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Mystery, Alaska

Director:Jay Roach
Writers:David E. Kelley and Sean O'Byrne
Hollywood Pictures; 118 minutes: R
Cast:Russel Crowe, Hank Azaria, Mary McCormack

Mystery, Alaska is a tiny town where the men play hockey and cheat on women and don't do much else. Former Mystery man Charles Danner (Azaria) writes a story about the town's hockey tradition for Sports Illustrated and creates a media flurry that pits the ragtag home team against the New York Rangers.

The film proceeds with a Northern Exposure feel, mingling Mystery's idiosyncratic citizenry in a well-done series of episodes that lead up to the inevitable face-off versus the outside world. The pleasant rural folk include Russell Crowe as an aging player and the team's spiritual backbone. The people of Mystery are portrayed with a sense of community and nuance that keeps the movie fresh. Enough hockey knowledge is flaunted to please fans without alienating others, adding up to a solid sports film far less maudlin than many in the genre.

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