TIFF 2010 #2 Score: A Hockey Musical—A sad gala

TIFF 2010 #2 Score: A Hockey Musical—A sad gala featured image

TIFF 2010 #2
Score: A Hockey Musical—A sad gala
By Marc Glassman

Score: A Hockey Musical
Michael McGowan, director & writer
Starring: Noah Reid, Allie MacDonald, Stephen McHattie, Olivia Newton-John, John Pyper-Ferguson, Nelly Furtado, Gianpaolo Venuta, George Stroumboulopoulos

This year’s Opening Night Gala at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) is one of the oddest films of this or any other year. Score: A Hockey Musical is a piece of whimsy about a pacifist, ecologically minded and philosophical Toronto boy who happens to skate like the wind and have moves like Sidney Crosby. What would happen to such a home schooled kid if he ran into the brick wall of hockey machismo?

That could be the stuff of drama, but this film is not about a real situation. No, it’s a musical—a wall-to-wall one, which barely allows time for any plot or character development between numbers that don’t come close to matching the TV hit Glee for production values or choreography.

Michael McGowan, the writer-director who created this film doesn’t seem to realize that musicals can be dramatic. Look at West Side Story or Gypsy or even South Pacific or Oklahoma. Worse, the songs aren’t very good.

McGowan’s One Week was a reasonably successful Canadian movie a couple of years ago but here the previously unpretentious auteur has made a fundamental mistake of hubristic proportions. He decided that he could write the lyrics for the film despite never having done so before. The results are disastrous, forcing music by Hawksley Workman, Barenaked Ladies and Marc Jordan to fit lyrics that doesn’t scan well and aren’t particularly rhythmic.

The mantra at TIFF and all the other festivals this film will be opening—Edmonton, Sudbury, Calgary and the Atlantic—is to “lighten up.” Forgot about your critical faculties, the argument goes—after all, why shouldn’t we celebrate Canadian pop culture? But Score: A Hockey Musical is an art film that is dressed up to look like a mainstream movie. It plays with a big idea –should hockey be violent—but can’t resolve it.

McGowan and company seem to think that simply pairing hockey and music will make a film into an enjoyable confection. But musicals and comedies are the hardest things to do; in comparison, dramas are easy.

Score: A Hockey Musical is a gala that resembles an Emperor with no Clothes. You may cheer it on but it will never be a hit. And that’s the naked truth.

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