Friday, January 22, 2010

Hockey's Not-So-Macho Movie

I believe hockey is the best fit for all the needed requirements to make a great movie. However, Hollywood has treated our great sport with a hit or miss resulting in movies that don't get mainstream appeal. The latest movie to feature hockey is pro wrestler turned thespian Dwayne Johnson's tale of how a pro athlete can look extremely silly in a pink tutu. Yea... “The Rock” is now doing kids movies. Before this film, Dwayne Johnson had developed into an action hero, but before his fans can say “typecasting”, Johnson now picks roles that define a fish out of water. But will this film flop like a fish with fans?

“Tooth Fairy” is a 20th Century FOX production that does it's best to adapt a violent and sometimes brutal game of musclebound macho men into a story that flips everything around into a sensitivity training lesson. Even though the main character is a pro hockey player, the game is treated as just an occupation. And anything resembling a sports movie is purely coincidental.

Johnson portrays a fictional minor league hockey player Derek Thompson who relishes in his identity for hitting opposing players so hard that teeth go flying. So, from the opening title sequence, we are treated with random hockey action. The crowd cheers Derek in hopes that they might see another molar extraction. Once again, Hollywood has chosen to emphasize the negative aspects of hockey to movie audiences. The hope of having a hockey movie ever becoming a mainstream appeal just might be as realistic as fairies. Thompson is so comfortable with his role as the enforcing muscle, he has his own leather recliner seat in the penalty box. Soon after the hockey chicanery, the film's plot takes over as quick as a line change.

Derek Thompson soon learns that the latest edition to his team, the Lansing Ice Wolves, is a superstar prospect that needs protection. The superstar, Mick Donnelly (Ryan Sheckler), instantly shows no interest in bonding to any of his teammates knowing he is only there to get ready for the major leagues. Derek becomes embittered with the task of protecting a brash kid and takes it out on another young fan seeking an autograph. Derek Thompson doesn't believe anymore.

His terrible attitude spills over into his private life with his girlfriend Carly, played by the aging but still exquisite Ashley Judd. She has a teenage son and precocious pint-sized daughter. No matter how much he tries, Thompson cannot relate to the kids. But magic intends to change that to protect other youngsters from not believing.

For two weeks Thompson is condemned to moonlight as a powder blue silk pajama and matching tights wearing tooth fairy – including wings. For the rest of the movie, Derek Thompson is clumsily balancing his masculinity while acquiring children's teeth without getting caught or his sentence will be extended further.

The hockey action is replaced by a cameo performance by Billy Crystal as Jerry the fairy who equips Derek Thompson with every tool he needs. Crystal gives another classic performance equal to his appearance in The Princess Bride (1987). Crystal even returns at the end donned in LA Kings paraphernalia. The movie even squeezes another elegant performance from another silver screen diamond Julie Andrews as the distinguished head fairy to turn up an eyebrow at every klutzy Dwayne Johnson scene.

By the end of the film, Derek Thompson discovers that not only should little children continue to use the magic of make believe, but Derek teaches some respect to the bratty superstar teammate. Finally, through Derek, we all learn the lesson that so little movies seem to exclude – the ability to believe in yourself.

Before I saw the film, I gathered some representative sampling of the interest that may or may not be gathering for the “Tooth Fairy”. If this film is successful, then maybe hockey movies may not get extinct in mainstream Hollywood. But, I allowed myself to be swayed to the populist opinion that “Tooth Fairy” may not be any good. After the film, Dwayne Johnson and cast made a believer out of me.

3.5 hockey sticks out of 5
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