Plot: Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman) is the player/coach for The Chiefs, a minor league hockey team. And when I say minor league, it doesn’t get much more minor that these guys, suffice it to say they’re not that good. But they have a smalll following, consisting mostly of their wives/girlfriends and the locals who work at the mill. When the mill closes, it adds to their low attendance problems, and management sees the need to find a way to put asses in seats, and they find one. Actually, they find three. They sign the Hanson brothers, who wear horn rimmed glasses and sport short lings. From moment one on the ice, it’s obvious what the new approach is. Instead of traditional, finesse hockey, the Chiefs become a wrecking crew, fighting, cheating, and the fans love every second of it! The seats get filled, and management is happy. Early on, the players are informed this is the last season for the Chiefs. But a potential move to Florida comes up, in addition to Reggie’s love life problems. Will Reggie ever retire? Will he solve his marital issues? Will the Hansons kill someone on the ice?
Entertainment Value: One of the best sports comedies of all time, Slap Shot is a riotous movie with endless charm and some iconic elements, including the unforgettable Hanson brothers. The narrative is not an original one, as some battered, worn down athletes battle against the odds to win, but Slap Shot has more than enough attitude and nerve to come across as fresh and fun. Aside from the Hansons, these aren’t plucky, energetic characters, but worn thin, trying to just survive type folks, which makes the entire premise evolve somewhat. You still have the usual tropes for this kind of film, but here they have more charm and even grit, so it never feels like just another sports comedy about underdogs. The sense of humor is dark at times, but it works well and has a lot of effective moments, not to mention colorful characters and quotable lines, so a lot of the humor is well crafted here. I think the depressing tone also helps Slap Shot stand out in a crowded genre, as it doesn’t have that “feel good” vibe some do, though the pace is brisk and never drags in the least. There’s just a downbeat, dingy texture to the entire movie, quite a fresh approach. I think Slap Shot is an all time classic comedy, not just for a sports picture, but in the genre overall.
When most people think of Slap Shot, one of the first things to come to mind is likely the outrageous Hanson brothers. This trio is so colorful and over the top, a perfect contrast to the rest of the film’s rather downbeat vibe and that really enhances the movie, not to mention adds a lot of laughs. The Hansons aren’t great actors, but they handle their roles well and aren’t asked to do a lot, so they get by on charm and how well they play off each other. As much as I like the Hansons, my personal favorite performance here comes from Paul Newman. He has stated numerous times that he loved making this movie, even more so than any other he worked on and it shows, as his presence is brisk and natural throughout. He brings the laid back Reggie to life in ideal fashion, with immense charisma and he handles the comic tones with ease. A lot of big name actors half ass it in these kind of sports movies, but Newman more than delivers here. The cast also includes Michael Ontkean, Strother Martin, Swoosie Kurtz, Jennifer Warren, M. Emmet Walsh, Paul D’Amato, and Lindsay Crouse.