The Mighty Ducks is one of those perfect movies. No, it's not a classic to stand up against Hollywood's all-time best. As an entertaining kid-oriented movie though? It has few rivals.
A hotshot lawyer in Minneapolis, Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) is celebrating a win in court when he's pulled over by the police. He's charged with driving with an open container and sentenced to do 500 hours of community service. A hockey player growing up, Gordon is assigned to coach the District 5 Youth hockey team. While other district teams have some backing, District 5 is from a poorer section of town, and the kids to say the least, are a bunch of misfits. They don't have even remotely current equipment, and their skill level is average at best. Can disgruntled, frustrated Gordon put aside his ego enough to work with this bunch of underdogs?
I'm going to step up on my soap box here for a second so forgive me in advance. I was born in 1985 and grew up in the 1990s with movies like this. Not to get too preachy, but studios just don't make movies like this anymore. It seems all movies aimed at kids/families are either animated or so mind-blowingly stupid that I just don't see the appeal. Disney in the 1990s was different, specializing movies like this (and it's two sequels), Angels in the Outfield, The Big Green, Heavyweights. On a bigger level, there was Rookie of the Year, The Sandlot, Little Giants, Little Big League and so many more. These weren't classic, immaculate movies. They were aimed at kids, and you know what? Kids loved them. Maybe I just miss these movies (or maybe I'm onto something), but I don't think I'm off-base here. End of soap box rant. On with the Ducks.
This movie was made before, and it's been made since. It's the classic underdog story, borrowing from previous movies like the classic original Bad News Bears. There's something familiar about it, but in a good way. Oh no, the screwball, misfit kids against the highly-skilled, expertly trained kids from the good side of the tracks?!? How will it end? I would wager you can tell me how this movie ends right now, but it's a fun movie getting there. Throw some goofy, cute kids together, have them do a couple bonding montages, and then throw a do-or-die game at them. Oh, and you need some Queen songs, preferable We Are the Champions or We Will Rock You. I'm really not intending this to be as negative as it sounds. It's a sports underdog story. If you can't get behind that, go back to your Communist home. Just kidding of course.
A star of the 1980s (thanks John Hughes and the Young Gun flicks), Estevez wouldn't seem like an obvious choice for this story, but go figure, he's perfectly cast. As an actor with the right role, Estevez is an above average actor, like in The Breakfast Club. He's best suited for the more fun roles, like Billy the Kid in Young Guns I and II. This leans more toward the fun side. Estevez gets to have some fun as Gordon, a former hockey star who never quite lived up to his potential as a player because of a game gone wrong. As for the rest of the adult cast, Joss Ackland plays Hans, an old friend of Gordon's and a hockey supplier, Lane Smith as the evil rival coach of the rich, thuggish team, Heidi Kling as a single mom of one of Gordon's players, M.C. Gainey as Gordon's appointed driver, and Josef Sommer as Gordon's upper class tool of a boss.
Enough with that. Onto the Ducks! Many of the child actors would return for the later Might Ducks ventures as well. Everyone has their favorites of course. A 14-year old Joshua Jackson plays Charlie, the talented player who's struggling with some issues at home, Elden Henson is Fulton, the kid with a wicked slap shot who can't skate, Shaun Weiss as terrified goalie Goldberg, Matt Doherty as Averman, the motor-mouth, Brandon Quintin Adams as tough-talking Jesse, J.D. Daniels as Peter, the group runt, Aaron Schwartz as Karp, the necessary chubby kid, Marguerite Moreau as Connie, the also necessary girl on the team, and Vincent Laurusso as Adam, the ringer from a rival district team. Also look for young Danny Tamberelli (later of Pete and Pete) as one of the Ducks in a smaller part.
No point in analyzing this one too much. It's a great movie, one kids and families should both enjoy a ton.
The Mighty Ducks <---clip (1992): ***/****