getting tired of some of them, to be honest, lol, but that’s just me.

      Yeah, you would think there would be more Olympics movies, but I guess all the stories would be generally the same in terms of execution. They’re making a movie next year, I think, called Race about the runner Jesse Owens and how he won the gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Jeremy Irons is in it too, so I wanna see that.

      And yeah, so far this is my fave sports film that I’ve seen. Glory Road is a close second (from what I remember). I havta see how I feel about that again when I review it for this blog.

  3. Oh that sounds good about Jesse Owens. I wonder who they will cast? I forgot about Unbroken. That would mean 6 movies about the Olympics but you’re right they would be kind of similar. My favorite is kind of a guilty pleasure- The Cutting edge. It’s a stupid romance about a hockey player and figure skater who get paired up for the Olympics. Sparks fly! 😉

    There’s a movie called On a Clear Day (not Streisand one) about a man who swims the English channel I love. Sports movies can be very good. Oh and Warrior is another great one.

  4. I’m not a sports fan at all either. I get why it would be fun to play sports, you know, but what’s the point of watching some other people do it on TV just to see which rich company will beat another rich company?

    My dad loves sports, though, and The Greatest Game Ever Played and Gus were both fun Disney sports movies that we both liked, though. So I’m looking forward to seeing you review those at some point.

    My dad was a child at this time, and he remembered being very angry that Jimmy Carter decided to boycott the Olympics to spite the Soviet Union. Is this mentioned here?

  5. Oh and on ESPN last year on their 30 for 30 program they had a documentary about the Russian players. It was really interesting to hear the other side of the story. I recommend it.

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