Tuesday, December 04, 2007

From the Parkives, installment XIV

'Saint Ralph'
by Ed Park

Catholic schoolboy Ralph Walker (Adam Butcher) quixotically enters the 1954 Boston Marathon, magically thinking that a big Beantown victory constitutes a miracle—and only a "miracle," according to a doctor, will awaken his comatose mother. The odd mix of arbitrary plot and fastidious details (here is mid-century Hamilton, Ontario!) might lead a viewer to believe that Saint Ralph is the biopic of some awe-inspiring Canuck runner heretofore unknown stateside—Terry Fox pretty much filled up that informational pigeonhole. Discovering that it's all made up renders the experience even more pointless. The race itself is a suspenseful sequence of slo-mo uplift—suspenseful in the binary sports flick sense of either he wins or he loses, uplifting insofar as it's a music video scored to yet another version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," that de rigueur dirge that gives every montage from Shrek to the O.C .'s first-season finale a numinous coating of epiphany. There are points of contact with two other recent Catholic-youth titles: Millions (with its similar saint fixation) and House of D (fatherless boy, ailing mom). The most blatant rip-off is of the Rushmore soundtrack. But Ralph Walker is no Max Fischer, and his monomania gets dull fast. The unintentionally humorous high point comes when Ralph pores over an amazingly thin book entitled Canadian Martyrs, recalling the Airplane! passenger who, craving some light reading, receives the leaflet Famous Jewish Sports Legends.

—August 2nd, 2005, PTSNBN



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