Iron Will (1994)

Corn doesn't come any fresher than Disney's IRON WILL, an old-fashioned
crowd-pleaser about a boy and his dogs and a 522-mile winter race.
Perfect for kids and not-bad for adults, IRON WILL is a pleasing, hokey
alternative to the dreck that passes as current "family fare."

Inspired by a true story, Mackenzie Astin plays "Iron" Will Stoneman, a
spirited South Dakota lad who signs up for a marathon dog-sled race in
1917. The first to reach St. Paul, Minnesota from Winnipeg, Canada, wins
$10,000-- a sum that will go far to help the strapped Stonemans. They're
in straits since Dad died during-- what else?-- a dog-sled drive.

So, filled with both grim determination and his mother's fruitcake
(don't ask), Will rides for his father, his family, and his (college)

IRON WILL is, simply, the kind of movie they don't make anymore.

The story is simple and straight-forward: it's about a race. And when
the race ends, the film ends-- a rather jarring effect in this era of
padded running-times. Other than the drama, nothing else in IRON WILL is
inflated.  It's all scene after scene of Will racing onward to face
increasingly difficult odds.

(Oddly, one the film's weakest moments occurs when the filmmaker's take
something OUT.  The sole incongruity is a 90's-style training montage
that makes no narrative sense other than to condense a few extra minutes
of screen time.)

Corny as it is, there's a lot to like about IRON WILL.  The cast goes
down easy AND manages to keep a straight-face when delivering drippy
dialogue like "Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams,
son." The action is great, the dogs look good, and, in the wake of
recent wicked weather, the locales looks especially uninviting.

And the audacity that the director exhibits in manipulating his audience
is almost worth the price of admission. From the early death of Will's
dad to a championship cloying finale, Haid pulls every string he can lay
his hands on. It's hilarious.

IRON WILL is also good will. For audiences who are weary from endless
product tie-ins and strong social commentary, the film's near-lack of
cynicism is a welcome relief.

BOTTOM LINE:  The inflated drama of IRON WILL would sink any other film
like an ironclad. But, coupled to the "real life" story of 1917 dog-sled
race, it works to fine, hokey effect. Perfect for kids. Not bad for

Grade: B

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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