Score: A Hockey Musical Michael McGowan

Score: A Hockey Musical Michael McGowan
Score: A Hockey Musical opens with a montage of scratchy documentary shinny hockey footage set to a hearty rendition of "O Canada." It ends with the entire cast dancing in a hockey rink, singing a song about how "we are proud Canadians" and hockey is the greatest game. In between, it practically beats the audience into maple leafed submission. Well, you know what they say about patriotism being the last resort of a scoundrel, and Score: A Hockey Musical is a musical/comedy/inspirational sports movie that fails resoundingly on every level. That it was selected to open the Toronto International Film Festival is embarrassing.

Seventeen-year-old Farley Gordon (Noah Reid, aggressively earnest) is home schooled by his cartoonishly leftwing, arts-oriented parents (Olivia Newton-John and Marc Jordan), who are not funny at all, ever, even in part, because the extent of their New Age intellectualism exists far away from the real world (they sing folk songs and talk about Aristotle's Poetics). He is also a gifted hockey played, tapped by a blind hockey guru (Stephen McHattie) to join the minor leagues, where he's an instant smash. Farley's parents protest, thinking the sport barbaric, and Farley accuses them of being elitist, in a scene that recalls Monty Python's "Northern Playwright" sketch.

This is one of those Canadian movies that chase box office by copying the worst aspects of American popular cinema. Yes, Farley is in unrequited love with his best friend (Allie MacDonald), and I'll leave it for you to discover if there's a misunderstanding in which he sees her being kissed by another man. The central conflict - Farley refusing to fight on the rink, declaring himself a pacifist - carries little weight. Hockey is a sport with mounds of safety pads and a penalty box, not the Vietnam War.

The comedy is abysmal. Consider a scene where the tough hockey team jumps up on the benches when it sees a mouse - thud. Or when Farley's dad reveals, "Figure skating was my world," cutting to a flashback of a nine-year-old in a tweed jacket and Coke-bottle glasses pirouetting on a rink - thud. Or this dialogue: "Do you ever have one of those epiphany moments when the world starts making sense?" "Yeah, sometimes a good bowel movement can do that." Thud. I could go on.

This film contains some of the worst songwriting I have ever heard in a musical as well. Sample lyric: "I won't defend me or my reputation/If you're calling me a liar, let's end this conversation." Another one: "Hockey without violence is like Kraft Dinner without cheese/It's still pasta, but the palate, it won't please." Have you ever heard such tortured sentence construction in your life? Okay, one more: "You've had a sheltered life, from what I can surmise/But on the ice, the rules don't apply." Good God, that doesn't even rhyme. These lyrics have no flow, no rhythm, no wit and are set to music that sounds the same from song to song.

So, is there anything to like? Well, Stephen McHattie is as dependable as ever, and George Stroumboulopoulos shows some nice comic timing in his extended cameo, even if he doesn't have much to do. I'm reaching, aren't I? The film's trailer includes the ominous tagline: "This is our game. This is our movie." No, this is not my movie, and frankly, I resent the implication. (Mongrel Media)