Although homeschooled Farley (Noah Reid) has never played in any organized league, he has picked up some amazing hockey skills through just playing with others in his neighborhood at the local ice rink. His skills are impressive enough that it earns him an invite to join the local amateur league team from the team’s owner (Stephen McHattie). His parents (Olivia Newton-John and Marc Jordan) are skeptical of him playing league hockey, as is his lifelong friend, Eve (Allie MacDonald) and the team’s coach (John Pyper-Ferguson). But Farley soon proves himself and the nation is quickly captivated with his phenomenal skills at getting the puck down the ice and into the opposing team’s goal. Endorsement offers start to come in and even his parents warm to the idea that their son may be a future hockey star in the making. But all that changes when Farley finds himself in the first fight of his short career. Raised by his liberal parents to be a pacifist, his refusal to drop his gloves and start swing fists shocks a country who seem to hold that as part of the tradition of the game. Can Farley find a way to continue playing hockey without sacrificing his own personal ideals?
In some ways, Score: A Hockey Musical is reminiscent of Jacques Demy’s classic film musical The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg. Much of the dialogue between characters is sung, not spoken. The only difference is that the music for Score is not very good. In fact it is downright bland and forgettable. Individual characters lack their own melodic themes and most of the arrangements for each song/scene are indistinguishable from one another. Lyrics frequently suffer from awkward meters and forced rhymes. As such, it feels like a wasted opportunity. When you have Olivia Newton-John in your cast in her first film musical since 1980’s disasterpiece Xanadu, you want her to have some great material to work with. Unfortunately, she doesn’t.
Compounding the film’s problems is the fact that it doesn’t seem to want to fully commit to being a musical. Most of the film wants to play its story naturally. While characters sing to each other, there are no big dance numbers that one would associate with a musical. Granted, there are a few moments of choreographed movement here and there, but it is not until the film’s finale that we see anything that one could identify as a production number. And given that it shows a little bit of imagination on the part of writer/director Michael McGowan, it hints that a much better film could have been in the offering.
It’s a shame that the film falls on its face the way that it does. Its story of a hockey phenom whose pacifist upbringing makes the idea of fighting on the ice abhorrent to him is an interesting idea and plays out fairly well. The plot line of Eve’s long-held-secret unrequited crush on Farley is certainly old hat, but works well enough here thanks to the efforts of Reid and MacDonald. It just feels as if McGowan was more interested in the clever idea of a musical film about hockey than actually making it work.