Saturday, November 29, 2014

Blast from the Past Movie Review: D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994)

Last night I watched D2: The Mighty Ducks film for the podcast Myopia: Defend Your Childhood. Here's the podcast. And now the review...

The Plot

Coach Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez), who set off at the end of the first film to join a minor-league hockey team, finally scores the goal he needs to get into the National Hockey League but then suffers a career-ending (or at least career-derailing, since he's able to skate later) injury soon afterward. He returns home to Minnesota and is offered the chance to coach Team USA at the Goodwill Games. Many of the original Mighty Ducks return along with some new faces from elsewhere in the U.S. for a trip to Los Angeles, where they face off against the dreaded Icelandic team.

The Good

*The movie is quite entertaining, much more so than the original film (which I reviewed here). It is written that love covers a multitude of sins, and the film's pure entertainment value does much the same. I'll single out a few particularly good ones in this section later. I saw both movies as a kid and I remember the second one being better than the first. That still holds true.

*The two big kids who bond over being, well, big kids who can terrorize the other team are really funny as the "Bash Brothers." They get a lot of amusing moments, most of which revolve around them inflicting violence on opposing players or rocking out to heavy metal.

*The antagonist Icelandic coach has more shades of gray than the a-hole coach of the first film. That one (Coach Reilly) was vindictive, domineering, and emotionally abusive, while Stansson (except for one out-of-character moment I'll get too later) is depicted as supportive to his players even when he's a major jerk to everybody else.

*The street hockey team from South Central came off initially as being a bunch of "Magical Negroes" (with one Hispanic I noticed), but escapes that territory because one of the players (played by none other than Keenan Thompson) ends up actually joining Team USA. One of the players even sacrifices his spot on the ice to accommodate him.

*Some of the humor is more adult this time around, which makes some degree of sense given how the kids are probably now at least freshmen in high school or older middle-schoolers. The scene where they manage to infiltrate a chic Beverly Hills clothing store is amusing.

The Bad

*The last 20 minutes get kind of ridiculous. The Texan kid straight-up lassos an Icelandic player who's being overly rough with Connie. I'll complain some more about him later, but if they're willing to kick players out of the game permanently in the first match for stuff that's much less absurd, I would imagine he'd be in more serious trouble. Foreign objects, perhaps? The two big enforcer kids skate by the Icelandic team in their box whacking them on the helmets like they were drums, which the Icelandic a-hole coach (who's depicted as being ruthless and treacherous) doesn't even try to use as a pretext to get them kicked out of the game. An attempt to inspire the kids by chanting "DUCKS FLY TOGETHER" was Narm-ish. And then they just happen to have upgraded versions of their old Ducks uniforms (product placement for the Anaheim Ducks alert) sitting around. I know the last game of a sports movie is supposed to be a big deal, but this is one of the few things the first film actually did better.

*The romance between Bombay and Charlie's mother from the first film is written off with a line from the Magical Scandinavian who refers to her as having remarried and Charlie works at his shop now. Instead they have Bombay dating a woman who works for the Icelandic team for all of ten minutes and a lot of meaningful looks between Bombay and Michelle McKay, who's responsible for teaching the kids when they're not playing or practicing, that's never really followed up on. That's a twofer--something that was a very big deal in the first movie is abandoned with a single line and the replacement for this movie pretty much does nothing.

*Some of the new characters are depicted in stupidly stereotypical ways. The presumably Cuban-American player from Miami is introduced to what sounds like mariachi music (mariachi is a specifically Mexican style), while the Texan kid makes a lot of cowboy references, wears a cowboy hat and a giant belt buckle, and even straight-up lassos a rival player (more on that later). Sometimes stereotyping can be funny or serve a dramatic point, but this was just lame.

*Bombay starts neglecting his team due to the celebrity he's acquired and has to be set straight again by the Magical Scandinavian, complete with another sepia-toned solo skating sequence. A bit repetitive, considering something very similar happened in the first film.

*Stansson's characterization (see above) is undermined at the very end when he berates one of his player, who snaps back at him. That whole exchange could have been eliminated completely. Not only does it undermine Stansson's grayer portrayal, but it's way too late to actually give the Icelandic characters any major characterization.

*On that note, it would have been better to depict some more internal goings-on in the Icelandic team. The first film managed that with the Hawks (the two kids who fight over whether or not to "take out" Adam, their former teammate) without taking the focus off the Ducks, so it's not like the filmmakers didn't know how to do it. Instead, we see a relatively harmonious (among themselves at least) situation disrupted at the very end by one of the players talking back to the coach.

*The original Magical Scandinavian is replaced by his brother, since apparently he's visiting family back home. Put on a Bus indeed. Seriously, if the actor wasn't available, they should have re-cast him. He wasn't a major character like Bombay, so this wouldn't have been a problem.

*Some of the more adult humor really isn't that funny. In a scene where the hockey players are tied together to learn to skate as a team one of the female players complains about other players' hands and later the player comments about pads when hassled by the Icelanders. Those jokes didn't really work.

The Verdict

An improvement over the original. 7 out of 10.

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