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Slap Shot DVD Review

Sports comedies are probably one of the most enjoyable genres Hollywood has to offer. There’s just something funny about seeing overpaid athletes look like idiots on screen, even if they do win “the big game.” The year 1977 not only brought us “Star Wars,” but a little hockey movie called “Slap Shot.” It was probably a lot funnier back then.

Minor league hockey is yet another struggling aspect in the town of Charlestown. Their Chiefs are awful, headed by a player/coach Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman). After hearing a rumor that the team could be sold to some new owners in Florida, Reggie decides to up the violence factor to draw the big crowds. This new attitude quickly sends the Chiefs on a massive winning streak as they begin their quest to take home the title, but the cost may be too much.

There is one reason, and one reason only, that “Slap Shot” is a classic. Numbers 16, 17, and 18: The Hanson Brothers. Without these guys (all actual hockey players), this movie would have nothing going for it. There is an agonizing pace here, causing the movie to run just over two hours. Many moments could have been trimmed, cut, and left on the floor to speed things up.

Most of comedy is meant for shock value, but nearly 30 years later, it’s not very offensive. Since it relies so heavily on four-letter words, this isn’t even remotely funny unless it’s entirely uncut (don’t even try to watch it on standard cable). That’s a pure sign that this movie has very little to offer.

But then the Hansons hit the ice and things pick up. They get most of the enjoyable lines and take part in a fight that seems awfully familiar to a recent NBA incident. Nearly every moment these three players are on screen is pure comedy joy. It’s really a shame you can’t say that for anyone else.

Paul Newman takes the lead, but just seems lost with a confusing script. So the team is moving to Florida or not? His multiple romances just drag this one down another notch and they never really amount to anything. The entire second half becomes almost entirely character driven, losing focus on what the movie is trying to be – a comedy.

Finally, the film ends with one of the most awful, ill-conceived, incoherent, and ridiculous endings in the history of modern movies. It leaves such a bad taste in your mouth, that even if the movie were great up until that point (it’s not), you would still leave utterly disappointed. Minor credit is due for not taking the cheap way out with the usual last second goal, but this is just flat out stupid. (** out of *****)

This is “Slap Shot’s” second appearance on DVD, this latest disc released to celebrate the 25th anniversary. The print used is clean with very minor damage, but the transfer has major trouble with the black levels. Seriously inconsistent, the movie takes on a brown hue during a few scenes where it should be a nice, deep black. Grain heavily obscures detail in the majority of scenes, though the on-ice action remains pretty clean, aided by strong color. That’s the only positive in a pretty weak effort. (***)

Leading the way is an awful 2.0 mono track. The audio is severely muffled, at times making some lines impossible to hear without the assistance of subtitles. The volume fluctuates on a regular basis making basic conversations sound like shouting matches. Crowd noise has a scratchy quality all its own. (**)

Making the movie slightly more tolerable is a commentary with the memorable Hansons. The movie made celebrities out of them and they have a great time here in character (and occasionally out). “Puck Talk with the Hansons” is basically what it says it is. The three “brothers” (only two of them are real life brothers, their real third member dropped out just before filming to actually play hockey) talk about the shoot, how they came to be in the movie, and other various relevant topics.

A really dumb feature is the ability to watch the Hansons favorite scenes (anything with them in it basically), but all of these are selectable as chapter stops anyway. It’s a waste of space. The production notes are actually interesting here (most of the players were actual hockey players in case you didn’t know) and well worth a read. Rounding out the disc are the basics including the trailer and bios. (****)

Numerous websites have picked “Slap Shot” to be one of the best sports movies ever made. It’s almost disgusting to see this in the ranks with stuff like “Hoosiers,” “Rudy,” or even better sports comedies like “Major League.” Nostalgia is the reason this movie will make any best-of list.

About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can follow Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • http://www.bjkresearch.com/bugblog/ Bruce Kratofil

    umm, if I’m not mistaken, Paul Newman invented the Florida rumor, as part of the effort to drum up interest in the team.

    That clears up one of the plot points.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    See, that’s how it comes out too. BUT, at the end, he goes to the “mysterious” owner, she says she won’t do it, but it seems completely logical that the rumor was true. That’s how the conversation plays out. Then, during the final game, they have people in the stands who are looking to buy the team. It doesn’t make a lick of sense.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    Like, you never considered that a minor league hockey team in a dying rust-belt town might be a metaphor, eh? For that, go to the penalty box and feel the shame for three minutes.

    If you’re looking for double bill with “Slap Shot”, watch “Perfectly Normal” which features Kenneth Welsh as an intramural coach who lies to his players to beat their rivals. And Robbie Coltrane as an opera loving con-man.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    Ok, so you want me to dig deep into a movie about three hockey playing nerds that fight? Seriously, this isn’t the type of movie you look for metaphors in. Did Happy Gilmore have something I missed? Major League?

  • http://www.kolehardfacts.blogspot.com Mike Kole

    Nah, this is a fun movie without any pretense of depth.

    I will say that it is probably a heck of a lot more fun to me as a hockey player and fan than for the average viewer, especially as a fan of minor league hockey. If you’ve ever been to minor league rinks like the old Hersheypark Arena, Fort Wayne War Memorial, and the like, you will have seen games with the ridiculous fights and the players can be loony characters in person.

    I’ll never forget a huge brawl in Fort Wayne playing against Cleveland. At the end of the fight, there were sticks and gloves all over the ice. There was also a cup that somehow came out of someone’s jock strap! I was sitting in the press box when someone pointed it out. I had a camera with a telephoto lens, so I racked it out and got the shot.

    It may as well have been Slapshot!

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    Actually “Happy Gilmore” was about the search for the Buddhist ideal of nirvana via playing golf from hockey.

    And doing the right thing for your granny.

  • Eric Olsen

    I thought it was the eternal search for the nexus between fury and bliss

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    I’m sure when the definitive filmography of Adam Sandler is written, it will be called “Between Fury and Bliss”. And it will include Eric’s review of Sandler’s Oscar winning remake of “Citizen Kane” in 2009. Or the filmed version of his hit one man Broadway show, “12 Angry Men”.

  • Eric Olsen

    very perspicacious thoughts Jim

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    the thought of “Rosebud…” being whispered from sandler’s mouth is just, well…something.

  • Did You Watch It?

    A couple of things…First, it’s clear that for most of the movie Newman is making up the rumors and trying to figure out who the owner is. When he finally does he goes to see her, looking for her husband. Second, the guys at the end are hockey scouts, not men looking to buy the team, that’s made clear through simple dialogue and provides the reason why the team gives up on “old school hockey” and resorts back to fighting. Third, this is not “Happy Gilmore”, “Slap Shot” was directed by George Roy Hill (“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Sting”). This is clearly a movie about people struggling with a sad existence where even the one true thing they have (hockey), can be corrupted. While we have fun along the way, Newman’s character is the one to be watched, while the Hanson brothers are comic relief. Try watching the movie (which clearly didn’t happen if you couldn’t follow the incredibly simple plot) before ripping it apart. It’s one of the few sports movies that has more going on than “will they win?” and is actually about the love of purity in sports that is easily lost when it becomes a commodity.