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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Miracle is a 2004 movie based on the true story of the unlikely Gold Medal victory of the United States hockey team during the 1980 Winter Olympics. Unsurprisingly, there's frequent hockey violence during the games and during a practice in which two players who went to rival colleges throw down the gloves and get into a fistfight on the ice. Coach Brooks allows the fight to go on so the rival players can get their hatred for each other out of their system and they can start working together as teammates. While there is certainly a "Hollywood" feel to what was an extraordinary event, the movie also pulls no punches in showing the intense training and practice regimen Coach Brooks put his players through; after a loss before the Olympics begin, Brooks has his players skate a drill in which they skate as fast as they can from the goal line to the blue line and back until some begin to fall or vomit from exhaustion. Occasional profanity includes ""ass," "bastards," and "hell." During a hockey match before the Olympics at Madison Square Garden, fans unfurl a banner that reads, "Soviets Get the Puck Out of Afghanistan." Overall, this is an inspiring presentation of a team who transcended their sport and helped make Americans believe in themselves and their country again.
What's the story?
Sportscaster Al Michaels unforgettably called out "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" as the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team beat the Russians. They then went on to win the Gold Medal. And so the team, the last group of amateurs sent by the United States to play ice hockey, has been known ever after as the "Miracle on Ice." MIRACLE is a meticulous recreation of the training, strategy, and the key moments of the team's path to Olympic gold.
Is it any good?
The silver medal goes to Kurt Russell's fine performance as coach Herb Brooks. Russell is willing to be unattractive in appearance and behavior to convey Brooks' famously tough and withholding style. As this movie shows, miracle is the very last word to be used to describe this team. It's better than a miracle because it's the story of a team that succeeded through heart and hard work and commitment. If it's a miracle, it's in the "God helps those who help themselves" category. This isn't an "up close and personal" saga. You're not going to get to find out all the quirky personal details of the members of the team. This is a movie for hard-core hockey fans.
The movie is less successful when it gives us the inevitable toll-on-the-family scenes, even with the magnificent Patricia Clarkson as Mrs. Brooks, explaining that just because Herb is coaching the Olympic team doesn't mean that he can shirk his responsibilities at home. And the movie's weakest point is its attempt to make the team's triumph too much of a symbol. It spends too much time trying to convey the sense of the era, with an opening credit sequence of clips showing lines at the gas station and Jimmy Carter's speech about how depressed everyone was. Yes, the Miracle on Ice was immensely satisfying at a moment when America needed some heroes. But trying to re-create that mood takes away from the genuine splendor of the team's achievement, which is more than enough on its own.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Brooks picked the team he wanted. He was not much of a team player himself when it came to the committee members. Families could also talk about the coaches and teachers and mentors who have inspired them to do their best -- probably not always the ones who were the nicest.
Throughout the movie, there are references to the recent and current events of that time. There is mention of Watergate, the end of the Vietnam War, gas shortages, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and excerpts from what came to be known as Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech to the American people. What purpose does this historical backdrop serve? How does it heighten the stakes of the story?
How does this movie compare with other "sports underdog" movies? What are some other examples of this genre?
- In theaters: February 6, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: May 18, 2004
- Cast: Kurt Russell, Noah Emmerich, Patricia Clarkson
- Director: Gavin O'Connor
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character Strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: language and some rough sports action
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