Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.
Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.
This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they used in their old show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.
It’s been a while since I started watching the Mighty Ducks movies again, with a busy rugby schedule, work getting busier and a house move, but it’s time to finally complete the trilogy with a look at D3: The Mighty Ducks
Directed by Rob Lieberman
Music by J. A. C. Redford
Released in 1996
Starring: Emilio Estevez, Joshua Jackson, Jeffrey Nordling, Heidi Kling, Margot Finley
Synopsis: When the Ducks are enrolled at Eden Hall Academy on junior varsity sponsorships, they must adapt to a new environment, including romances, being seen as outsiders, dealing with bullies and the varsity hockey team and a new coach in Coach Orion. But is it too much change all at once for Charlie?
I used to watch this and D2 all the time as a kid, and while I always enjoyed them both, I always did prefer the second, a feeling that persists with this re-watch. I think a part of this is the relative lack of actual hockey in this movie, with just 3 games given any time in the movie. Instead, we get a load of hijinks such as the constant rivalry between the Ducks and Varsity, Goldberg’s inability to skate and Charlie and Fulton’s truancy, many of which I feel could have been left out or shortened for more important story and character moments, such as the Ducks’ relationship with Banks after he gets picked for Varsity.
But probably the biggest surprise in this movie is that though he receives top billing, Emilio Estevez appears in just 1 scene in the first half of the movie, and though he has an important role later in the story, he is definitely not one of the main protagonists. Instead, after being the heart of the team for 2 movies, this movie sees Joshua Jackson’s Charlie Conway become the lead protagonist, and on this re-watch it really felt that rather than ending a trilogy, this was meant to be the movie in the middle of a larger franchise, which would see the focus move from Gordon to Charlie.
This is a very different movie to the previous 2: the Ducks are united (on the whole) for once, so the conflict is created by giving them a new coach, who is far stricter and has much more of a focus on defence than Gordon Bombay, who made it fun. Similarly, with the team now all in their teens it feels like the whole movie is an allegory for puberty, with a number of players ending the movie with some form of romantic interest and change all over the place: the style of hockey they play, their standing and role within the team, heck even the score feels similar but different to the previous movies.
But here we come to the issue, there are so many changes that they don’t always feel fully fleshed out in a movie with a runtime of 1 hour 24 minutes. Orion comes across overly strict and uncompromising, but then immediately becomes best pals with Charlie as he re-joins the team. Banks appears to be ostracised by the Ducks after being selected for Varsity and even fights with Charlie, but then the next time we see him he’s playing with the Ducks as if there’s never been an issue. With everything going on, I think that the Banks storyline was probably the biggest mistake as it separated him from the team for the third movie in a row, while having Ken Wu’s only story beat of note being that he gets bullied doesn’t look great—though that’s still more than some of the team got!
Ultimately though, this is a good tale of Charlie growing as a person. He learns the hard way not to judge someone by first impressions, to be willing to adapt and to stand up to bullies. But more than that, he learns that being the heart of the team and the captain is a role that must be earned rather than just given. Is it a perfect movie? No. Neither does it feel like an ending. Hopefully with The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers being renewed for season 2, we will see Charlie return to the story sometime soon and see how his life has gone on.
Like with the other 2 movies, I’m not going to be able to go into much detail at all as Ice Hockey is not a sport that I’ve ever really been able to invest any significant time in. However the movie does a good job of not needing you to have a detailed knowledge of the rules, so that as long as you can understand the basics that each team is trying to put the puck in their opponent’s net more often than the other, you’re completely fine!
As in the previous matches, your rival team (previously the Hawks and Iceland, now Varsity) are a bigger and stronger team, while the officials always seem to punish the Ducks more than their rivals. However what I can comment on this time is Coach Orion’s focus on teaching the team defence. While any team can have success when you with great attacking play, once they get older it becomes more important to be able to stay organised and defend well, as the Ducks have shown themselves just how easy it can be to score in just a few seconds. And that really shows with the hockey being much more grounded than we saw in the previous movie.
One final thing to note is a side-story in this movie about attempts to get the name of Eden Hall’s sports teams changed from “The Warriors” to something less offensive, with the name eventually becoming the Ducks at the end of the movie. Considering this movie is 25 years old, this oddly mimics something that we are currently seeing in sports, with a number of American sports teams rebranding away from anything inspired by Native Americans, something that is also currently being requested of the English Premiership rugby team Exeter Chiefs.
I had a feeling before the movie of what my fist-pump moment would be, and it didn’t change on this re-watch, though I will say that Dean Portman’s return ran it closer than I expected.
The moment in question: the final training session before the JV-Varsity game, when Orion calls in the team and while looking stern, tells them that they’re not skating like Warriors, before telling them they’re skating like Ducks and beginning to hand out the Ducks jerseys he took off them in the first session. This is one of the few times we hear the familiar Ducks fanfare through the whole movie as the team receives their jerseys before one final shot of them coming together skating in a circle and bringing back the classic “Quack” chant.
It shows in this moment that though they may have been changing though the whole film, with a new coach and a new focus on defence and two-way hockey, they are still always going to be the ducks at heart, and nothing can stand against that.
So I must admit that there weren’t many lines that in themselves stood out to me in this movie, though Gordon’s monologue to Charlie about how Charlie and the Ducks saved him and how he told Orion that Charlie was the Minnesota Miracle Man brought a ear to my eye as it mirrored D2’s scene between Jan and Gordon. Instead I settled on a line from Hans as he talked with Charlie:
“He took away the “C”, Charlie. Not what was under it.”
It’s a timely reminder to Charlie that he has put too much focus on his standing as captain of the Ducks. He was always the heart of the team well before this, and it is clear from the game the Hans has just been listening to that the Ducks are missing Charlie. He was never the best player on the team, but what made him so important was that he was what the Ducks embodied: honesty, integrity, fair play and a love of the game.
What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!