An excellent ensemble cast, excellent writing, and many, many more laughs than goals. "The Tournament" is a six-part mini series broadcast by CBC Television in early 2005 (January 3, 2005 premiere).
Fans of Christopher Guest films ("Spinal Tap" "Waiting for Guffman" "Best in Show") will instantly appreciate the effective use of the mockumentary style in portraying a small Canadian town (Briarside) and its Pee-Wee hockey team, the Farqueson Funeral Home Warriors, gearing up for a big tournament in the city of Chateauguay. Much of the focus is centered around one working class family in particular, the McConnells, with ambitious zealot Barry (Alain Goulem) living vicariously through his son, Robbie (Martin Huisman), who really prefers jazz dance and ballet to hockey. Mom Janice (Paula Boudreau) can only grouse meekly to the camera while forced to endure Barry's self-absorbed fantasy life as the father of a future NHL professional. While Barry looks at Chateauguay as just another step for Robbie on the way to the big leagues, Janice views the medium-sized Quebec city as her Paris vacation. Barry is an auto parts gopher gone bonkers with his dream, even going so far as to build a crude 50-yard vestibule connecting his home to the limits of the neighboring county so his son can play there too. As a consequence, his marriage suffers. He just can't convince Hausfrau Janice of some fundamental God-given truths such as "Vacuuming's easy...hockey..hockey's hard." He's completely oblivious to the fact his boss still has a thing for his wife Janice, a former flame back in high school. Sounds all pretty small town-ish so far, but stick with it. You'll be glad you did.
Alain Goulem, as the lead, is without question the star of the show, but the performances from the entire cast are very good. This includes the child performers, most making their debuts. Particularly endearing is the foul-mouthed Denim Farqueson (Annie Bovard), who plays goalie on a boys' team and can't stand her wimp undertaker father (Richard Jutras). Cameo appearances are usually failures, but not here. Boston Bruins and Canadian national team legend Phil Esposito appears as himself, and rises to the quality of the rest of the cast. Christian Potenza, playing Barry's best friend, and Tracy Hoyt, as sponsor Hal Farqueson's wife, are especially noteworthy.
I usually yawn at intrusive efforts to insert a little PC propaganda into a TV show such as showing off "how well our predominantly white society integrates minorities" or some such blather. So I was pleasantly surprised that the portrait of an immigrant Indian gynecologist and his family was a major part of the story and not just another patronizing exercise in tokenism. Instead, it's great fun to watch Dr. Mohindar Singh (Cas Anvar) drop his usual well-mannered reserve to go toe-to-toe with Barry and fight for son Kumar's place on the team. All of Barry's antics infuriate him, especially the deliberate mispronunciation of his boy's name as "K-mar".
The hockey action is limited to a few minutes, and it's almost always peripheral. Most of the focus remains on the antics of Barry and the other parents in the stands. This is not some lame hockey movie like Disney's Mighty Ducks series.
It's a satire, it's a comedy, it's a barrel of laughs, and yet it is also at times a very accurate reflection of Canadian culture and the struggle to endure the winter months. About the only negative criticism one can try to stick The Tournament with is the charge that such subject matter as hockey parents; soccer moms, etc. is way too easy, and you could get more than a few chuckles just by going down to any amateur hockey rink in North America. Fair enough, but that still doesn't stop people from wanting to see Will Ferrel in Kicking and Screaming, does it? I found The Tournament so much better than that well-intentioned American effort. An unqualified 10/10 for "The Tournament" (2005).
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