|Slap Shot 2 - Breaking the Ice|
|Written by Tara O'Shea|
|Tuesday, 26 March 2002|
ean Linden (Stephen Baldwin) is the coach and captain of minor league hockey team, the Charlestown Chiefs, in this direct-to-video sequel to the 1977 cult classic "Slap Shot," which lives and dies by the motto "real men play real hockey."
When the Charlestown Chiefs are sold to media mogul Dean Claremont, who plans to turn them into foils for a Harlem Globetrotter-like team of Ivy league pretty boys, Linden is the only man who can force the rowdy group of borderline psychos who live for the game to embrace the roles of clowns while they bide their time, waiting for real old-time hockey games. However, when Claremont fires the Hanson Brothers, and tries to turn hockey into the Ice Capades, Linden has to decide what's more important -- money, or love of the game.
The Chiefs are brought to life by a mix of former hockey players and Canadians (and, in the case of Tony Vlastelic, John Ulmer, and Dave Babych, former Canadian hockey players). They are a fun -- if raw -- bunch. Young Miller (David Paetkau) has a shot at the NHL, if he can control his temper and stop hogging the puck. French-Canadian goalie Gasmer (Jody Racicot) is an obsessive-compulsive who must do everything twice. Palmberg ("Last Night" and "Hard Core Logo" star Callum Keith Rennie) is a womanizing pig who has a habit of boffing girls who look like their breasts cost more than the cars they drive. But most fans of the original will be pleased to note the Hanson Brothers (Dave Hanson, Jeff Carlson, Steve Carlson) return for the sequel in all their Coke bottle glasses-wearing, mascot-attacking glory.
Jessica Steen as the granddaughter of a legendary hockey player starts off having to prove herself as coach to this motley crew (her "meet cute" punching out of Baldwin remains this reviewer's favorite scene, in fact), but her role is quickly reduced to that of love interest. Baldwin's Linden is beloved by his teammates, but haunted by being thrown out of the NHL on suspicions of throwing a playoff game. Of course, by the climax of the film, Linden has redeemed himself and foiled the dastardly schemes of the unrepentantly evil Claremont, played with grit and not much else by Academy Award-nominee Gary Busey.
Visually, the DVD is crisp and clean, and it's obvious why the director had hopes that Universal might release the film theatrically rather than direct-to-video. The colors are vibrant, and the sound mix excellent during the game sequences, although fairly standard through the rest of the film. Dialogue is never muddy, although the hockey sequences could use a bit more in the foley department. Checking should involve more bone-breaking. And of course, in this post-"Gladiator" world, the hockey sequences -- of which there are many -- feature the obligatory sped-up action and rapid-fire cuts meant to make the game look even more vicious and brutal than it already is. Strangely, for a film about hockey, there's only one instance of blood on the ice.
The menus are straightforward and easy to navigate, though a tad of the uninspired side, with a yellow hockey stick appearing beneath each selection as you tab through them. Special features are aimed squarely at fans of the original film. The Making Of special (which is only 13 minutes long) mines the original film for footage, and focuses primarily on shooting the hockey sequences and the Hansons. Baldwin is interviewed only briefly, and Steen and Rennie not at all. However, the sleds in which the camera operators sit, pushed by guys on skates, are actually pretty nifty from a tech geek POV. The interview with the Hansons is strictly video press kit fare, as are the production notes, which spend the first few screens discussing the impact of the first film at length. However, for a direct-to-video sports movie, it's pretty decent treatment.
"Slap Shot 2" is not a good movie. It's coarse, crude, filled with mediocre writing and many sophomoric performances, and one offensive over-the-top stereotype of a swishy Broadway choreographer. But it's an entertaining waste of an afternoon and even has some genuinely funny moments, and should please many fans of the original film.