It’s Christmas season, which is nice for people who celebrate it and probably extremely annoying for everyone who doesn’t. We at High Heels and High Sticks had some vague plans for the holidays, all of which fell by the wayside in light of our various obligations, and here we are, on Christmas Adam, with nothing at all seasonal to grace the blog.
Which brings me to the topic of today’s post: the 2004 (classic) movie Miracle.
The only thing wrong with this poster is that it doesn’t show Kurt Russell with his magnificent haircut.
“But Jonesy,” you say, “how is that related to Christmas at all? That’s a movie about the Olympics!”
Okay, yes. It’s not a Christmas classic like Die Hard (the best Christmas movie ever in my opinion) and it’s not even as Christmas-y as the wonderful hockey-themed Breakfast with Scot (which we’ll definitely have to do a post about at some point), but Miracle is firmly fixed in my mind as Christmas movie despite the fact that it came out in the summer.
Here are the five reasons Miracle is an excellent Christmas movie:
1. It looks cold
Any movie where the characters look cold/are dressed for cold for a substantial period of time gets an automatic leg up towards being a Christmas movie in the northern hemisphere. Maybe this is a terrible reason, but songs like White Christmas exist for a reason. To many people (Taylor Hall included), Christmas just isn’t Christmas without snow.
2. There’s actually a Christmas scene in the movie
It’s unclear whose idea it was to dress Jim Craig up as Santa or if indeed he just showed up in the suit. Goalies.
If it’s been a while since you watched Miracle, let me refresh your memories: the team celebrates the holiday with Jim Craig dressed as Santa, and they give their crotchety, hard-ass coach a very special gift: a whistle. And then they chorus, “Again!” and burst into laughter at the memory of being bag skated in a dark arena. And that’s what Christmas is all about: getting together with the people in your life and laughing about things that at the time seemed awful but now seem less so because you’re with people you love.
3. It shares themes with many Christmas movies
Most Christmas movies have a number of elements in common. They often focus on hard work and sacrifice (It’s A Wonderful Life, for example). They look at families and friends and teamwork, and often someone grumpy or crotchety changes or is revealed to have hidden depths (The Grinch, A Christmas Carol). And often there’s some element of the fantastic in some way or another: a child miraculously fending off two robbers on his own (Home Alone) or discovering that the Macy’s Santa is the real deal (Miracle on 34th Street).
Miracle is about the hard work of the 1980 team, a group of college-aged boys who no one expected to have the training or skill necessary to beat the juggernaut Russian team. Herb Brooks, love him or hate him, is portrayed as a thoughtful, tough, but dedicated coach by Kurt Russell and the scene where he quietly pumps his fist to himself after winning gives us a real glimpse at how much this meant to him.
Me too, Herb. Me too.
And of course, there’s the miracle itself: getting up a goal on the Soviet Union in the third period and holding the lead to the end, down to Al Michaels’ iconic, ecstatic cry of disbelief, “Do you believe in miracles?” as the United States beat the USSR on their way to gold.
On a side note, my favorite fact from the book The Boys of Winter is that cleanup workers at Lake Placid found 121 empty vodka bottles in the Russian team’s rooms after they’d left.
4. It’s uplifting
Well, if you’re American at least, or if you’re a big fan of underdog sports stories (I am). We take a group of ragtag misfits — or at least, they don’t fit with each other all that well — and over the course of the film they are molded into a team. It’s made clear that they are vastly behind the USSR team in terms of playing together as a team.
And when you look back at it in hindsight, it’s even more startling. When you look at the people on that 1980 Russian team — Valeri Kharlamov, Vladislav Tretiak, Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladimir Krutov, Sergei Makarov among them — these are some of the best Russian hockey players in history. There are some who would argue Kharlamov should be up there in rankings of best players ever. Tretiak is in the Hockey Hall of Fame (noticeably biased towards NHL players) without ever having played in the NHL. Then you look at the US team and how many of them went on to have really successful careers in hockey, and the five that had over 500 games did well for themselves but certainly don’t have the name cachet of Fetisov or Makarov.
The film does, too, a wonderful job of setting the scene of the United States political climate with the stains of Watergate and Vietnam still weighing heavily on the American consciousness. This was the Cold War, too, and later in 1980 Jimmy Carter would decide that the Americans would not attend the Moscow Summer Olympics in protest of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Beating the Soviet Union at something they had dominated for years was perhaps mostly a symbolic victory, but it was still important, and that’s why it’s frequently ranked as the greatest sports moment of the century.
5. Ultimately the movie is about family
Like I said above, the team is at first just a group of guys: prideful, testosterone-fueled boys. But as the movie goes on, they become closer as a group until they are fighting for each other to the point of asking Brooks not to include his new favored player that they don’t know, telling him, “We’re a family.” They fight for Eruzione to be captain, and they defend each other on the ice and off.
And then there are the smaller family moments: Brooks and his family; Jim Craig and his dad; but the moment that really resonates is when Eruzione gestures his team to join him on the medal stand so they can all embrace and revel in their accomplishment.
I’m not crying I just got some patriotism in my eye.
So if you’re looking for a good movie to get you in the mood for Christmas, maybe it’s time to dust off your copy of Miracle and feel the holiday spirit.