Sugared Town


Where the hockey’s good, the compass points north, and the ladies stay warm all night. Mystery, Alaska, is a tiny burg, little more than a post office and a plow stranded in the middle of freezing white nada-y-pues-nada, where the locals block the encroaching tentacles of conglomeration with muskets and moxie (early on, a surveying suit from a Wal-Mart-type plunderbund visits the hardware store and takes a bullet in the foot for his trouble). The townies are intrigued, however, when another big-city hotshot, prodigal son Hank Azaria, engineers a publicity stunt that brings the New York Rangers to Mystery for a game of pros-versus-provincials hockey, on a real pond no less; the gimmick occasions plenty of self-affirmation and sexual healing as the ad hoc teammates hone their stick action.

This boreal Rocky (oh, wait, that was Rocky IV) could at least deliver a suspenseful David-and-Goliath rumble for its climax, but director Jay Roach (who helmed both Austin Powers movies) has filmed possibly the first hockey match bereft of a single semiaerial shot—instead of the spontaneous give-and-take choreography of a good game, all Roach offers is the actions of individual players in rapid succession; your brain can’t keep up with what your eye is seeing. In lieu of exciting outdoor sports, the slack, saccharine script (cowritten by bland TV juggernaut David E. Kelley) bears down hard on the troubled state of indoor sports in Mystery: Colm Meaney’s mayor catches his puck-slut spouse (Lolita Davidovich) offside with a strapping left wing; the stoic, bearlike sheriff played by Russell Crowe suffers a marriage that can’t get the brakes off its skates; and miscellaneous utility players log time in the sexual penalty box. But sleep well: however cold it might seem, we’re still in Disney territory, where everyone rides his or her Zamboni into the great good night.

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