Few words evoke a stronger sense of nostalgia than “quack.” In 1992, a Disney film about a ragtag group of dreamers called The Mighty Ducks skated into our hearts and unleashed a perfectly executed Flying-V into our souls.
But would the charm of the Ducks be as potent without an assist from those rose-tinted glasses of recollection? Does the optimism of youth give way to the pragmatism of adulthood? Is quacking at your principal or boss only acceptable behavior when viewed in retrospect?
Being that I haven’t seen The Mighty Ducks in years, I wanted to know if one of the ’90s most iconic films still holds up. Even if you “hate hockey and don’t like kids,” you’ll enjoy this stroll down memory lane, as we re-watch The Mighty Ducks and toss out a few observations about the film that surely didn’t come to mind back in the ’90s.
Is Gordon Bombay the world’s greatest lawyer?
The premise of The Mighty Ducks centers on Gordon Bombay’s exile from the law after a drunk driving arrest. But before his boss informs him that his punishment for recklessly endangering the lives of innocent people is to be placed in charge of a group of children, Bombay says that he “found a loophole” and plans to plead not guilty.
Which begs the question: WHAT LOOPHOLE DID BOMBAY DISCOVER THAT NULLIFIES DRUNK DRIVING?
The jerk store called. They’re running out of Gordon Bombay.
“I hate kids. They’re barely human.” — Gordon Bombay
After Bombay and the Ducks engage in a non-meet-cute, Gordon decides to have Tom from Lost drive a limo full of kids around the ice. Eventually, Casey (Charlie’s mom) arrives and is peeved as heck about the whole “complete stranger imperiling the lives of children” thing.
C’mon, Casey. Gordon is a lawyer. He wears expensive suits. He clearly knows everything there is to know about glaciology.
Also, I will not be writing about the Gordon/Casey romantic element of this movie, because the two have the romantic chemistry of a pair of quarreling 8-year-old cousins forced to walk down the aisle together at a wedding.
Hawks coach Jack Reilly is not a super terrific motivational speaker.
Moments before a preteen Gordon Bombay ruins his life by missing a penalty shot that (eventually) costs the Hawks the coveted 1973 Minnesota state peewee championship, Coach Reilly, a grown man responsible for educating youngsters, delivers this motivational speech:
“You miss this shot, you’re not just letting me down; you’re letting your whole team down, too. I wish your dad could be here to see this. Make him proud of you.”
I don’t want to question Reilly’s coaching prowess, but I’m not sure I’d go with the “make this shot or your dead dad hates you” approach.
Gordon Bombay gives zero damns about public safety.
After an errant hockey puck shatters one of Bombay’s baller limo windows, he discovers that resident teenage enigma Fulton Reed possesses a hidden knack for hockey. So, what does Bombay, an adult, do? He orders Fulton to heedlessly shoot another puck into the streets of Minnesota, showing zero concern for anyone and anything in its terrifying wake because youth hockey always trumps potential civilian casualties.
Gordon Bombay gives zero damns about public safety: Volume 2.
But Fulton doesn’t know how to skate! Sensing a teaching moment, the always unconventional Bombay decides to have the entire hockey team recklessly rollerblade through a crowded public mall. You know, because he’s a sociopath.
Fulton accidentally checks a woman into a fountain, Goldberg purposely steals a hot dog, and these rolling degenerates unleash unadulterated havoc on a tranquil community of innocent consumers.
The scene is scored to some super fun music, though, so all is forgiven!
Gordon Bombay scored 198 goals during the 1973 peewee hockey season?
According to Hans, who I believe to be the most trustworthy person in this movie and perhaps on the planet, Bombay scored 198 goals during that infamous 1973 season. If the 1973 Hawks played as many games as the Ducks (17), that means young Gordon Bombay averaged an astronomically impressive 11.6 goals per game.
To put that in perspective, Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux only scored 85 goals in 76 games during the 1988-89 season.
The lesson? Mario Lemieux sucks at hockey.
Extolling the virtues of precision passing is important, but…
I imagine there’s another, much darker film that takes place in The Mighty Ducks universe, centering on a renegade Minnesota janitor who finally snaps after being forced to clean a hockey rink plastered in dry egg yolk.
Why is an 0-11 youth hockey team earning a tie front page news in a nationwide hockey publication?
Coach Bombay probably poisoned the Panthers.
So, you’re telling me the entire Panthers team just so happens to contract the measles the same time an ultra-competitive (possible) alcoholic with an obvious vendetta against youth hockey returns to the league?
Why does Hans have a map of the new youth hockey zoning boundaries hanging in his skate shop?
