“Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack!”
The Scoop: 1992 PG, directed by Stephen Herek and starring Emilio Estevez, Joss Ackland and Lane Smith
Tagline: They Can’t Skate. They Can’t Win. They Can’t Be Serious.
Summary Capsule: A loser team is reborn into ducky glory as their lawyer coach receives the Disney Complete Makeover
Justin’s rating: Migrating into my heart
Justin’s review: When I consider all the things I should be thankful for in my life, I suppose that my four-plus year stint in various video rental stores should be on that list. That, and Peach Smints, which are so addictive I think they put a tiny kernel of peach-soaked crack in the center. That video store experience, not the Smints, is majorly responsible for my interest in searching out weird, mostly unknown films. Aside from rollerblading around the store, I used my massive boredom as fuel to start reading the backs of the dusty Never Rented. This is how I came across future Mutant Reviewers lovables like Clerks, Empire Records, and Evil Dead II. While most clerks went insane or sold their souls to join management, I escaped and founded a cinema refugee colony in the south tropics.
One of the perks of nearly every non-Blockbuster store I worked at was that the clerks could pick the movies to be played on the store TVs. In theory, this was to promote specific films for rental, but in practice, we just picked some movies we wanted to watch that day. Movies which we rarely had more than one copy of, so if someone actually wanted to rent it, we had to pretend the VHS tape was glued in the VCR and they were sore out of luck. It took a straight face to say that, but what were they gonna do to minimum-wage employees?
It was a nice job bonus, hobbled by the fact that we weren’t allowed to play movies rated higher than PG, which limited our selection somewhat. Thus, each clerk would comb over the 40 PG films in the store and develop their own list of movies we’d endlessly replay. Among mine were Encino Man and The Mighty Ducks, picked not for their cinematic excellence, exactly, but because they had a nice upbeat tempo between jokes, song cues, and high energy endings. I needed to feed off of that to keep energized for work. Despite the fact that PoolMan’s going to flay me for daring to even promote this as a hockey movie, I saw Mighty Ducks perhaps 165 times as a clerk. There’s a reason for that.
Two reasons, actually. One is for a line that Emilio Estevez says with a mostly straight face. That line is “Are we ducks OR WHAT?” which well may be the best screen dialogue ever written in the 1990s. Plus, it’s good in most socially delicate situations, such as being called on to entertain the Queen of England. When she spills her tea on your carpet, you can whip this out as a non sequitur.
The other reason comes from the team’s chant, which is summed up in a word, “Quack.” My old French-Canadian girlfriend told me that ducks don’t say “Quack”, they say something like “Quey,” but then she also thought you have cats in your throat, not frogs. Ah, the culture barrier. Anywhodiddly, the team starts this absolutely ridiculous chant during the final game, and darn it if it doesn’t give me goosebumps every time. If a film can give me goosebumps from a duck noise, then it can’t be all that bad.
The Mighty Ducks is a sports movie, and as a sports movie, The Mighty Ducks throws in every cliché into an organ grinder to make some sort of digestible sausage. There’s Bombay (Estevez), a dishonest lawyer [pause] who needs the magic of youth to revitalize his love of hockey. A court order forces him to coach a peewee league of pucking misfits who aren’t really that bad, they just need good leadership and wacky training devices to bring out their aquatic power.
Even if you’ve never seen this movie, I bet you’ve seen enough like it to be able to draw me up a fairly accurate plot outline. Yes, there’s some sort of breakdown in team morale toward the end that gets patched up in a big hurry. Yes, there’s a half-baked romance thrown in for no good reason than just to give Emilio a kissing scene. Yes, the roster for the team is as diverse as Disney’s Small World ride — they even have a gah-gah-gah-girl!
But despite all this, Mighty Ducks isn’t a disaster or a duldrum exercise. It’s a well-mixed brew that goes down smooth, as long as you don’t dedicate yourself to picking it apart. If nothing else, it gave us an actual NHL team of the same name, which is in itself so ridiculous that everyone would be laughing, except they’d be laughing at a bunch of angry men who look like Jason and have no compunction against using their dull skates to bludgeon your face in, so everyone keeps their peeps shut.
- A REALLY young Josh Jackson (Dawson’s Creek) as Charlie
- Number 10 on the Ducks’ rival team, the Hawks, is named Herek (the director’s last name)
- Charlie’s last name is Conway, but in the end credits he is billed as Charlie Conroy.
- During the last game, Banks is injured and leaves the game. Later, we see his number and jersey playing again.
Casey: Look, Mr. Zen Master, you may be in tune with the ice universe, but, when it comes to my kid, “I just know” doesn’t cut it!
Goldberg: Be careful man, it almost hit me that time!
Charlie: Goldberg, you’re the goalie. It’s supposed to hit you.
Goldberg: Does that sound stupid to anyone else?
Bombay: I hate kids. They’re barely human.
Bombay: You think losing is funny?!
Averman: Well not at first, but once you get the hang of it.
Bombay: Now here’s the long and the short of it: I hate hockey and I don’t like kids.
Mark: What’s this supposed to be, a pep talk?
Bombay: I’m sure this will be a real bonding experience. One day, maybe one of you will write a book about it in jail.
Bombay: Did you really quack at the Principal?
Bombay: Are we Ducks or what?
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Mystery, Alaska
- D2: The Mighty Ducks
- Major League