D3: The Mighty Ducks

D3: The Mighty Ducks

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

ss d3 the mighty ducks

Key facts

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?

Review

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.

Sports perspective

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.

Fist-pump moment

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.

Favourite line

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!

D2: The Mighty Ducks

D2: The Mighty Ducks

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.

Today I will be continuing my trip down memory lane by looking at one of my favourite movies as a child and the sequel to last week’s movie: D2: The Mighty Ducks

Key facts

Directed by Sam Weisman

Music by J. A. C. Redford

Released in 1994

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Kathryn Erbe, Michael Tucker, Jan Rubeš, Carsten Norgaard, Joshua Jackson

Synopsis: After injury robs Gordon Bombay the chance of making it into the NHL, he is appointed the new head coach of Team USA Hockey for the upcoming Junior Goodwill Games. Coaching a team made up of many of the previous Ducks and some of the best players from across the country, the group grow as a team and individuals while Bombay is forced to adapt to newfound fame and expectations.

Review

I absolutely loved this movie as a child and I’m actually quite surprised that I never wore the VHS out! I’m such a fan that I ended up buying a replica of the white Ducks jersey from the climax of the film (#96 Conway, for anyone asking) So to find out that this only had a 59% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes was a massive shock to me. But hey, we all have different tastes and I loved it as much as ever!

Much like in the original movie, the person growing the most is surprisingly not the kids, but Gordon Bombay, who suddenly finds himself thrust into a world of sponsors who love him when he wins but turn their back as soon as he loses, while he also finds himself suddenly among the cream of the crop in LA and spending to much time at sponsor events rather than prepping the team, leading to a damning loss against Iceland which he reacts badly to. Though the character of Hans doesn’t appear in this movie, his “brother” Jan fills the exact same role, helping Gordon to see the mistakes he has made and sort himself out in time to earn the team’s trust back and get the win in the big game playing fun hockey. This is hinted at almost immediately, with the opening sequence flashing between Gordan as a child skating on the pond behind his house and Bombay playing in the minors and being on route to the NHL until he receives a career-ending injury. In this opening, we hear Gordon’s father tell him “No matter how far you go, don’t forget your home” and when you combine the orange colour palette for this moment with the colour palette later in the movie as Bombay goes skating at sunset in LA to get his head back after reaching his low point, it’s clear that this is Bombay learning his lesson.

Of course, the Ducks still play a key role, but it is an interesting situation. While Charlie still feels like the heart of the team, he is given much less weighting in this one—his role as the heart of the team really being shown by being the one to round up the Ducks and to drop out in order to open up a roster spot for Banks in the final—as we are introduced to a number of new characters, who have to be given time to bed in and grow themselves. While some of these characters are effectively replacements for Ducks who didn’t return—Ken Wu taking over from Tammy Duncan as the figure skater in the team—many provide a new dynamic, like Dean Portman bringing in another physical, confrontational edge to pair with Fulton Reed, while Russ Tyler’s knucklepuck is a fun variation on Fulton’s slapshot from the first film. What this does mean though is that some characters don’t get as much time as they properly deserve, with Guy Germaine especially falling foul in this movie.

One player who does really benefit though is that of Adam Banks, the best player on the team, who seems to take on a bit of the role Charlie had in the first movie, as a surrogate son for Bombay, and he and Emilio Estevez share a wonderful scene that I had to mention, as Bombay is forced to bench banks due to injury, and does a great job of talking to him and realising that being benched will not be the end of the world and realising what is important.

What probably doesn’t help the situation of giving all the team enough time is a couple of moments that feel really out of place, with Bombay going on a date with the Iceland team’s trainer after one very quick meeting that was nothing more than an introduction, only for them to not have any more interactions together in the movie and for her to be firmly sided with Iceland for the rest of the movie, while following this we get a few hints of a budding romance between Bombay and team tutor Michelle McKay. Neither of these relationships has any payoff—besides the date with Maria helping fuel the team’s distrust in him—and I can’t help feel that these moments could have been removed in favour of more time with some of the Ducks.

