Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice (2002) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for strong language, sexuality, nudity and some violence
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Stephen Baldwin, Jessica Steen, Gary Busey, Jonathan Scarfe, David Hemmings, David Paetkau, Callum Keith Rennie, Jody Racicot, Steve Carlson, David Hanson, Jeff Carlson, Andrew McIlroy
Director: Steve Boyum
Screenplay: Broderick Miller
Review published July 8, 2005
Although I didn't personally care for Slap Shot, it should be known that many who've seen it consider it to be a classic of its kind, and the best movie about hockey made to date. Now, 25 years later, a sequel to the cult movie is finally made, but that fact will most likely annoy the original's fans rather than have them jump for joy. The main reason is that Slap Shot 2 has very little to do with the original film. Sure, there are some similarities. Both feature a struggling bush-league hockey team named the Chiefs, both teams have the Hanson brothers on them, and...well, other than the fact that they are both comedies, I guess that's where the similarities end. If anything, this "sequel" is merely an attempt to capitalize on the Slap Shot name, and by so doing, the main theme regarding the commercialization of hockey bastardizing a pure and great sport becomes hypocritical.
Stephen Baldwin (Shelter Island) gets the starring nod as former NHL great Sean Linden, once considered a lock for the hall of fame, but now he's washed up, thanks to a goal he missed in Game 7 of the Finals that had fans and critics convinced he was involved in illegal points shaving. Only the love of the game keeps him going, although he is no longer playing in the NHL, stuck in the Federal league playing with a bunch of other washed up losers that are all hoping they still have a chance to get recruited. They can no longer fill the seats so their owner decides to sell the team while he can still make a profit, but he secures them a deal that will see them double their salaries, and increase their exposure.
Their new owner (Busey, Predator 2) is one of the wealthiest and most powerful media magnates in the world, and he has paid to start his own hockey league to be shown on television without all of the disgusting violence and ugliness usually associated with the sometimes brutal sport, courting a family values organization that could mean hundreds of millions of dollars thrown his way. To do this, he has created the hockey equivalent of basketball's Harlem Globetrotters, where a super team known as the Ice Breakers put on a dazzling, mostly choreographed, performance in front of cheering crowds, as they whoop up on their lowly patsy opponents, the Super Chiefs, as the Chiefs are now called. Anguish occurs on the part of the Chief players, who are conflicted between playing for the love of hard-nosed hockey and their new role as the perennial chumps. Will money talk, or will the ream eventually walk?
Although Slap Shot 2 has some interesting commentary on the state of sports today, where many networks use gimmicks and watered-down developments in order to try to please viewing audiences, mainly at the expense of the integrity of the sport and of the hardcore fans, the meaning of all of this seems lost when the makers of this film cheapen their own story with forced goofy shenanigans and clichéd tricks of their own.
The main plot just does not work. Why would a league that prides itself on giving a clean and non-violent alternative to real hockey actually show more violence than you would see in a real game? Why would the owner of the league hire a team known for their unsportsmanlike conduct to be the ones that are supposed to never cross the line and fight back? Why would this same team owner, once it becomes evident that these men are obviously more trouble than they are worth, offer to pay them more and more money in order to stick around when he could easily replace them at only a fraction of the price with players that will actually not mind conforming? Why would he also pay a man a half million dollars to walk away from the game when he could easily sue him for breach of contract which would make all of the other players think twice about not going along with the powers that be?
The answer to all of these illogical quandaries is that they serve the purpose of generating needed conflict and laughs, even if this means that the credibility of the story is lost. It's a shame because it would appear from the subject matter and able direction that a good movie could have been made out of similar scenarios, but again, the attempt at commercialism kills every chance at success. This did not need to be a Slap Shot sequel at all, but by shoehorning in the Hansons and their dumb, brutish scuffles, and by injecting a bunch of sexist and homophobic jokes, they insult one potential audience in order to try to placate another, and annoy both as a result. Decent performances by Jessica Steen (Armageddon) and Gary Busey (surprising) go to waste, and way too much screen time goes to the charisma challenged Stephen Baldwin, perhaps one of the least worthy replacements for Paul Newman anyone could have come up with.
Slap Shot 2 had a chance to be a hockey flick worth watching, but some very poor decision making early on ruined the chances. It was misguided to think anyone wanted a sequel to Slap Shot to begin with, but even if anyone did, it seems unlikely they would have wanted one that all but completely ignores the first film. It was also a bad move to cast the film with Stephen Baldwin at the head, as he has made almost nothing but z-grade trash for the past few years, and anyone seeing his picture on the DVD cover should assume a low quality production. I'm uncertain whether or not to call Slap Shot 2 a good film that is ruined by too many bad moments or a bad film that surprises with occasional moments of honest substance, but the only real conclusion to draw is that in either case, the goal has been missed and we're all losers for it
©2005 Vince Leo