Score: A Hockey Musical
Directed by Michael McGowan
(Mulmur Feed Co.)
A song-and-dance film about Canada’s national sport may sound like a recipe for disaster, but Score: A Hockey Musical succeeds because it’s not afraid to throw away the rule book. Score doesn’t care if many among its cast can neither sing nor dance. Because the actors perform their songs live with unabashed enthusiasm, they make the film a fresh, spontaneous experience.
Wearing its Canadian heart on its sleeve, Score also makes no apologies for its idealistic vision. The film has small-town ambience, hockey players with heart and two young leads who radiate goodness.
Scouted while playing a round of neighbourhood shinny, hockey prodigy Farley Gordon (Noah Reid) joins the Brampton Blades, achieving instant success. His new fame threatens his relationship with his best friend, Eve, however, and his flaky parents (played by singer Olivia Newton-John and songwriter Marc Jordan) offer little support. Fearing hockey will turn their home-schooled son into an “ordinary boy,” they urge him to quit the team.
Farley’s biggest roadblock, though, is the bench brawl. Raised a pacifist, Farley refuses to fight, a stance that doesn’t go down well with the Blades. Quitting is not an option, however; rather than brawn, he must find a new way. Here is where cynics will note that Farley’s non-violent solution, resulting in the humiliation of his opponent, is arguably as objectionable as fighting.
To be fair, it’s hard to dislike Score. The film is fast-moving and funny, thanks to clever lyrics by director Michael McGowan. Among its many highlights is a Broadway-style production number in the team dressing room, complete with flat notes and awkward dance steps. And there are many cameos throughout: Walter Gretzky offers advice on how to be a good hockey parent, tenor John McDermott performs the national anthem and NHL veteran Theoren Fleury reassures Farley in an outstanding singing turn.
Never about winning or losing, Score is about staying true to oneself, and the film does a great job of communicating the message. Its catchy final song, The Greatest Game, could very well become an arena standard.
Patricia Ingold is a member of The Observer staff in Toronto.
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