Finally, I need to spend some time talking about the main antagonist of this movie, and Carsten Norgaard is great as Wolf “The Dentist” Stansson, the head coach of Iceland. He looks physically intimidating but what really stood out for me on re-watch was that—barring an anger issue which results in a cheap shot on Bombay—he doesn’t actually come across as that bad a person, especially when you consider Coach Reilly told his team to injure Banks in the last movie. Instead, Stansson is tactically solid; we see him and Maria watching a number of USA’s matches, with the movie often showing them watching USA’s weapons (Fulton’s slapshot, Russ’ knucklepuck and the Flying V), all of which Iceland stop in games. Yes the Iceland team play rough, but it is only Olaf Sanderson who really takes things too far on the ice. And then at the end, Stansson actually realises (after a cutting remark from Gunner Stahl) that the win wasn’t everything and is able to shake Bombay’s hand and congratulate him on the win. If we’re looking at characters who could pop up in The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers down the line, I think that Stansson could be a good one to come in as an acquaintance of Bombay, similar to how Rocky and Apollo Creed became friends.

Sports perspective

Like my review for the original, 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.

Once again, many of the goals we see the Ducks score would ever be seen in an actual game, as the Ducks often rely on gimmicks – like making Russ Tyler and Goldberg swap kits to hide Tyler from the Iceland players and give him time to get the shot off. Even more so than in The Mighty Ducks, we see the tropes of the main rival being a bigger and more physical team that plays in black, who are allowed to get away with a lot more than USA are – most notable when you look at Sanderson getting 2 minutes in the box for deliberately attacking Banks while Portman is ejected just seconds into a game for pushing a player over.

Useless trivia

The Goodwill Games was an alternative to the Olympics, also running every 4 years. There were 5 Summer Goodwill Games (Moscow 1986-Brisbane 2001) and 1 Winter Games (Lake Placid, 2000). Other planned Games were Phoenix (Summer) and Calgary (Winter), which were both cancelled before they could take place in 2005.

Ice hockey was part of the Summer Games.

Fist-pump moment

“They’ve got on new uniforms. They’re wearing the logo of the Duck!”

My fist-pump moment for this one has to be the moment that Team USA come out for the second half of the final wearing new uniforms, the new white kit with the Ducks logo. This is by far my favourite of the kits the team wars during the trilogy, but more than that, it is the moment where the new members officially become Ducks, with a very corporate Team USA jersey until then. Right before this, during the “Ducks Fly Together” scene, we have had the familiar ducks theme playing, but with this reveal, the music comes back stronger, and as the team skate back out onto the ice, you can not just the players but the crowd also spurred on by the change. And trust me, when you have the crowd behind you, you feel invincible.

Favourite line

This movie, there was a line I already remembered before my re-watch and it still stood out this time around:

“Gordon, when I told the Goodwill Committee who you were, I did not talk to them about your good looks. I didn’t tell them you would win at any cost. I told them you were a man who loves the game. And I told them you were a man who could teach the kids about more than just winning or losing. I told them you were the Minnesota Miracle Man and only you could teach them to fly. So be that man. Be that man, Gordon”

It comes at a key moment as Jan helps Gordon realise the mistakes that he has made and reminds him that helping the kids grow is the most important thing rather than coming away with the victory.

What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

The Mighty Ducks

The Mighty Ducks

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.

Today I will be starting a trip down memory lane by looking at the first film in one of my favourite movie series as a child: The Mighty Ducks

ss The Mighty Ducks

Key facts

Directed by Stephen Herek

Music by David Newman

Released in 1992

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Joss Ackland, Lane Smith, Heidi Kling, Joshua Jackson

Synopsis: Hotshot Minneapolis lawyer Gordon Bombay (Estevez) is arrested for drink diving and forced to undertake 500 hours of community service coaching the struggling local “District 5” Pee Wee ice hockey team. Though there is initially no love lost between him and the team, they slowly remind him of the love he once had for the game and he looks to turn around their fortunes on the ice.

Review

As much as I loved this trilogy of movies, I can’t remember having watched the original that many times, as for some reason I only had the sequels on VHS (ageing myself here!) as a kid. So it was really fun watching this one again as, though I remember the brad strokes, I don’t remember the detail anywhere near as well.

