‘Hockey Musical’ to Open Toronto Film Festival

Festival keeps with tradition by kicking off with Canadian film

The Toronto International Film Festival, which in past years has been a crucial showcase for such award-wining films as “Ray,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Up in the Air,” has announced that the 2010 festival will kick off with something lighter:

A Canadian musical about hockey, starring ‘70s and ‘80s pop queen Olivia Newton-John and a cast of unknowns.

“Score: A Hockey Musical,” from Canadian director Michael McGowan (“Saint Ralph,” “One Week”), is the story of a teenaged hockey phenomenon, complete with 19 songs and a battery of cameos by Canadian sports and music stars.

Toronto Film Festival “I can’t think of a better way to kick off our 35th anniversary Festival than with ‘Score: A Hockey Musical,’” said festival co-director Cameron Bailey in a press release announcing the selection.  “It continues our tradition of launching the very best in Canadian filmmaking — although in 35 years this is our first musical romance about hockey.”

The film stars Noah Reid as a 17-year-old who becomes an unlikely star when he’s signed by a hockey league.  Newton-John and singer/songwriter Marc Jordan play his parents, while a variety of other Canadian musicians and sports stars – including singer Nelly Furtado, hockey player Theo Fleury and Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter – make cameo appearances.

The film features 19 songs, and includes music from Newton-John, Jordan and Barenaked Ladies.

TIFF’s director and CEO, Piers Handling, says the film “captures key elements of Canadian identity – our passion for our national pastime, our unique musical style and our special brand of humor.”

Although TIFF is best known for the annual array of awards contenders that screen over the course of the festival, it also has a strong Canadian component, and often opens with a Canadian film.

Last year’s TIFF drew criticism in its home country for opening with the British film “Creation,” which was not well-received by critics and did not figure in the awards picture.  

The festival will begin on September 9 and run through September 19.

(Photo of 2009 TIFF opening by Jason Merritt/Getty Images.)