Movie Review
Miracle poster
By Stephen Lucas     Published February 21, 2004
US Release: February 6, 2004

Directed by: Gavin O'Connor
Starring: Kurt Russell , Eddie Cahill , Michael Mantenuto , Kenneth Mitchell

Running Time: 135 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $64,371,000
Perhaps Miracle tries so hard to restore the fire that fueled successful past sports films? I?m not entirely sure. What I am sure of is that doesn?t do much for me.
Hockey is usually an interesting sport. There aren?t any breaks in between plays like in football, few formalities like baseball, and it?s a fast-paced game full of bloody fistfights and checking. Though I don?t play hockey, it?s fair to say that I have an appreciation for it, whether I?m watching it on TV or attending the occasional game.

The first time I heard about ?Miracle? was when I saw its trailer when it played in front of the Farrelly Brothers comedy, ?Stuck on You.? What struck me first was not the glory of hockey or its rapid pace. Rather, the fact that ?Miracle? was destined to arrive in theaters as the newest feel-good, pseudo-inspirational sports film a la ?Rudy? and ?Hoosiers.? The latter two films are often regarded as solid family films involving family-appropriate characters and family-branded morals. ?Miracles? follows suit with all the named aspects, along with bland acting, sub-par writing, and did I mention predictability?

Perhaps what people love most about these kinds of sports films is that they?re universal? Sports are a big part of modern society, as many people play or have played them, and by seeing a story involving these activities, it?s easy to relate to for most. However, what is often far less observed is how often these films are blatantly formulated and manipulative. Usually, if films like ?Miracle? stir up any emotion, it?s coming from some contrived element of storytelling. In this case, very little emotional depth can be noted.

Kurt Russell stars as a family man and hockey coach, intent on reclaiming victory at the upcoming Lake Placid Olympic Games, which he was denied as a player twenty years ago. The Placid games were in 1980, which is when the film takes place. ?Miracle? is based on a rather exciting underdog story, yet with the genre, however great they may be or how great they made sound outside of the theater, when a film gets made on the topic, those views may be altered. Although I felt some of ?Seabiscuit? dwindled to being little more than a solid production, ?Miracle? isn?t even that, and it waters its story even more than the said darkhorse film does.

Russell is satisfactory (unlike the rest of the film?s cast), though his accent was distracting, slipping the entire film. He doesn?t have the screen presence that he probably should have (like Denzel Washington did in ?Remember the Titans?), but poor scripting can hinder those wannabe-powerful lines and speeches. Despite that, this is one of his more watch-able performances in a while.

?Remember the Titans? may be a film that instantly comes to mind in regard to sports movies. It is one of the better ones to have come out in quite a while; even though it tackles standard issues of race and discrimination, it is done in such a way that feels natural and authentically entertaining and, at times, moving. ?Miracle? doesn?t tackle any real issues besides a stubborn coach?s habits. There isn?t much meat to its bones: the characters are similar, there?s little believable conflict, and a general lack of dramatic elements. The climax of the film is a showdown between Team USA and the Soviets at a time when the United States and they were at ends. ?It?s more than just a game,? the coach?s wife says to her husband. And yes, I rolled my eyes at that moment, just as I had at several points throughout.

?Miracle? tries to make its audience feel good upon leaving the theater as it plays the basic cards of nostalgia (the opening credits cover years of pop culture and history) as well as the underdog effect. There?s no denying that everyone likes an underdog, but when it?s done over and over in so many unoriginal ways, sometimes I wish the favored will be crowned some time.

There are also scenes upon scenes that seemed to be added as filler to the movie ? complete stretches that felt limp and empty of content. Understandably, there?s a lot happening onscreen at times, but at the same time, so little occurs. Perhaps ?Miracle? tries so hard to restore the fire that fueled successful past sports films? I?m not entirely sure. What I am sure of is that doesn?t do much for me. I left the theater thinking how bland of a film I had just seen, but relieved that the credits had finally come up.

Films can inspire us, and many do. Those that are successful don?t need ridiculously clich? stories and characters and so-called triumphs to do so. Cinema is an art form full of ways to inspire people, as is all art. ?Miracle,? on par with past sports-centered melodramas, isn?t creative enough to attempt to bypass our expectations, however high or low they may be. Instead, what we are given is a film desperately in need of a pulse. However, one miracle did occur in watching this film: I didn?t fall asleep. Yet if I did, then maybe dreams would have really come true.
Stephen's Grade: C
Stephen's Overall Grading: 23 graded movies
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'Miracle' Articles
  • Gareth's review C+
    February 6, 2004    Russell does a great job as Brooks, but the supporting cast is not given any chance to shine. -- Gareth Von Kallenbach