A boy's life in hockey-mad 1960s Quebec
The star of the show is Martin, a young boy in the outer reaches of 1960s Quebec, who adores "Rocket" Richard and the Canadiens. Martin loves hockey, a passion he shares with his uncle Maurice, but not his father, who is busy learning English to get ahead at work. Unfortunately for Martin, he lives three hours away from Montreal and tickets to the games are scarce, so he can't see his heroes in person. Instead he spends his days collecting hockey cards and playing street hockey and watching hockey on TV, and doing all the usual kid stuff like school and dealing with the local bully. He's also got the attention of a new neighbor, Veronique, who plays goalie, making her the ultimate woman to a 12-year-old.
Truthfully, that's pretty much the whole story. There are bits and pieces of comedy and drama spread throughout the film, as the quest for Canadiens tickets progresses, and a subplot involving a rare hockey card turns friend against friend, but the main story, spread over 105 minutes, is just not that interesting. Perhaps if Martin was more of an active part of the quest, it would work, but things seem to only happen to him. There are characters on the screen for mere minutes who affect the story more than Martin.
There's an attempt to craft a quirky little cast of characters around Martin, an important part of serio-comic coming of age stories like this. Unfortunately, it never quite works, as the film has no real interest in what these people do, regarding them simply as another person in Martin's life. For example, there's a hippie teacher at his school who is obviously intended to teach Martin a life lesson, but it just doesn't mean anything, as there's no real effect on the character. The direction and cinematography is much better than the story, as the look of the film is very nice, and the visually, the story moves smoothly, with some real style.
If you're an English-speaking person like me, you're not likely to enjoy the awkward dub job done on this film. From the way French-Canadian names like Martin and Maurice are mispronounced, to the badly voice-acted dramatic moments, to the unacceptable translation that results in ill-fitting dialogue, the whole effort only detracts from the film. The DVD producers could have simply put an English subtitle track on the French audio and reached the same audience, but perhaps impress that audience a bit.
Once again, I could have appreciated the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack if I knew all the words to "Alouette," but instead, the Ugly American got a 2.0 track that is OK, delivering the dialogue clearly and crisply, in a center-focused mix. The French track is strong, with some minor enhancement on the music and some atmospheric effects in spots, but it sounded like a bunch of noise to these uncultured ears.
The Bottom Line