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>> Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed.

As I headed to the theatre last night to see Score: A Hockey Musical, I did what I normally do. I get to the theatre forty-five minutes to an hour early, I grab any food I want and I head into the theatre to get the best seat possible. This normally results in me getting my favorite seat - back row center. Walking into Score produced no different result. Not only was I treated to the best viewing spot in the house, I was also privy to a view I can honestly say I didn't expect nor have every experienced - that of a completely empty theatre. Not just for the half hour before the movie started, but through the entirety of Score as well. Through all my years of seeing movies on every day of the week, during every time of the day and no matter at which point in the films theatrical run - that I've never had the whole theatre to myself, especially not during the film's opening week.

In some movies, I would be thrilled by this. It's certainly something I've wished once or twice I could experience in some cheaper theatres, but it's nothing I've ever expected to happen at a bigger multiplex. Yet there I was. Alone, confused and kind of upset. Being a filmmaker with aspirations of my own films being shown at this exact theatre one day, I was disappointed to see nobody supporting this film. It's an all Canadian film which now seems doomed to the fate of its predecessors (Gunless [2010], Pontypool [2008]) - recognized, unpopular and seen by few. This may be due to the Canadian film curse, that drives our stars and our talents down south for "actual" success - all of which will continue to happen if we don't start going to our own goddamn movies. That's just a small piece of my mind and I could easily write a much bigger post on it, but this is a review for Score, and that's what I will continue with.

I'll get this out there right now, I don't really watch Hockey, but recognize and embrace it as Canada's sport. I do however have a soft spot in my heart for musicals. They are tough to pull off correctly, but when done right, they are absolute magic and can make you feel just fantastic. One of my favorite movies is Hairspray (2007), and I'm not ashamed to say it. But I also like the classics such as Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Mary Poppins (1964) - simply because I can appreciate them. The fact that Score is Canadian and a musical is what drove me to see this film.

Score tells the tale of home schooled Farley Gordon (Michael Cera wannabe Noah Reid). Farley's neighbour is his best friend (Allie MacDonald) who has had a crush on Farley ever since they have known each other. 'Problem' is, he doesn't know. Fareley rarely leaves the house except for one thing - to play hockey, and he's damn good at it. He could never play in a team though. Not because he doesn't want to, but his parents are kind of prudes when it comes to organized sports. Farley's mother Hope, by the way, is played by Olivia Newton-John - who us terribly underused considering this is her first return to a musical since Grease [1978].

One fine day, Farley gets discovered by the owner (Stephen McHattie) of the Blades, a local hockey team. He is reluctant but soon finds himself trying out for the team, to the chagrin of Coach Donker (John Pyper-Ferguson) who is understandably hesitant about the home schooled kid who's never played an organized game of hockey in his life. Predictably, Farley blows the socks off of everybody and is soon the biggest star in town - appearing on billboards, magazine covers and cereal boxes. But is the fame too much for him to handle. His best friend and parents seem to think so. They say he's 'changed' and is 'different' - this is the point where you confirm what you've been thinking for the last forty-five minutes, that Score is predictable and unoriginal in its characters and plot. Oh, and Farley refuses to fight when another player challenges him. This is apparently what makes a hockey game and there's no room for his 'why can't everybody just get along' mentality.

In support of Canadian films I wanted to really like Score. In fact, before I went to the film I believed I would most likely give it an open door. However, I'm sad to report this is not the case. The reason Score failed as much as I think it did is for more than just one reason, so don't think I'm being picky here.

The first and biggest problem I should bring up is the songs themselves. It was as if the songs were trying to be bigger than they could be, and for some reason most seemed to be no longer than a minute. The audio was badly mixed which was incredibly distracting. I often found it difficult to hear the lyrics over the rest of the music, which made any meaning the songs had to begin with...well, meaningless. It wasn't until the last twenty minutes or so that I felt the songs finally improving. Every song up until that point seemed weak, awkward and out of place. I then realized that it was because there was an orchestra behind the songs, rather than the piano and guitar combination every other song had (causing them to all sound the same). In my opinion (obviously), Score's composers should have spent more time developing a good nine or ten songs rather than spending less time on twenty. Classic debate: quality or quantity?

When it comes to songs in a musical, it's my belief they should exist only when the message or emotion cannot be easily or efficiently conveyed in another fashion, such as dialogue or visuals. A good musical has no songs out of place - they are there for a reason and flow with the entirety of the film. Score felt like it was broken down into music, movie, music, movie, music, movie, etc. Each one interrupted the next which became very distracting and, well, annoying - especially when the songs have no imagination. It's one thing to have characters just stand on the street and sing to each other lacking any actual visual stimuli, but its another when the lyrics appear to be as complex as something written by a sixth grader. I think at one point they actually rhymed 'cat' with 'hat'.

As for the characters, I didn't really like any of them, especially the main cast. There is one character on Fareley's hockey team named Maurice (Chris Ratz) that I enjoyed whenever he was on screen, as did I enjoy the very few shots of the overly rambunctious character played by Nelly Furtado. She seemed fun, obnoxious and for some reason she was hanging off the arm of a big, fat, shirtless guy. Where's the rest of her part? Hell, where's her own movie?

I'm giving Score: A Hockey Musical a closed door. Its a better film when it's not constantly being interrupted by its out of place and awkward musical numbers. Even then, the dialogue and storyline are okay at best. This grade isn't because I don't follow hockey, nor is it because this is a small Canadian film. This grade is because Score felt lazy. It's writer was also its director - Michael McGowan, who also directed Joshua Jackson in the also 'only okay' One Week (2009). I feel if McGowan had spent more time on the script or brought in another writer we may have had something main stream enough yet uniquely Canadian. His gross underuse of bigger names like Olivia Newton-John and Nelly Furtado are big mistakes that should have been corrected upon confirmation of their involvement. Also, I couldn't figure out for the life of me if the movie itself was trying to be cheesy and silly, or if it was taking itself seriously. All the actors seemed to play it as if it was a serious drama, which is maybe why none of Score actually worked. Do me a favor, McGowan. Next time you make a movie please make it decent enough so I don't look like an ass for supporting Canadian cinema. Thanks.

*Stills courtesy of Mulmer Feed Co.


Chrissy October 30, 2010 at 10:15 PM  

That's a shame. I've never heard of this, but as soon as I read "hockey" and "musical" I was intrigued. Too bad it's a misfire.

Angry Charlie October 31, 2010 at 4:18 PM  

Indeed. I think there was definitely a good movie somewhere in this mess. Thanks for the comment!

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