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Beauty and the Beast

Diamond edition adds to a top-notch film —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Beauty and the Beast fall for each other

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There isn’t a single best feature on this two-disc DVD from Disney. But what all the special features manage to do is improve upon the finished movie. Seeing how much effort and love was put into the film makes Miracle look even better.

Ice Dreams

Kurt Russel takes a trip to 1980
Kurt Russel takes a trip to 1980
In spite of the flag-draped marketing, Miracle is all about the hockey
In spite of the flag-draped marketing, Miracle is all about the hockey

Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), a college hockey coach from Minnesota, interviews for the 1980 Olympic coaching job. He has definite ideas about how to beat the Russians — playing looser and more creatively. His ideas don’t jibe with the committee’s plans, but later, back in his suburban Minnesota home, Herb gets The Call.

What the committee had wanted was an all-star team. The best amateur players from across the U.S. would be recruited to play in the Olympics. But Herb has a more communal approach. He wants a team of players who work well together, and not necessarily individual stars.

Miracle finds drama in assembling the team, making cuts, the rigors of training, and the marital problems between an overworked husband and an underappreciated wife and mother. Before the movie’s emotional climax, one scene does stand out. After tying an exhibition game with Norway, Herb makes his team work out until they’re drop-dead tired, then he works them some more. The scene adds a seriousness that keeps Miracle from being too candy-coated, although it’s still a pretty sweet-tasting concoction.

In world hockey in 1980, America was the underdog. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine America as an underdog in any sphere, politically, athletically, or culturally. In one sense, that’s too bad, because America loves to root for the underdog.

As Russell narrates over the movie’s end, after the 1980 games, America started allowing professional athletes to participate in the Olympics. We started fielding “dream teams” that win ridiculously lopsided games, like the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team that beat Angola 116 to 48.

Russell closes with a pretty, succinct elegy to the underdog role: “now that we have dream teams we seldom have dreams.”

Picture and Sound

Sound seems to have been particularly important to the producers and director of Miracle. The sound design is featured prominently in many of the DVD extras, and the transfer to THX certified Dolby Digital surround is impeccable. And with a DVD release coming only 3 months after the theatrical release, the picture quality hasn’t had time to degrade, so picture quality is very good.

DVD Extras

Disc one features audio commentary by director Gavin O’Connor, editor John Gilroy and Cinematographer Daniel Stoloff. The speakers often sound distracted, as though they’re too busy watching the movie to talk about it. At first I thought they might be digging their own graves with their commentary. Someone speaks about using tricks to tell the audience how to feel, which seemed to be an admission that the actors and director hadn’t done their job.

But as the movie goes on, the commentary becomes more interesting. They reveal details about shooting on ice, about the real Herb Brooks, and about the unforgettable post-Norway workout scene.

Disc two includes several segments. There is an ESPN roundtable with Kurt Russell and three of the 1980 US hockey team players. Another featurette explains the process of casting hockey players (not actors) for each of the roles in the film. There is also an interview the filmmakers conducted with Herb Brooks before production began; the picture and sound quality are distractingly bad, but it is interesting to hear Brooks tell his own story.

No single feature stands out on the DVD. But what all the special features manage to do is make the finished movie look better. I was suspicious of the flag-draped marketing and the value-laden title “Miracle” when the film was released. But the movie won me over with its heart. Now, seeing how much effort and love was put into the film, (and not being overwhelmed by the marketing), I appreciate Miracle even more.