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April 26 - Miracle/Miracle On Ice

Note from TheMirl.com: This is the newest installment of a regular series by Joel Blumberg reviewing
sports movies from all eras.

In this winter of discontent for those remaining hockey fans, the 25th anniversary of the 1980 Olympic
Hockey team's great victory had to suffice as a rare moment of enjoyment.

Thus, one year prior, maybe anticipating the dearth of the sport, the Disney Corp. retold another of sports
versions of “The Little Train That Could”.

Yes remade, because, in 1981, ABC made a quickie Made-for-TV movie named "Miracle On Ice",
starring Karl Malden as Herb Brooks.  The original choice for the part was Richard Widmark - who told
casting director Richard Dinman that he was wrong for the part and suggested Academy Award winner
Malden.  He was joined in the cast by Steve Guttenberg who played Goaltender Jim Craig, Andrew
Stevens as Mike Eruzione and Jessica Walter as Pat Brooks.

The film was low on the histrionics of the individuals but high the team concept.  Actual footage of the
game was used in the production, which was convenient, as ABC televised the games in 1980.  With
these elements and lack of a budget, ABC was able to muster a three-hour tele-film, a feature that, while
not very good, was at least timely and garnered fairly good ratings

“Miracle” was made in 2004.  The mentality in making the film was different.  Professionals had been
competing at the Olympics for some time. In fact, the American dream team in the 1998 Nagano Games
were more known for trashing a room than for their accomplishments on the ice.

It was not enough just to retell the tell the story.  The Disney Company, which owns ABC and thus the
footage and other elements from those Olympics, needed that and more.  Some was realized with the
casting of Kurt Russell as Brooks, Patricia Clarkson as his wife Patty, Eddie Cahill as Craig and Patrick
O’Brien Dempsey as Eruzione.  The story accentuated not only the game but its relationship in the Cold
War with the Russians.

The photography by Phillip Linzey and Dan Stoloff, featuring a virtual hand-held camera on skates,
added to the intensity of the film.  But the drawback was the script that tended to drift into soap opera
mode at times and, in doing so, detracted from the credibility of the characters.

While both “Miracle” and "Miracle on Ice” had their attributes, perhaps Disney missed the boat on the
best selling element of the story.  They could have transferred the game to DVD and sold that instead.  
Having watched the showing on the 25th anniversary of the semifinal (remember the Americans still had
to defeat Finland two days later to win the Gold), the event itself was still as thrilling as the afternoon it
was played.