Sports was never my thing. In fact, it wasn’t until Wayne Gretsky gained popularity in the early 1990’s and The Mighty Ducks came out that I was even aware that playing hooky and hockey were two different things. Like most kids weaned on 90s culture, The Mighty Ducks trilogy was a franchise of divine caliber. In fact, my best friends and I reverted to our childhood devotion of the franchise when the advent of the Internet introduced us to steamy fanfiction and fan sites dedicated in the cast’s honor. Rewatching The Mighty Ducks now in my older age gives me slight comfort in the fact that it’s still a pretty good, heartwarming film, but I’m also reminded that it didn’t take much to impress kids in those days.
It’s the final quarter of the Pee Wee championship and the Hawks are one point away from taking home the glory. With seconds left on the clock, the fate of game is on the shoulders of 9-year-old Gordon Bombay. Through slow motion scenes that intercut with the opening titles, we see little Gordon raise his stick, shoot the puck, and miss the winning shot, proving it to be a class A bomb…bay. A single shot of little Gordon reveals him slumped in a heap of disappointment on the ice with a puff of defeated breath faltering through the air. The sadness is heartbreaking. Fast forward two decades later and Gordon is a savvy, asshole lawyer who doesn’t care what it takes to win as long as he does. After getting pulled over for driving under the influence, Gordon is suspended from work and required to do community service which entails coaching the District 5 hockey team. Unfortunately, the team is filled with rambunctious children who spend their days hustling people, playing practical jokes, and being awful at playing hockey. It’s up to Gordon to take the ragtag group of misfits and turn them into a winning group of Mighty Ducks.
Keeping it real for rich white dudes saving inner city kid’s lives through hockey everywhere.
The Mighty Ducks is good, clean fun with a cast of zany kids to help the corniness of the film seem bearable. Joshua Jackson is absolutely adorable with his Doris Day mullet as Charlie Conway, a fatherless kid looking for a dad in Gordon. The other lovable tots include Jessie (Brandon Adams), the street smart rebel of the group, Averman (Matt Doherty), the Wayne’s World-quoting rambler, Goldberg (Shaun Weiss), the greatest Jewish goalie in existence, that one kid that was in Heavyweights, that chick who later starred in Wet Hot American Summer (Marquerite Moreau), that one kid that looks like that bully from A Christmas Story, and well you get the point. Even if they are only given about 10 minutes of screen time, every character is given a time to shine and a memorable joke or moment.
Sadly, there’s nothing more to The Mighty Ducks then it just being your run of the mill sports drama that uses all the exact same conventions of other films in its caliber. The stereotypes of each character are flamboyantly displayed. The District 5 team isn’t just bad, they’re terrible. Gordon doesn’t start the film a slight asshole, but instead a full blown sphincter, so much so that prior to his DUI he’s speeding down an icy road drinking a beer at the wheel, blasting rock music with a license plate that says “Just Win.” Hawks coach Jack Reilly isn’t just a hard-nosed, competitive coach determined to win, instead he’s a sick in the head miser willing to endanger the lives of 9-year-olds for the sake of a PEE WEE TITLE.
Little known fact: Charlie Sheen’s media frenzy and the term “winning” was inspired by his older brother’s character in The Mighty Ducks.
The Mighty Ducks simply has no alarms and no surprises. I do adore it, but that’s mostly due to nostalgic reasons. I can’t imagine how bland it would be for someone watching it for the first time today, with its outdated jokes, poorly edited scenes, over-exaggerated character stereotypes, and a plot so predictable that there’s no need for your heart to race at the end or to expect anything other than the obvious to happen. If you’ve seen any sports film about a coach who has to whip a group of misfits into shape then you’ve seen The Mighty Ducks, just done much better.
Much better indeed.
The Mighty Ducks is 90’s as hell, but still a great film that made me want to cheer and yell at the end as though I hadn’t seen it 433 times… although I’m sure my reaction came from seeing it 433 times. A critical analysis of something so personal is kind of hard as initially I wanted to give it a toast because of the history I have with it. Despite my critiques, I will always love the first two films and only D3: The Mighty Ducks like a red headed stepchild, but that’s because I’m a duck, always and forever and ducks fly together!
Take a Drink: every time ridiculous soft lighting and sepia tones tell you it’s a flashback moment.
Take a Drink: every time Jessie gives Adam an “eat shit” look
Take a Drink: say it together; “Goldberg!”
Take a Drink: every time you forget about a teammate.
Take a Drink: every time you think “Hey, I remember that kid!”