Monday, July 21, 2014

Blast from the Past Movie Review: The Mighty Ducks (1992)

Last Saturday night, I watched The Mighty Ducks with my friend Nick for his podcast Myopia: Defend Your Childhood. Here's the specific episode. I saw the movie in theaters when it came out, so here're my thoughts on this tale of an arrogant attorney who rediscovers his love of hockey due to being forced to coach an impoverished youth hockey team after driving under the influence.

The Good

*Emilio Estevez does a good job playing Gordon Bombay, the arrogant attorney in question. He's quite obnoxious and karma bites him in the behind pretty darn quick. He also has a fairly strong character arc--he learns some lessons in humility and comes to love the children he'd once disdained as "barely human."

*The film has some pretty funny jokes, including a scene where ineffective goalie Goldberg (who is afraid of the puck) is tied up (in heavy pads) and the other kids shoot pucks at him to break him of his fear.

*A climactic scene where a character is deliberately injured by players on the rival team is downright painful to watch. The kid is strapped down on a backboard--as a former lifeguard, I've participated in backboard drills and when those get involved, you know some bad things are up.

*Some issues of social class get explored--the rival Hawks team is as good as it is because it's from a wealthier part of town and its parents can afford to provide good uniforms, rink time, etc. for their kids. Bombay has to get his boss at the law firm to provide a very large sum of money so the kids can buy equipment, practice, etc. Even if kids won't understand this, adults certainly will.

The Bad

*The film is really cliched. Bombay is haunted by his failure as a child to score at a hockey shootout and displeasing his overbearing coach, something that wrecked what could have developed into a promising hockey career. The film begins with a flashback to this and we see it at least one more time. We also see a quite literally sepia-toned flashback to Bombay practicing hockey as a kid with his late father (who died just before the hockey shootout) and an old Scandinavian mentor figure. And the Hawks team is straight out of the Cobra Kai school of bad juvenile athletes warped by their malevolent coach--the same coach who berated Gordon as a child for letting them all down for not scoring that critical goal.

*Per the above, there's a whole lot of Narm going on here. But it's not even funny Narm--it's just groan-inducing. Bombay's challenge to his boss--including QUACKING at him in the office--is just annoying.

*It's not 100% clear how old the kids Bombay is coaching actually are. They're part of a "peewee" hockey league and the team includes two girls, which means they're probably elementary or early middle school aged (before puberty would put the girls at a disadvantage in physical strength vis-a-vis the boys). Goldberg in particular says he hasn't had his bar mitzvah yet, which means he's younger than 13. A big plot point hinges on some of the kids misunderstanding something they overheard Gordon say to his former coach, a misunderstanding that only younger kids would make. However, the kids' dialogue sounds like something older kids would say, with the derogatory nickname "Cake Eater" (I'm guessing an allusion to the supposed quote from Marie Antoinette) for a wealthier character being something I wouldn't expect from young kids from the wrong side of the tracks. And one of the girl hockey players seems to be dating one of the boys--although this isn't really touched on much, they seem more like teens than sixth graders.

*Per the above point, many of the kids are really annoying and bratty, in particularly Jesse Hall who really needs a spanking (or, given how it'd be really improper for a non-parent to do that, perhaps a lot of wind sprints).

The Verdict

A good movie to take kids to see, but adults will likely be bored. 5.5 out of 10.

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