Sunday, November 21, 2010

Review: The Making of Slap Shot (2010)


By Jonathon Jackson

Some people say that "Slap Shot" is the best hockey movie ever made.

Pffft.

Hockey fans will tell you that "Slap Shot" is the greatest movie of all time. And then will recite lines and lines of dialogue about the movie without prompting.

It's taken more than 30 years, but Jonathon Jackson has come up with the full story about this classic in "The Making of Slap Shot." About time.

"Slap Shot" was made in 1976 and released witin the next year. It's the story of a minor league hockey team that's ready to go under, and turns into the toughest team in the Federal League in an effort to intimidate opponents. It works. The Charlestown Chiefs go on a memorable winning streak.

The cast of the movie is topped by Paul Newman -- yes, that Paul Newman -- in one of his favorite film roles. He's the player-coach who knows he's close to the end of the road as a player and as a coach with this group. Reggie Dunlop isn't exactly a hero here, but he hits the right notes in bringing the character to life nicely as the center of the film. The supporting cast worked well under the direction of George Roy Hill.

The script is the key to the movie, written by Nancy Dowd who had her brother tape-record the style of conversation on his hockey team. She gets the tone exactly right, as anyone who has been around a hockey team will tell you, and gets laughs everywhere. The book's author makes a great point that while toning down the vile language might have helped the box office quite a bit -- and we weren't used to such talk back then in our movies -- it did make it a better movie.

Jackson talked to everyone he could find who was still around for this book -- he even exchanged e-mails and faxes with Newman before the actor's death. The list also does seem to include practically every living member of the cast and crew, the residents of Johnstown, Pa., where the movie was filmed, behind-the-scenes executives, and so on. It's certainly the complete version of how the movie came to be.

There are a couple of drawbacks here, and one is obvious. You really have to like the movie, a lot, as the author does and as the participants of the movie do. Naturally, those who are less enthusiastic about "Slap Shot" probably would never pick up a book about this movie to begin with, so that's not much of an issue.

In addition, many of the actors are linked to their character's names in interviews. It's difficult to tell everyone apart at times, particularly when it comes to obscure members of the team that might not even be called by name in the story. A reviewer on Amazon.com made a great point when suggesting that pictures would been a great idea, although just a full list of the cast would have helped too.

"The Making of Slap Shot" ought to satisfy anyone's curiosity about this movie, especially if you ever brought a copy of it to play on a bus ride with a hockey team from Hartford to Buffalo. As I did. Every one on the bus knew every line, too.

Four stars.

Learn more about this book.

1 comment:

  1. I throughly enjoy the movie also and think it is a classic. However I read once that Dowd's true theme and message was that violence is pathetic and people, mostly men, behaving in that manner have very serious maturity issues. I think the majority of Slap Shot fans miss that message entirely. They think the film glorifies violence and promotes it as acceptable or as the true lore of the game. I think after a person reaches the age of say 14 then maturity should start to kick in and you should start to control your violent urges but sadly that's not the case for many players and fans. Just look at the NHL and all the Hockey Fight Videos. Fans eat that stuff up. It seems to me to be a display of people thinking and acting like way-ward children. Enjoy the Slap Shot film but before you purchase another ticket to an NHL game or other league that promotes fighting think about it. Grow up please.

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