‘The Mighty Ducks’ – ’92 Cinema Revue

The Mighty Ducks – #3 in the U.S. (Oct. 2-4)

All-Time Domestic & Worldwide: $50,752,337

The Mighty Ducks is a warm cup of nostalgia served on familiar ice that does not overstay its welcome.

Growing up in the 90s and early-00’s, sports movies aimed at families felt like their cottage industry. It’s a formula that comes in a variety of flavors, including (but not limited to):

  • Ragtag misfits become a team with a reluctant coach
  • A kid becomes part of the team via fantastical consequences
  • The biopic takes some liberties with its stories
  • X animal is playing X sport

One studio covered all the bases during that time on the big and small screen: Disney. Oh, you cannot escape the wrath of the Mouse. Far beyond Sports Goofy, Disney loved sports movies. It’s in their DNA. What would have been a mid-budget theatrical release back in the day is now dumped onto Disney+ these days. These films hold a big soft spot in my heart because most are breezy watches and have enough entertainment to make a kid happy for two hours after battling the evils of homework. The one that comes to mind when thinking of Disney’s forays into sports is The Mighty Ducks

The trilogy was inescapable in the 90s. As a kid, I was into them and the team’s iconography. I remember having the Mighty Ducks logo on the wall in my bedroom. I have seen all the movies and loved them. I even watched the utterly-terrible animated Mighty Ducks spinoff. Unfortunately, any Mighty Ducks trilogy knowledge has been trapped in childhood ice, as I have not returned to revisit them. For all five of you who read this series, the knowledge is thawing out for the first movie. Let’s prep the flying V formation and be on our way.

Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) is a lawyer who, after getting a DUI, is forced to serve probation and 500 hours of community service. So his boss Mr. Duckworth (Josef Sommer), does the responsible thing anyone would do when faced with a drunk driver: sending them to coach pee wee hockey. Enter the losing ragtag teams of misfits from District 5, including Captain Charlie Conway (Joshua Jackson), personal childhood crush Connie (Marguerite Moreau), and fan favorite Goldberg (Shaun Weiss). 

Bombay dislikes hockey since he is still traumatized by his own experience of missing the game-winning goal for his pee wee team, the Hawks. What doesn’t help matters is his old coach Jack Reilly (Lane Smith), is still coaching said Hawks against the Ducks. So, Bombay assembles the Ducks adding street punk Fulton (Elden Henson), the brother-sister duo of Tammy and Tommy Duncan (Jane Plank and Danny Tamberelli), and a former Hawks Adam Banks (Vincent LaRusso) to the mix. Yet, as they learn to work together as a team, Bombay also knows something about himself along the way that may be the key to the Ducks finally garnering victory.

Captain Charlie Conway (Joshua Jackson) and Coach Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) call a play. Source: Walt Disney Pictures

The Mighty Ducks is the textbook example for kids’ sports movies of the 90s by hitting the marks one would expect yet having a blast while doing so. Revisiting this one was fueled by pure nostalgia, even with a critical eye. I adore this movie like a nice warm blanket and hot cocoa on a cold day; it feels like home. But, if I have to be an “adult” about this, it is standard harmless family fare that those who didn’t grow up with it may get nothing out of watching it. It’s a shame because it’s quite a fun ride. 

Up front, no one is coming to these movies for the acting. Audiences are coming for hockey and comedy. Estevez plays a redeemable jerk, great if subdued. He spouts insults and rudeness at the beginning but never comes across as unlikeable. It helps that in moments where there is some drama, Estevez does bring the proper emotion and performance to it. The crew of the Ducks is what people came to see, and they are all excellent child actors. Joshua Jackson is a baby in this for those who knew him from Dawson’s Creek or Fringe. Jackson is great as Charlie, and his bonding with Bombay is heartfelt. The weird thing about his character, though is him trying to get Bombay to be with his mom so he can have a father figure. It’s endearing but can be excessive. 

The rest of the crew have moments in the sun too. Weiss as Goldberg gives a laugh-a-line, including a crack about circumcisions. Henson is fun to see if anyone has seen the series Daredevil. It is essentially a young Foggy Nelson playing sports and probably learning the lawyer business from Bombay (this is pure headcanon, leave me be). Danny Tamberelli appears briefly, not given much to do outside of making that watching go, “Oh hey, it’s little Pete!” but serves his purpose in a destruction move. Morgan is the only girl until Tammy arrives and is given a late addition romance with another member that feels rushed. The less said about Averman, the better. Not to knock on a child, but god, anytime he spoke, I wanted someone to dump his books. 

Coach Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) delivers a pep talk to the ducks on the ice.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures

When it comes to the comedy aspect, it is typical kid fare. These are all the kids’ film jokes you come to expect. There are fart jokes, slapstick aplenty, and unregulated sports games. It’s standard fare but harmless in the long run. It is a bit more vulgar than I remember. Not that the kids are saying “s***” and “f***,” but lots of mentions of the word “ass” and some innuendos. The circumcision joke I mentioned is still wild to hear in a Disney movie. On the cliche front, there is the standard mishearing of a bad thing, the team coming apart and coming together, and the underdogs triumphing. Yet, I cannot fault the film for anything of this. The sports are secondary, but the action is excellent, showing the ice. The Flying V formation is still a grand moment of the camaraderie of a play that would be replicated poorly in Little Giants (you can keep the Annexation of Puerto Rico). 

The Mighty Ducks is a warm cup of nostalgia served on familiar ice that does not overstay its welcome. For those not nostalgic, it is the standard fare. Yet, the cast of characters saves the film from being anything but run-of-the-mill.

Next week, what if Die Hard was on a boat? We answer that question with the Steven Seagal classic(?) Under Seige.

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