I got to watch Mr. Hockey just the other night for the very first time
and although I am not a hockey fan, found the film quite appealing and
interesting. I am not altogether out of touch with the game and do,
therefore, recognize one of the greatest names ever to play the game. I
may have come in knowing next to nothing about him but I came out the
other end appreciating, very much, the type of man, player, husband and
father he was and, in my opinion, I think Michael Shanks did a
stand-out job portraying Gordie Howe.
I cannot however, say much about the production of this film or the bulk of the cast either. Shanks was the only character that completely inhabited his part. Kathleen Robertson was good but far too young for the part of the 40 year old Colleen Howe. In my estimation the production was an unprofessional shambles from the rest of the casting to the direction and writing plus the clothing, make-up and hair styles of the era in which Gordie joined his sons in signing on with the WHA and the Houston (Howeston) Aeros team in 1973. Colleen Howe looked to be about 22 years of age instead of 40, which she would have been in 1973 having been born in 1933! We first see her in 1973 wearing a pair of gray suede heels designed in the next millennium! An obvious oversight?!?! The make-up used was all wrong for her and she wore an excruciating amount of it for the time. Instead of aging her a bit they made her up as though she were a flawless Barbie type Kewpie doll...and it was a huge mistake! The polyester clothing was particularly bad and out of step, even for the 70's and the fright wigs, especially the one donned by Bobby Hull, were annoyingly laughable rather than in any way real.
This was film designed to depict one year of his life...the 1973 season. He was only two years out of retirement but was severely out of shape. The thing I didn't quite comprehend was this...Colleen Howe seemed to be an absolute and borderline OCD perfectionist in every way! She ruled Gordie and the entire household with an iron fist and knew every nuance of everyone's life within the family unit. Why she didn't say something to him and why it took so long for it to dawn on Gordie that at age 45 and two years after retirement he could not get away with simply re-signing to play the game again is beyond me. The boys, his teammates, might have clued him in as well but didn't. They were both just OK in their roles but you had absolutely no sense of them as members of that family or as players at all. The daughter was OK too but she was stuck in between them somehow. The only other person I can say did well in his role was Howe's former teammate, Bill Dineen, played by Martin Cummins, who "defected" to the WHA and who hired Gordie as well as drafted the boys. Tom Anniko who played Bruce Norris was pretty darned good as well...at least he was good enough to hate for his treatment of Howe after Gordie went to the WHA to join his boys on the ice!
Howe is the only player in the history of the game to compete in 6 decades of his life...he last took the ice at about age 70! I think it's a great little film for the sake of nostalgia but for my money, they gave Gordie Howe pretty short shrift! They might have given this icon of hockey a bit better script, story line and a decent production team to get this film done properly. They only had 14 producers on the film...and was this ever a case of too many cooks spoil the soup! It's worth a watch even if it's only to see Shanks in the role and to learn just a bit about the great Gordie Howe.
The story of the 1973 hockey season when aging legend Gordie Howe returned to the ice at the age of 44.
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