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Rah-rah is in the DNA of this rousing film version of how the U.S. hockey team beat the world-champion Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics. When the movie tugs too shamelessly and too long (the running time is 135 minutes) at the heartstrings, there’s always Kurt Russell to provide the needed edge. Russell plays Minnesota hockey coach Herb Brooks and nails the guy from his accent to his helmet hair and tacky pants. Russell is one of the most underrated actors in the business — his work as the corrupt cop in Dark Blue deserved Oscar attention — and he’s at his best here showing the hidden agenda of a coach who wants his team to hate him. Patricia Clarkson does wonders — not in Eric Guggenheim’s script — with the role of the coach’s wife. We are a long way from the easy manipulation of The Mighty Ducks. Miracle gives audiences something to cheer for — you won’t get that at The Butterfly Effect. You keep rooting for the team, mostly because director Gavin O’Connor (the terrific Tumbleweeds) cast real athletes instead of actors, a canny decision that pays major dividends when the big game is re-created. If you feel like shouting “Yes!” when TV announcer Al Michaels asks: “Do you believe in miracles?” — go for it.

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