As a kid, these were just fun sports movies, but watching this now as an adult – and someone who played at my local rugby club as a kid and later in life went back to help coach there – there is actually a really poignant story here, and I would go as far as to suggest any adult who wants to coach children’s sport should watch this movie. Bombay starts the movie as a lawyer who is not afraid to play dirty to ensure that he wins his cases, and that is the same mentality that he initially brings to the team. It is clear that as a child he loved the game, but a bad moment in a match and the reaction of his “winning is everything” coach made him fall out of love with the game.  But as time goes on, we see Bombay getting that love of the game back and helping the kids improve so that they start winning, but also ensuring that the focus is on them enjoying playing the game rather than having to win. It’s a hard balance for a coach to manage, and watching this should be a good reminder for coaches watching to ensure that all the team is having fun, and that the stars of the team are treated just the same as the weakest of players.

Estevez does a great job as Gordon Bombay, showing that change in mentality over time and going from an arrogant jerk at the beginning of the movie to an inspirational coach by the end, but the real standout to me was Joshua Jackson as Charlie Conway, who is far from the best player on the team, but is the heart and soul of the movie, someone who is there because he loves the game – refusing to cheat when Bombay tells him to and being the first to welcome Banks to the team – and while his mother does have a romantic storyline with Bombay, it feels more like the true romance is Gordon falling back in love with the game as Charlie reminds him of what he was like at that age. The rest of the kids do a great job – finding child actors is always a risk but they do well on the whole – but Lane Smith also does a great job as the main antagonist of the movie, Coach Reilly, who was Bombay’s old coach and still coach of the rival team the Hawks.

One final thing to mention in this section is the score, and this really stands out to me in the matches, but especially the matches against the rival team, where we get some extended action. There are 2 obvious themes, one for the Ducks and one for their rivals, and they are meshed together throughout the games does such a great job of adding feeling tot he action, especially with how the theme for the rivals – who are generally bigger and stronger – feels ore overbearing than that of the Ducks.

Sports perspective

So 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 going into detail about 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.

Of course, I highly doubt that many of the goals we see the Ducks score would ever be seen in an actual game, as the Ducks often rely on gimmicks – like using a figure skater spinning next to the goal to create space to receive the puck and score. I did appreciate though the “Statue of Liberty” play using Fulton Reed’s powerful slapshot as a dummy for a team play, much as the play in American football sees the quarterback faking a pass to disguise the running back rushing with the ball.

While the Ducks rely on these fun gimmicks, we also see the Hawks allowed to get away with a lot that would probably be penalised in the game and the Ducks getting penalised for much less, and this just helps to set up even more how incredible and against the odds their victory will be.

Useless trivia

Ever heard of the NHL team the Anaheim Ducks? Well they were founded in 1993 by the Walt Disney Company, going under the name The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, which was inspired by this movie. The name was changed to the Anaheim Ducks following Disney’s sale of the franchise, however they still pay homage to their founding on occasions with their kits and the appearance of their mascot.

Fist-pump moment

My fist-pump moment comes halfway though the championship game against the Hawks, immediately following Adam Banks being stretchered off the ice after one of the players did as Coach Reilly had instructed and took him out of the game. After checking on Banks, Bombay takes a detour back to his team via the Hawks, where he looks his old coach in the eye and states:

“To think I wasted all those years worrying about what you thought. You’re going down, Reilly”

The music has remained soft through this moment as it mourns Banks’ being forced out of the game, but on this proclamation it builds up. This is Bombay’s big moment. Throughout the film we have seen him affected by his tie as a Hawk under Reilly, which made him fall out of love with the game. We have seen him try to copy the Hawks early on, then play dirty by having the team cheat to try winning at all costs, but as the movie has gone on, the Ducks brought his love of the game back, leading to him getting fired for making sure Banks couldn’t play for the Hawks for fair play reasons and he even found that the new District lines would make him a Duck rather than a Hawk.

But it is in this moment that he finally sees just how far Reilly will go to win that he is finally able to fully break away from his Hawks past and be his own man, the man the Ducks need him to be.

Favourite line

Having spent so much of my life in teams, both as a player and a coach of junior rugby, and also with the Pistol Shrimps, there was a line from Bombay that rally stood out to me:

“A team isn’t a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to, something you feel, something you have to earn.”

This really stood out to me as you get out of being in a team what you put in. A team is a family in itself, a group that has your back when you need help. Winning isn’t everything, but instead it is about the time you spend together and the memories you make along the way.

What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!