Wednesday, January 23, 2008

D3: The Mighty Ducks

Review by Michael Jaffe

Childhood for me was defined by a few movies and I am happy to say that Mighty Ducks is one of those few films that was so heavily ingrained in my mind that even today when I watch it I can become six years old again. Not a care in the world can overpower how much I view Goldberg as a sign to fat, Jewish boys everywhere that we to can be the wisecracking side character to a successful youth sports team. However, when the inevitable sequels started, I was juiced. D2 was phenomenal, keeping all the classic old characters and adding new ones AND having coach Bombay, played perfectly by the incomparable Emilio Estevez, have a personal vendetta against the opposition’s coach. The tension was incredible and the film was even better. Then D3.
Usually with trilogies, you find that the middle portion lags while the third film swoops in as the biggest film yet and saves the franchise. Since D2 simply built on the first, the third film was going to have no less than three explosions, two Goldberg chase scenes and the Bash Brothers literally picking someone up and throwing them into the next county. Anticipation swelled and as an eight year old I remember walking out of the theatre, on opening day of course, feeling that while I had enjoyed the movie and the candy very much, something wasn't right. Now, an unbelievable 11 years after the films first release I went back to see if I could find what was wrong with D3: The Mighty Ducks.
So now, as a 19 year old I have watched all three films, and the first two still hold up remarkably well. While some of the humor is a little juvenile at times, I really could care less because the kids are supposed to be 13 year olds anyway and they act like it. The films are really good and the acting is way above what is to be expected from these sorts of films. Then came D3 and I had to wonder what exactly happened? The heart of the first two films was this team and their coach. In the opening of D3 Coach Gordon Bombay tells team captain Charlie that he has taken a better job and promptly leaves the film. That is the start of the third film: getting rid of the best coach and the one adult character that is real, and truly holds the films together. And also, while Charlie is the captain and team leader, the films worked because the great side characters got real roles and kept the film about the team. While the dialogue and the acting in D3 is really not so bad, the story and direction of the film veers sharply from what made the first two magical. Charlie becomes the main character and the focus of the film. He whines and complains to the new coach relentlessly about how he hates defense.
Like B.B. King said, "the thrill is gone." By switching the focus to a now teenage Charlie, the film spends the majority of its run time on Charlie leading the Ducks, now the freshman JV squad at an elite prep high school, on a series of pranks against the varsity team. The characters of the varsity team are atrociously acted and ever worse written by the way. The familiarity with the Ducks however is shown because the snippets where we see such great supporting characters as Goldberg, Averman and Fulton are perfect, but minute roles that are there to kill time while Charlie walks between spots to sulk. The characters of Mendoza and Portman, introduced in the second film, are all but forgotten and have two scenes apiece.
While D3 does have the big shoes to fill of the previous two works of prepubescent hockey perfection, it doesn't even try to copy the previous formula to make it work. While the Ducks remain underdogs, it no longer is really about the Ducks and that is what makes this film sub par. It falls into all the genre traps and really can't do much to save it once Emilio checks out (hockey pun for all those out there who don't follow the sport) and doesn't return until the final twenty minutes. What else did he have to film at this time??? Ridiculous that the films main bankable star was removed after two films and replaced by a throw away, hard ass coach character. While this film no longer is a puzzlement to me about what went wrong, it is really just like when a parent isn't mad but just "disappointed." And that hurts so much more. 5/10

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