I love you, Hans, but you need a hobby. Fly fishing. Gin Rummy. Building model airplanes. Anything.
“You’re not even a has-been. You’re a never-was.” — Jack Reilly
I mean, Gordon was a successful lawyer before his DUI, but I suppose the hierarchy goes:
1. Youth hockey coach
3. NHL coach
4. NHL superstar
58. A Zamboni
100. A person who sells ice.
Emilio Estevez goes from sincerity to insanity in a blink of an eye.
“A team isn’t a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to. Something you feel. Something you have to earn. And I’m not gonna let those kids down.” — Gordon Bombay, leader
“Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack, Mr. Ducksworth.” – Gordon Bombay, idiot
“I’ll see you in the playoffs.”
I understand that I’ve used a lot of words to poke fun at the low, below the crust, mantle, core stakes of The Mighty Ducks, but when Gordon Bombay, a man who’s a handshake away from being a straight-up lunatic, defiantly points a finger at youth hockey deity Jack GD Reilly and declares that his 0-12-1 Ducks will “see you in the playoffs,” I’m 100 percent, non-ironically, unequivocally in.
“I will not quack at the principal.”
So, a morally rejuvenated Bombay arrives at the school and delivers an impassioned speech to earn back the trust of his not-yet-mighty Ducks. Fine. Cool. But when the pivotal moment arrives, and the fate of the Ducks, and if the way every “adult” in this movie behaves is any indication, perhaps the fate of the world, hangs precariously in the balance, Bombay turns to… Peter?
Listen, this has nothing to do with the fact that Peter, with his friggin sheriff’s badge, is the worst. It’s rare that I find myself wishing that fictional characters will contract the measles, but I’d be okay if Peter, Karp, and Averman were traded to the Panthers for a potato sack of hockey pucks and a year’s subscription to Let’s Play Hockey and never heard from again.
Charlie is the heart of the team, and Jesse is the undisputed leader. Those are the boys, nay men, who should decide if the Ducks fly or die. Hell, I’m not certain that Fulton knows how to read, but even he’d be a better choice than Peter.
All of this leads to the greatest sporting event in the history of mankind:
Ducks vs. Hawks
My kingdom for a subscription to this trenchant hockey publication.
Why is there a capacity crowd on hand for a peewee hockey championship?
Every adult who didn’t personally know a child participating in the game should have been shot out of a cannon.
Adam Banks’ dad is still wearing a Hawks coat, despite the fact his son is now a Duck.
Because when you’re a Hawk, you’re a Hawk 4-life. And also because every adult in this film is a bona fide atrocity.
“I want you to drop Banks like a bad habit. I want him outta the game. Finish him off. You got it?” — Jack Reilly
Despite a comfortable 3-0 lead, Reilly orders two of his players to injure Adam Banks. Honestly, this doesn’t seem out of place in the Mighty Ducks universe. I’m legitimately surprised Reilly didn’t straight-up ask them to murder Banksy and burn his house to the ground.
“What did you do?”
Kids and future serial killers really do say the darndest things!
“More fun! More fun!”
There are two incredible moments after Banks is carted off to that great big Zamboni in the sky. One, after Bombay attempts to draw up an actual hockey play (and is immediately corrected by Averman, of all people), one Duck randomly instructs Jesse to “do good.”
Yeah. Obviously. Also, continue to breathe, Jesse. Eye roll x 1,000,000.
Second, after Fulton scores a goal, Coach Bombay starts chanting “more fun” like a maniac. It’s amazing. You can watch it here at the 3:18 mark — or you can purchase the film on iTunes for $1,000. It’s your call. Do good.
After Bombay adds to his already sterling reputation by inappropriately referring to a lineup anchored by two black players and one white player as an Oreo line…
… the Ducks tie the game with the Flying V and are awarded a penalty shot as time expires.
Charlie Conway doesn’t “wanna wait” for his “life to be over” to become a hero.
I always wondered why Jesse wasn’t selected to take the penalty shot at the end of regulation, and I often chalked it up to Bombay wanting to hook up with Charlie’s mom. But I was wrong. Only players on the ice are eligible, which means that either Connie, Averman (NO), Peter (LOL), Guy, or Charlie can take the shot.
Awarding it to Conway actually makes sense, considering the dearth of reliable options and the fact that Joshua Jackson out-acted almost everyone (Estevez and Coach Reilly are the exceptions) in this movie by about 500 triple dekes.
The rest is cinematic history.
After 23 revelations and a whole lot of soul searching, one point is unequivocally clear: Despite its myriad faults, The Mighty Ducks absolutely still holds up to modern viewing.
Quack on, Duck fans. Quack on.