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I Ate This One Up

Miracle is just one of those Disney movies I couldn't help but love. Based on the 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team's miraculous upset of Russia at Lake Placid, the story is so compelling in itself that it didn't need much embellishment to make the jump to the big screen. Kurt Russell plays head coach Herb Brooks, whose strategy was to build a team of players for the sole purpose of beating the Russians at their own game. I know what you're thinking, "Seems like this one was commissioned by the Bush administration just in time to inject moviegoers with a heavy dose of patriotism while we do sketchy things in Iraq." After all, Election 2004 is just around the corner. The movie, however, pretty much sticks to hockey and the personal journey of a team led by the hard-assed Brooks.

To pull off the greatest upset in sports history ever and beat the best team to have ever played hockey, Brooks adhered to a strict my-way-or-the-highway policy that put him at odds with management, his players, and his family. The story boils down to how Brooks got a bunch of headstrong players to trust him and each other. Director Gavin O'Conner does a great job of balancing the personal and historical complexity of his subject matter. We hate, respect and like Brooks at the same time. We understand the historical significance of USA beating Russia in a Cold War Olympics, but also that for the players and coaches is was about winning pure and simple, without those types of distractions.

Russell delivers his best performance in years, and the ensemble of relatively unknown actors / hockey players of USA Hockey works well as just that, a team. The hockey scenes are shot very authentically, and while fast, they are a far cry from the Any Given Sunday, MTV style that equates sports with speed induced rampages.

Beware: This movie is blatantly sentimental. It is still a Disney movie through and through. But it is also a great story, and I'm a sucker for its ESPN Sports' Century splendor. I am considering seeing it again and paying money this time.

Easily the best sports film to come from Disney and that snot-nosed mouse of his.

Stars: 4 out of 5