Full Disclosure: I watched National Lampoon's Pucked months ago, during the lockout. I was going to write up and post the review around then but two things happened: One, the NHL season started and suddenly reviews for little-seen comedies starring aging rock stars seemed better placed on the most far back burner we have here; and two, I lost my notes. I'm not sure if my wife accidentally threw them away or my daughter converted them into a pirate's treasure map. But in any event, I'm going on memory.
Unfortunately, Pucked isn't a very memorable movie. Here's what I do remember about it:
Like most people here on Earth, I had never heard of Pucked. Mark suggested I watch it and review it.
- In the movie, Jon Bon Jovi plays a former big time lawyer who is now a down-and-out full-time hair-brained schemer. At some point, he decides to start a women's hockey league because, if he didn't, there would be no movie.
- Frank lives with his sister, played by SNL alumna Nora Dunn. Dunn's very important job in the movie is to constantly remind viewers that Frank was once a big time lawyer and is now a colossal loser who also happens to look like Jon Bon Jovi.
- For help, Frank enlists his dim-witted but loyal best friend, played by Married with Children's David Faustino.
- When he can't line up investors and with the female players he's auditioned itching to play, Frank starts using thousands of pre-approved credit cards to finance his dream. In a shocking display of logic seen nowhere else in the film, Frank's scheme eventually lands him in court.
- Most of the female hockey players are nameless background eye candy. I don't remember any gratuitous nudity, but I might be wrong.
- Two exceptions to the anonymous gaggle of girls rule: one was the blonde Quebecois girl who spoke only French and looked like Nellie Oleson from Little House on the Prairie. My wife and I called her, "Nellie Oleson."
- The other exception is a bruising, amazonian skater played by Dot Jones, better known as Coach Beiste on Glee. As she does on that show, Jones is able to use her cartoonish looks and her disarming likability to make a character enjoyable and sympathetic. She's by far the best thing Pucked has going for it. I'm glad she survived this.
- During the game sequences, Jones looks a little like Jaromir Jagr. It must be the mullet.
- Spoiler: There's a BIG IMPORTANT GAME AT THE END that proves Frank's crazy idea just might work.
- Try as he may, Bon Jovi is never able to shake his inherent Bon Jovi-ness. As a down-and-out full-time hair-brained schemer, Bon Jovi is about as authentic as a $3 bill. It's not that he's a bad actor. He's just a limited one. At no point does he seem like a guy who is crazy and desperate enough to try starting a women's hockey league out of his sister's house. When Frank has to lean on his experience as a predatory lawyer, Bon Jovi is able to put his looks and stage experience to good use, making the scenes much more believable. Too bad that only happens in the last 10 minutes of the movie.
- In other words, they had a Bud Bundy-style character, hired Bud Bundy and then made him play Bud Bundy's dim-bulb best friend, while casting Jon Bon Jovi as Bud Bundy. Brilliant.
- Speaking of Faustino, the movie is actually told as a flashback by his character to a paycheck-cashing Curtis Armstrong, who appears as the world's laziest courthouse janitor.
- Frank's other project is getting back together with his ex-girlfriend, played by Canadian actress/model/swimmer Estella Warren. Warren looks like she could be Bon Jovi's daughter, which is creepy even if the guy is Jon Bon Jovi.
- Pucked was directed by Arthur Hiller in his first feature gig after a 10 year hiatus. Hiller directed a string of hits in the 70's, including Love Story, Silver Streak and the original version of The In-Laws. Hiller is one of those old school guys who started in television in the 50's and 60's, directing anthology series and classic shows like Perry Mason, The Rifleman and The Addams Family before moving onto movies. He's worked with Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder, Al Pacino and John Goodman among others. Pucked, the last film he directed, is not among his shining moments.
- The hockey scenes are not well captured. I'm pretty sure they showed the same shot on goal three times at one point in the BIG IMPORTANT GAME AT THE END.
- Pucked has four (4) credited screenwriters. It's unclear if any of them has ever watched a live sporting event of any kind.
- Watching Pucked during the lockout was a very weird, ironic experience. The cold, money-driven world of sports labor negotiations was front and center of every hockey site. The games and the players took a backseat to the lawyers and owners who really make the NHL go. And here was a movie in which two penniless knuckleheads start an entire league with a few credit cards, one crappy arena and a dream. If the movie was funny, my disbelief would be a lot easier to suspend.
- Pucked is not a funny movie.
- Some films can overcome a modest budget and production limitations to create a fully fleshed-out world and tell an engaging story that grabs viewers and makes them forget about the spit and Scotch Tape holding everything together.
- Pucked is not one of these films.
- Random note: I met Dot Jones at E3 2011, where she was promoting the video game Karaoke Revolution: Glee Volume 1. At the time, my wife and I were fans of Glee and especially Jones, who had recently become a regular on the show. Jones took a few minutes out of her very busy schedule to talk with me and was very gracious and thankful and gave me a big hug. She's very cool. But man, did Glee ever get terrible. Holy cow.
- Pucked is available on Amazon Instant streaming. Don't watch it. It's not the worst hockey movie ever made, but it's not essential viewing either. It's just sorta...there.