Originally posted at PopBunker.net.
For this week I chose another one of those old movies that I actually did see when I had much younger eyes. I know I must’ve watched this movie when I was somewhere between the ages of, say, nine and thirteen, but I really don’t remember. The only recollections I really had of this movie were that Paul Newman seemed awesome (I don’t think I’d seen him in anything else by that point) and that the Hanson brothers were outrageously amusing. I’m not sure, but now that I think about it, it’s also possible that I saw this movie as a nice antidote to The Mighty Ducks, which would’ve come out right around that time (and which I found loathsome).
Watching Slap Shot again recently, after having seen countless sports movies in the interim that all seem to chronicle the rise or return of an underdog team to its deserved or former glory, I must say that the plot no longer felt nearly as compelling as it might have the first time I watched this one. Still, a familiar or formulaic plot need not be an excuse not to enjoy a movie, in my opinion, especially when the movie provides some laughs, which Slap Shot does.
The plot of this movie basically revolves around the impending closure or sale a minor league hockey team, the Charlestown Chiefs, coached by a former star player, Reg Dunlop (Paul Newman). In the first game scene, it’s made clear that the team has been doing pretty badly, and getting heckled shamelessly by the few fans in the audience. One of the few good players on the team is #10, Ned Braden (Michael Ontkean). As the story unfolds, we learn that the town’s mill is shutting down, displacing tons of blue-collar workers. We also learn that Braden’s marriage is getting rocky and the coach’s marriage hasn’t been solvent for years, as everyone knows that truly dedicated athletes are lone wolves, and can’t be caged. For these guys, hockey is life. And with such a shitty team, life is shitty.
When the Hanson brothers’ antics start drawing huge turnouts for the games and the Chiefs even start racking up some wins, it starts to look like there might be a chance of saving the team. Whether that means being sold to some old folks community down in Florida or some other possibility isn’t quite clear, but Coach really gets his hopes up and thrives on the attention generated by his team’s complete disregard for order and the sanctity of human life.
So will the team survive? Will they straighten up their act and win a straight game of hockey, or will they continue to play rough and dirty? And will Coach Reg and Ned manage to steer each other right with regard to their romantic and ideological disagreements? Watch the movie and find out.
One of the interesting things that Wikipedia taught me about the movie is just how closely modeled after real-life events the film was. Even more fascinating than that, though, the Hanson Brothers are a real trio of hockey-playing brothers, two of whom actually played in the film. How’s that for art imitating life?