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Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Another 'Slap'-happy sequel

By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

The temptation to follow up a successful sports movie with a sequel is simply too alluring. Even as you read this, someone probably is typing the plot to "Rocky VI: Yo, Parkinson's," lining up actors for "Field of Dreams 2: Personal Seat Licenses" or scouting locations for "The Bad News Bears Go To Iran."

Slap Shot 2
Replacing Paul Newman with Stephen Baldwin ranks as the worst line change in hockey history.
In the history of cinema, there have been exactly four sequels worthy of the original -- "The Godfather II," "The Empire Strikes Back," "Aliens" and "Toy Story 2" -- but that hasn't stopped Hollywood from repeatedly cashing in on the popularity of a lucrative movie with a rotten and unnecessary sequel. Too often, producers follow the philosophy of Bobby Kennedy. Instead of listening to a pitch for a sequel and asking, "Why?" they ask, "Why not?"

Thus, we have "Look Who's Talking Too," "Speed 2: Cruise Control," "Jaws 3-D," "Goonies 2" and "Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace."

And now, there is "Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice," recently released to video stores.

The original "Slap Shot" is one of the best and most beloved sports movies of all-time, featuring the talents of three Academy Award winners: actor Paul Newman, director George Roy Hill and writer Mary Dowd. Released 25 years ago, its tale of a minor-league hockey team is such a brilliantly funny salute to the sport that the videotape is a required element on every hockey team bus in North America.

It's safe to say, however, that if forced to watch "Slap Shot 2" on a long bus ride between games, you would be demanding Jar-Jar Binks halfway across Alberta.

I visited the set of "Slap Shot 2" last April and watched the crew film the movie's climactic scene. I had my doubts then. The dialogue was clumsy, and the ending seemed abrupt and lame. But I would hate to have someone judge my columns while I'm still writing them, so I gave "Slap Shot 2" the benefit of the doubt. Alas, my first instincts were right.

Hansons
Appearances of the Hanson Brothers couldn't even produce some much-needed laughs for "Slap Shot 2."
The movie isn't embarrassing like "Caddyshack II" -- in fact, the cinematography is very well done and a few of the supporting actors are fine. The film just isn't very good or well-written.

The plot centers on the purchase of the beloved Charlestown Chiefs by a one-dimensional broadcaster (Gary Busey), who turns them into a Washington Generals-type foil for a Harlem Globetrotters-like hockey team. The storyline and its various subplots aren't particularly believable, though neither was the plot to the original. The crucial difference is, the characters were so fresh, funny and likeable in "Slap Shot" that you enthusiastically hopped aboard for the ride. The original Chiefs became your friends, and you cared what happened to them. You wouldn't care what happens to these new Chiefs if they were on your fantasy team.

  "Slap Shot 2" is only for the hard-core fan of the original, the type who owns Hanson brothers action figures. The rest of us will just have to wait for other sequels, such as "Chariots of Steroids," "The Slugger's Wives: The Al Martin Story" and "White Men Can't Golf." 
  

Newman, naturally, would have rather appeared in public in his test-pattern plaid wardrobe from the original than appear in this sequel. Instead, the coaching role is filled by Stephen Baldwin, which must be considered the worst line change in hockey history.

While the wildly popular Hanson brothers are back, they are expected to carry far too much of the load, as if simply putting them on the screen will make up for inadequate punchlines. They're used like stock returning characters on a weathered "Saturday Night Live" skit, inserted for cheap, easy laughs when the writers can't think of anything new and funny of their own.

There are a few amusing moments and homages to the original -- the best is a nice reference to the last skater on the pinwheel -- but overall, this is a movie that fully deserves the "Direct to Video" assignation, a phrase that should inspire as much dread in movie goers as, "Kazaam: The Director's Cut."

"Slap Shot 2" is only for the hard-core fan of the original, the type who owns Hanson brothers action figures. The rest of us will just have to wait for other sequels, such as "Chariots of Steroids," "The Slugger's Wives: The Al Martin Story" and "White Men Can't Golf."

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.