Miracle at Oxford


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Rating: R

Johan Leysen as Daniel Topolski
Dominic West as Donald MacDonald
Dylan Baker as Michael Suarez, S.J.
Geraldine Somerville as Ruth MacDonald
Josh Lucas as Dan Warren
Brian McGovern as Rick Ross
Noah Huntley as Nick Bonham
Edward Atterton as Freddy Prideaux-Jones
Ryan Bollman as Morrison Black
Andrew Clover as Rob Atkins
Jonathan Cake as Patrick Conner
Tom Hollander as Sam Peterson
Nicholas Rowe as David Ball
Patrick Malone as Mike Johnson
Alexis Denisof as Ed Fox

Special Features:

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital Surround Sound
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 115 Minutes

This film was originally released in 1996 under the title “True Blue”. The following is from the DVD cover:

“Miracle at Oxford stars Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama) and Dominic West (The Forgotten) in the inspirational account of a team rising to meet the ultimate challenge of winning back its honor! To Oxford University, “The Boat Race” – the intensely competitive annual rowing competition between Oxford and its archrival Cambridge — is more important than the Olympics. So when Oxford’s long winning streak ends in humiliating defeat, they vow victory the next year at all costs! But the method they choose threatens to tear the team apart while setting up a struggle between old-school traditions and modern rivalry! Now facing extreme pressure, they must rally together to achieve their one common goal – restore the pride of Oxford!”

Miracle at Oxford is rated R for language.

The Movie:
Before seeing “Miracle at Oxford”, I can’t say I had any knowledge or interest in rowing. After seeing the film, I still can’t say I have any interest in it. While Brits may thoroughly enjoy this film based on a true story, anyone unfamiliar with the sport or the competition between Oxford and Cambridge are probably going to be really bored. This seems more like a quick attempt to cash in on the popularity of recent sports films like Miracle, The Rookie, and Remember the Titans. The fact that they renamed the film from True Blue to Miracle at Oxford lends evidence to that. The cover also has more than a passing resemblance to the DVD for Miracle.

Like most sports films, this one is about a group of underdogs who overcome adversity to become big winners in whatever sport the movie is about. There’s your typical fight between the star player and the coach, the fighting between the players, the grueling training, and the final moment of triumph were everyone becomes friends. What makes this movie fail where other sports films succeed is the fact that it spends a majority of the time focusing on a power play between the arrogant star rowers and their coach. The players stage a political battle between themselves and the coach they disagree with. The petty squabbling and unsportsmanlike conduct dominate the majority of the movie. Only in the last minor portion of the story do they return to the sport of rowing itself. This makes the film more than a little tedious and is its ultimate downfall.

Despite the fact that it dwells on coup attempts by players, the film does have a good cast. Dominic West is excellent as Donald MacDonald, the embattled president of the rowing club. The fact that he’s almost over the hill for rowing adds some urgency to his situation and helps his character along. Johan Leysen plays Daniel Topolski, the persecuted coach of the team who sticks to old school ways. His determination to coach despite the protests of some players is really what this story is about. Josh Lucas is also good as Dan Warren, the arrogant medal winning American rower who is the source of most of the problems our characters face. The rest of the cast is good, but there are very few standouts among them.

Miracle at Oxford is also a good looking film. They make the countryside surrounding Oxford look quite impressive and the scenes of rowing are beautifully staged.

Unless you’re specifically interested in rowing or the story of Oxford vs. Cambridge, then I suggest you pick another movie to watch. There are more entertaining sports films out there than this.

The Extras:
There are no bonus features included on this DVD.

The Bottom Line:
Unless you’re a really big fan of rowing or Oxford, you’ll want to pass on “Miracle at Oxford” (aka True Blue). There are more entertaining sports films out there.