On October 1st, 1999, ‘Mystery Alaska‘ was released, and starred not only Russell Crowe, but the legendary Burt Reynolds, as well as Hank Azaria (The Simpsons), Mary McCormack, Colm Meaney (Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space 9) and Lolita Davidovich.
When an article written by a former resident – now big city reporter – gets a few people talking about actually pitting the small team against the New York Rangers, everything is thrown into a tizzy over the publicity stunt. And the return of the reporter who never really felt part of the town brings about a lot of mixed feelings, especially on the part of Russell’s character.
American critic Roger Ebert called it “…sweet, pleasant, low-key, inoffensive and unnecessary. It sticks up for underdogs, nice people and small towns, and doesn’t like big corporations, adulterers, TV producers and New Yorkers in general. It contains not only a big game with a thrilling finish but also a courtroom scene, a funeral scene, an innocent teenage sex scene, a change-of-heart scene and a lot of scenery. No one falls through the ice and almost drowns, but we can’t hope for everything.” I’ll agree with Mr. Ebert on his analysis of the brilliant ‘Citizen Kane,’ but will draw the line on his opinion of Mystery. Hell, he despised ‘Blade Runner‘ when it first came out.
I’ll say no more. LOL We all have our opinions.
As a nice little comparison to what Mr. Ebert had to say, you can also check out this review: http://moviemusereviews.com/mystery-alaska-1999-3-55-stars/. That writer gave it 3.5 out of 5 starts, because I think they see it for what it is…and that’s that Mystery, Alaska isn’t Citizen Kane.
I first saw the movie when I rented from a Blockbuster Video (REMEMBER THOSE? LOL). I had just become a fan of Mr. Crowe, thanks to Gladiator, so I was grabbing up anything and everything the store had: LA Confidential, Virtuosity…and when I saw Mystery on the shelf I figured, why not? And I liked it. I still do, although it’s been a while since I sat down to watch.
It’s not a major release (it cost $28 million to make, and the box office was close to $9 million), and it is hardly a Gladiator or LA Confidential or The Insider (released the same year as Mystery), however, it was never intended to be in that caliber. But there’s a sweetness to it that appealed to me. Because I happen to like small towns, underdogs and nice people. And I don’t like TV producers and adulterers!
Most of all, I fell in love with Russell’s character, John Biebe, the sheriff of the town in which he’s lived his entire life, as well as being a major player on the one thing that gives the town life…the ice hockey team.
If you’ve never seen it, give it a shot sometime. It’s not a hockey movie – it’s a movie about people. (Funny that many critics derided it for not having enough hockey. If it had had more hockey scenes, they probably would have complained that there weren’t enough scenes with the citizenry. You can’t please everyone).