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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Retro Review: The Mighty Ducks (1992)

The Mighty Ducks
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Joss Ackland, Lane Smith, Joshua Jackson
Genre: Sports Comedy Drama
U.S Box Office Gross: over $50 million 

Plot: A self-centered Minnesota lawyer is sentenced to community service coaching a rag tag youth hockey team 

'Formulaic Underdog Sports Movie With Great Action, But Bland & All Too Cliched Story'

The Mighty Ducks is a live-action Disney sports comedy film which in contrast to many of its other alternatives is okay in places, somewhat. But as an overall film and compared to its adult counterparts in Wildcats, along with the cheesy music, it's relatively all too cliched and contrived for me to appreciate fully. A cosy and all too safe approach from the land of Mickey Mouse, as the film progresses, there is no sense that The Mighty Ducks could ever advance any further than it did.

Featuring Charlie Sheen's brother, Emilio Estevez and a pre- adolescent Joshua Jackson, who later found fame on Dawson's Creek as one of the young players in the squad, The Mighty Ducks is the type of film I enjoyed as a teen back in the early 1990s, but in revisiting it, I have to say that for me anyway, the things I found cringing and juvenile today were stuff I completely overlooked as an 11/12-year-old at the time in 1992. As I was so caught up with the rest of the film. 

Gordon Bombay is a former, one-time junior ice hockey star who grew up to become a hot-shot yet arrogant lawyer. After Bombay is sent packing by his boss, he is later arrested for drink-driving in Minnesota. As punishment, he is forced to spend his community sentence by serving as a hockey coach to a team of inner- city kids and turning them from zeroes to heroes. Gordon is still haunted by past memories of missing the final shot in a championship peewee hockey match, with his then- coach berating him relentlessly for it. Who also turns out to be Gordon's adversary for the Mighty Ducks. Strangely, for a kids film, its emphasis is on an adult character trying to be a consummate adult and professional that he tries to be.

I couldn't take Emilo seriously as the lead: he doesn't strike me as someone who could pass up as a star that could attract large audiences, and that along with the film being a tad overlong with the middle sagging - only to pick things up in the last third, The Mighty Ducks would have benefited from having actors and performances that entice this film in being fully entertaining from beginning to end. Wildcats worked because the script was interesting and Goldie Hawn convinced as the coach of struggling football jocks.

But here, it just never materialised and coming off the back of flops in Young Guns II, Men At Work & Freejack during the early 1990s, The Mighty Ducks and the third film in the series hardly did wonders for Estavez's career.

The only memorable scenes are the hockey scenes and the match itself; everything else is relative and forgotten about. The young characters are as cliched and stereotypical as one expects, especially in a Disney film - and yet we don't get to learn or find out more about them as individuals and their individual personalities.

Almost all of these kids are now adults in their early 30s to early 40s including Joshua Jackson, Jussie Smollett, who is on the Fox TV show, Empire and later on SNL's Kenan Thompson, which is sometimes hard to believe given this film is over 20 years old and time has flown by quickly. Joshua is okay and doesn't overact in contrast to some of the other child actors here. 

Like all sports-based movies, the level of predictability is high and as expected with the underdog prevailing in the end. The human interest story aspect, as well told as it is, is somewhat tepid also. The screenplay lacks real sharpness and is flimsy to the core with some juvenile scenes, but hey, this is a Disney film after all. 

The movie's success led to 2 sequels and a spin-off Saturday Morning cartoon series in Mighty Ducks, 4 years later on the Disney channel - which was completely unrelated to the original film and features anthropomorphic ducks as the main characters, in place of human characters of the Mighty Ducks movies, playing ice hockey and defeating Dragaunus. 

Final Verdict:

Those who don't mind formulaic movies and sports movies are likely to enjoy this, although the teens will be more than happy to lap it up. But for the hockey scenes, the story is so bland and not entertaining or appealing enough to retain my attention. Along with forgettable and underdeveloped characters and performances, a far too cliched and inoffensive story where one knows where it is heading, The Mighty Ducks is an underdog tale that has been told so many times, before and after.

The film's selling point is the hockey scenes and they are, by far, the best thing from it. 

Only the director of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures should have been capable of tweaking the story & made it far less predictable, but he didn't do that and for that, The Mighty Ducks falls short and plus, it is very undemanding also. 


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