For many years, I had a poster from this movie on my wall above my bed. I suppose I was a fan of it then. Until today, I hadn’t seen the movie in years. I guess I must not have liked it as much as I thought. As the second installment of the Duck Trilogy, D2: The Mighty Ducks was better than it could have been. Perhaps in this age of endless sequels and reboots I’ve gotten a tad disenchanted. Then again, who hasn’t?
Having rediscovered his love of the game, Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) spends the first few minutes of the film pursuing a professional career. That pursuit is cut short by a nasty knee injury. Thus, he returns to his small town and the bosom of his favorite hockey store. He is not greeted by Hans (Joss Ackland). He’s gone off to take care of some business, leaving the store to his brother, Jan (Jan Rubes). I’d like to note that the screenwriters makes it a point to mention that Jan has always been around and that he has a history with Bombay, Charlie (Joshua Jackson), and the rest of the town. That’s one way of introducing someone brand new, I suppose.
Bombay is feeling a little low about having his professional dreams fall apart when Jan suggests that he could coach the hockey team for the Junior Goodwill Games. Bombay laughs it off and is soon introduced to Mr. Tibbles (Michael Tucker) of Hendricks Sporting Goods, the official sponsor of the aforementioned hockey team. Offered the coaching gig, Bombay takes it and it’s time to round up the Ducks. He sends Charlie off with a duck caller and the inline skating commercial begins.
Speaking of Charlie, he and the rest of the Ducks have had a sudden attack of puberty since the last season. It’s understandable considering the time that passed between the filming of the first and second movies. Anyway, enough of puberty, back to the inline skating commercial. The kids roll through town and the team is reunited. Of course, they aren’t a complete Team USA without a few new additions. Of course, the blending of old blood and new isn’t initially smooth, but they soon work things out and begin working their way through the games.
There’s the usual hubris and seduction by success. Bombay predictably loses sight of what he loves about the game when faced with the idea of fame and fortune with the backing of Tibbles and Hendricks. The team gets its but butt handed to them thanks to the larger, rougher Icleand team headed by Coach Wolf Stansson (Carsten Norgaard) and things start going poorly. Between Bombay going bonkers and the pressures of the world stage getting to them, things look grim for our hockey-playing heroes.
Of course, they don’t stay down for long. They get a morale boost from LA natives, particularly Russ Tyler played by a young Kenan Thompson. They start getting their own back and if there’s anything we’ve learned, it’s that ducks do best when faced with an uphill battle. So, I’m not going to spoil it for you. You can just see it on Netflix or assume the film follows the traditional sports movie trajectory. You’d be correct in that assumption, by the by.
While it’s a fun film, it’s not without its problems that I’ll address in my final thoughts along with some spoilers. It holds up decently and is an entertaining movie for an evening at home. I enjoyed rewatching it. I may not watch it multiple times in a row like some movies, but I’ll watch it again.
One of the neat things about this movie was that it does at least make an attempt at showing some diversity. While we lose the figure skater from the first movie, she’s replaced by a kick-ass goalie named Julie “The Cat” Gaffney. We’re told of her skills and shown them when she’s first introduced. She then spends the most of the rest of the movie on the bench despite asking Bombay to let her show the world what she can do. He makes a promise to her and she gets an opportunity on the ice which she promptly loses when she confronts a pair of sexist opponents. At the end of the movie, she does get to catch the final goal. So, there’s that.
What ticks me off most about Julie’s situation is that she’s a damn good goalie. While Bombay keeps Goldberg (Shaun Weiss) on the goal due to his “winning streak,” it’s an argument that doesn’t necessarily hold up well when faced with the reality of the goals that whiz past him. Considering her fantastic skills, it’s ludicrous that her time is spent warming the bench instead of heating up the ice.
Speaking of sexism, let’s address the two adult women featured in the movie. There’s Michele MacKay (Kathryn Erbe), the tutor for Team USA, and Marria (Maria Ellingsen) who’s working with Team Iceland. They fill the traditional roles of moral compass and temptress respectively. It’s frustrating to see women being relegated to those roles time and time again. I want to say that we’ve come a long way in the twenty years since this movie was released, but I would be lying.
On top of that, let’s talk about Team USA’s initial game against Trinidad and the way their fans are shown in the audience with their traditional attire and steel drums. It’s like they’re doing exactly what white audiences would expect. It’s not entirely harmful stereotyping, but it’s not exactly harmless. They all deserve better and so do we.
While we’re talking about stereotypes, let’s go all the way to Team Iceland. I’ve been to Iceland and have met people there. They are among the nicest people I’ve ever met. They’re warm, welcoming, and friendly. To see their team portrayed as little more than thugs on ice. What I realized while watching this is that with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the great Soviet Empire, American sports movies needed a substitute for their arch enemies on the international stage. So, they started trotting out other European nations to fill that gap. It’s trite and annoying. That said, it’s fascinating to see how the Cold War left its permanent mark on our films.
All things considered, there’s a lot you can look at and analyze in films. It’s good to look at things with a critical eye. Understanding the problematic things of our past is the only way we can move forward to make things better. It’s a lesson for films and life.