When it comes to sports movies for kids, the message is often ”Do as I say, not as I do.” With the subtlety of a hockey stick to the head, Hollywood preaches that winning isn’t everything, yet insists on having the underdog team triumph in the end.
Fitting right into this mold, Disney’s The Mighty Ducks took on peewee hockey, with Emilio Estevez starring as a kid-resistant former player-turned- lawyer forced to coach a motley group of rinkrats. Contrived and full of cliches about teamwork and fair play, the 1992 movie should have been a one- shot deal. But last year in an extraordinary marketing move, Disney created a real hockey team, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Calif., based on its film. Because the studio needs to sustain and promote the franchise, it’s duck season again.
Faux-hiply dubbed D2: The Mighty Ducks, the sequel is even more banal than the original. And it’s difficult to take seriously the new film’s position against the commercialism of sports, given Disney’s NHL ties.
In D2, Gordon Bombay (Estevez) has been sidelined from his new career as a minor-league player by an injury. Recruited to coach Team USA, he reunites with his dream team, flying them from Minneapolis to L.A. There he is overwhelmed and distracted by corporate sponsorships and celebrity endorsement.
You’d have thought that Bombay would have gotten over his identity crisis in the first movie, but the filmmakers thought it would be more fun to let him undergo another transformation. So the ”Minnesota Miracle Man” gets caught up in the material world, becoming selfish and self-centered, until his players (led by Joshua Jackson) and mentor Jan (Jan Rubes) remind him of his passion for the sport. Unfortunately, Estevez has little passion for the role.
Luckily, the kid characters can get along without him. It’s their obvious love of hockey that gives this movie its energy, and the action-packed game scenes will have young fans cheering. It’s fun to watch the Ducks play street hockey against a group of kids on a South Central L.A. playground, appreciating each other’s talents and teaching each other new techniques. Sure it’s corny, but the point-made powerfully in this one scene-is that the real members of Team USA are kids playing just for the fun of it in schoolyards around the country.
Along with the team players from the original, D2 introduces a new group of cartoonlike characters. So as not to offend anyone-although the stereotypes themselves are patronizing-the Ducks roster now includes token members representing both sexes as well as major races, religions, and regions.
Ironically, one of the most honest characters ends up being the avaricious corporate sponsor himself (Michael Tucker). At least he’s up front about his motives, unlike the movie itself, which takes a holier-than-thou approach to the purity of the sport and then manages to promote Little Caesars. As an alternative to the violent Arnold Schwarzenegger film its title evokes, D2 fits the bill. But as a thought-provoker that lives by the standards it tries to set, this Ducks is pretty lame. C-