The Mighty Ducks (1992)

Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in All Play and No Work | 0 comments

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Disclaimer: Depicts drunk driving and gratuitous quacking.

When The Mighty Ducks smacked its way onto movie screens during my elementary school years, it took the pre-teenage boy demographic by storm. Suddenly everyone wanted to play hockey and become the next Wayne Gretzky – at least that was the case in my small Wisconsin town. I’d imagine it was the same for those from Minnesota, the state where the film was shot and the place where children practically grow up in ice rinks (and don’t forget Canada, eh). This came as unfortunate news for parents, who soon learned the apparel and gear alone costs hundreds of dollars, not to mention the mini-van they needed to transport all of it. Watching it now, probably a decade since the last time,  I realize that The Mighty Ducks is as much a family sports movie as it is an instructional montage on sports movie clichés. Yet I still find myself strangely attracted to “the triple deke” and the best “slow clap” in the history of cinema, so great in fact that every time someone starts the “slow clap” I find myself whispering, “quack, quack, quack …”

I imagine it was the use of these clichés that garnered the storm of negative reviews, but I doubt Disney’s complaining after its success paved the way for two sequels, an animated TV series, an animated made-for-TV movie, and, oh yeah, a franchise in the National Hockey League.

The movie involves all the usual suspects. Exhibit A: the asshole coach (an undefeated lawyer, no less) is forced to lead a team of winless, inner-city ruffians to the playoffs in order to redeem himself. Exhibit B: the coach’s difficult past, told through a newspaper article and three flashbacks, complete with a reverberating message, “If you miss this shot, you’re not just letting me down, you’re letting the whole team down, too.” Exhibit C: the team of ruffians, including a scared goalie, spaz, idiot, tough kid, and a loudmouth that ends everything with “meister.” Exhibit D: a couple of recruits they steal off the street – the girl and the rebellious star who can hit a puck so hard it will either a) break windows, b) scorch through the net, or c) knock over the goalie. Exhibit – what are we on now? oh yeah – E: one of the players has a single mom, now the coach’s love interest. Exhibit F: the evil coach that gave our hero his difficult past is still evil, and now coaching the best team. Is there something wrong with his collar that it keeps standing up? Oh no, he’s just a douche bag. Exhibit G: the hero’s mentor, an elderly skate shop owner, directs our hero back to the right track. “It’s not about winning. Teach them to have fun. Teach them to fly.” Exhibit H: an inspiring speech and training montage does the trick. Exhibit I: it all ends with “the big game,” where more than just a trophy is on the line. Exhibit J: the serious injury threatens the team’s performance. Exhibit K: a soundtrack with Queen’s We Are the Champions and We Will Rock You.

This whole thing surrounds Ducks3Minneapolis’s Pee Wee Hockey League, where the suburban rich kid-dominated Hawks have won state for almost three decades. They have a second place banner for 1973, though, as that was the year that our hero (Emilio Estevez) posted the penalty shot that would have won it. He apparently used to love to play, so much so that current NHL stars remember him. The fun aspect was lost somewhere along the way, though. Hmmm, let me see. Oh, yeah, his coach’s mantra was, “It’s not worth playing if you can’t win.” That explains it.

One of the series’ real hooks – it’s surprisingly not shots to the crotch, as there’s only one – is special hockey moves like the shotgun slap shot, knuckle puck, figure skating tricks, the infamous “Flying V,” and young Joshua Jackson’s “triple deke.”

Indeed, we’ve seen all these elements play out on screen before, in films like Bad News Bears and Hoosiers. So why did they even bother making this one? Well, obviously, we’ve never seen these things on ice.

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