Peace Arch Entertainment // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 13th, 2010
@#$% you Canada!
This made-for-Our-Neighbor-to-the-North-TV movie tells the true story of an exhibition hockey game that healed global relations and prevented severe instability in the northern hemisphere. Well, not really, but it made a lot of kids smile.
Sticks and Stones takes places just as the US begins its campaign in Iraq. Naturally there are some strong feelings on both sides of the Northern border about this course of action and they are about to affect two pee wee hockey teams intimately -- one from Canada, one from the US. When the American kids journey up North to participate in a tournament, they are stunned to discover the level of antipathy citizens seem to have against anything US. Their bus is swarmed by protesters, they're berated at a hockey game, and the refs are screwing them over with fake penalties.
After the American kids go home pissed, one of the Canadian kids -- Jordan (Alexander De Jordy) -- takes it upon himself to put together a "friendship game," which would bring back the Yankees as an apology for the way they were treated. Understanding ensues.
When this thing first unspooled, I started having fears of being subjected to a ham-handed political smack piece dressed up as family flick. One of the early scenes featured the coach of the Canadian hockey team (and dad to the main kid) bemoaning the belligerence of America and its desire to find any excuse to bomb countries.
Golly, can you image my bewilderment when the movie takes a 180 and shows us that the true douchebags are in fact -- Canadians!!! That's right, as soon as our merry band of American kiddos make it to Canada, they're subjected to all types of ass-clownery, from anti-war protesters shaking their team bus and threatening bodily harm on the coaches, to a flurry of booing at the pro game they attend.
The remainder of the film is devoted to Jordan doing his best to remedy the situation, pretty much single-handedly. These sequences are actually when Sticks and Stones (a fairly goofy title, if you really think about it) succeeds. Young Alexander De Jordy, a newcomer, nails it as the eager kid looking to make up for the treatment his fellow diminutive puck-heads endured. We all know kids as main characters in a film -- even a family film -- can be a dicey misadventure, but De Jordy is genuinely good here, successfully monkeying around with emotions of remorse, excitement, and even cynicism (his parents' marriage is shaky).
Ultimately, the friendship game does happen, though that's not the focus of the movie. This is less a "hockey film" and more a "you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it" endeavor. Looked at it with that angle, this is a feel-good winner. And as an added bonus, there are some thoughtful examinations on how a family copes with one of its members heading off to war.
Oh, and to all of our valued Canadian readers: your peeps come off smelling just fine by the film's end.
The disc: a nice 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, 2.0 stereo, and no extras.
A simple, but effective tale of a plucky kid who puts his principles and moral code above his own interests. Recommended.
Not Guilty. I'm sorry Canada. Can we be BFFs again?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Peace Arch Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (CC)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG