Mystery, Alaska

The good news about Mystery, Alaska is that you aren’t going to have to fight any crowds to see it. The bad news is that Carter Burwell’s triumphal score is played far too loudly to sleep through it. Mystery is a Frankenstein flick cobbled together from all those underdog sports movies like The Longest Yard, Hoosiers, and Slapshot. (There’s even a bit from The Dirty Dozen thrown in for good measure.) Wholly lacking in sincerity, its emotions are so counterfeit that the Treasury Department should be alerted.

There’s a tiny little town in Alaska called Mystery (What’s that you say? You’re gagging already?) whose inhabitants find relief from their inbred society through their homegrown hockey team. The team is a motley assortment of plug-ugly hicks, back tundra Casanovas, and a token gentle giant, each of them lovable in some special way. When "Sports Illustrated" runs an article about the team, the New York Rangers are lined up to fly in for an exhibition game against the locals. Naturally all of the townies’ sexual dalliances, daddy-complexes, and troubled marriages have to be resolved before the big game so that the local boys can play with a clear head and the Rangers won’t wipe them off their own ice, thereby confirming that Mystery is the miserable little backwater outhouse all of them secretly suspect it to be. In other words, it’s a movie that celebrates the power of denial and backward thinking.

It’s not like there wasn’t any talent involved in the production. Jay Roach, who directed it, also directed the Austin Powers flicks, at least one of which had some laughs in it. And Mystery stars Russell Crowe – you remember Russell Crowe, he was sensational in a movie called L.A. Confidential just two or three years ago – along with Hank Azaria, Judith Ivey, and Burt Reynolds. But it’s all for naught. Mystery, Alaska is so moribund and predictable that you feel like cheering when Ivey makes an interesting hand gesture. Even Mike Myers, in a cameo role as a TV sports commentator, can’t raise a smile. The most amusing gag involves Little Richard – looking and acting like a visiting pasha – singing a slo-mo version of "The Star Spangled Banner." Beyond that, Mystery, Alaska is the usual assortment of cussing kiddies and cussing old ladies – it’s Disney with a dirty mouth.

– Tom Block

poster from MovieGoods