'Hockey Musical' to open Toronto Film Fest

Canadian pop culture crowd-pleaser with 19 original songs

TORONTO -- "Score: A Hockey Musical" is to open the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9.

Fest organizers tapped Canadian director Michael McGowan's music-driven homage to hockey, toplined by Olivia Newton-John and Nelly Furtado as a hockey zealot, to kick off their 35th edition with a glitzy world premiere at Roy Thomson Hall.

The coming-of-age movie portrays a sheltered 17-year-old, played by newcomer Noah Reid, going from zero to hero on the ice in a matter of weeks. Think "Glee" with sticks and skates as hockey players croon while slapping a puck round an ice rink.

"Plan for a fun night on Sept. 9," festival co-director Cameron Bailey said after choosing the Canadian pop culture crowd-pleaser with 19 original songs woven into the movie's dialogue.

The announcement of the festival's 2010 opening-night film was suitably made Wednesday morning at the Hockey Hall of Fame in downtown Toronto.

The fest is looking to appeal with its first-nighter to Canadians who grew up with a hockey stick in their hands and makeshift goalie nets in their driveways.

TIFF director and CEO Piers Handling added the movie will be memorable for pairing hockey, which is to obsessive Canadians what baseball is to Americans, with a unique musical style and comic sensibility.

Canada, recently beating Team USA to win the hockey gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, should provide a convenient backdrop to this year's TIFF opener.

McGowan, who also penned the script for "Score," wrote the song lyrics that are put to music for the movie by the Barenaked Ladies, Newton-John, Amy Sky, Hawksley Workman and singer-songwriter Marc Jordan.

Jordan and Newton-John, who play the highbrow parents of the young hockey star, also co-wrote and perform a song for the indie movie's end credits.

The movie's ensemble cast includes Allie MacDonald, Stephen McHattie and Dave Bidini of the rock band Rheostatics.

McGowan was previously at TIFF with the 2008 road movie "One Week" and the 2004 drama "Saint Ralph," both of which were boxoffice hits.

The festival last year opened with a foreign-made film, Jon Amiel's Charles Darwin biopic "Creation," so Toronto was, per tradition, likely to return to the Canadian fold for its launch.

The $5.3 million "Score" was produced by Mulmur Feed Co. Production, and was shot in and around downtown Toronto last February and March.

McGowan and Avi Federgreen share the producer credits, with Richard Hanet and Jody Colero executive producing.

About half of the film's budget came from Telefilm Canada, the federal government's film financer, with added coin was drawn from the Ontario MediaDevelopment Corporation, Astral Media's Harold Greenberg Fund, and federal and Ontario tax credits.

Mongrel Media will release the picture in Canada in October to take advantage of an expected TIFF media splash.

TIFF will make added film programming announcements in the coming weeks, ahead of this year's Sept. 9-19 run.