Hokey hockey musical kicks off Toronto film fest

Fri Sep 10, 2010 1:12am EDT
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By Ka Yan Ng and Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - "Score: A Hockey Musical," the movie that opened the Toronto Film Festival on Thursday, is both a departure and a return to tradition for one of Canada's signature cultural events.

The festival, seen as a starting point in the race for the Oscars, raised the ire of the local arts community last year when it ditched its tradition of showcasing a Canadian film on opening night and chose British evolutionist drama "Creation."

This year the pendulum has swung back with the force of a hockey slapshot with a hokey musical about Canada's favorite sport -- think the musical TV show "Glee" on skates -- as the festival's gala opening show.

That more than adequately fulfills the made-in-Canada mandate. But the inclusion of "Score" has also sparked a debate over giving low-brow subject matter such plum placement.

"This is a movie that will divide opening night audiences, when dour 'important' Canadian movies are usually on display," wrote Jim Slotek of QMI Agency.

"The Oscar-bait fare that usually comes to Toronto is usually morbid, high-toned affairs with lots of grieving, angst and broken families," wrote Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today. "This one is just pure fun."

The audience, some wearing hockey jerseys, clearly enjoyed the campy film as they hooted and hollered through key scenes. The ovation carried on after Canadian singer Hawksley Workman took the stage after the credits with a live version of the closing musical number, flanked by a children's choir and a drum line.

Directed by Toronto-born filmmaker Michael McGowan, "Score" stars Olivia Newton-John, who recently guest-starred on "Glee" as herself, as a hockey mom to a player who becomes an overnight sensation. Walter Gretzky, father of hockey's Great One, Wayne Gretzky, and former hockey player Theo Fleury make cameos as themselves.   Continued...

<p>A scene from "Score: A Hockey Musical" REUTERS/TIFF</p>