After the success of The Mighty Ducks in 1992, Disney immediately went to work on the sequel and released D2: The Mighty Ducks in early 1994. Like most sequels, D2 is not as good as the original. It is the typical follow-up in the way that it raises the stakes while also rehashing much of the first film, albeit with some new characters and new uniforms.
Note that my “retro review” of D2: The Mighty Ducks assumes that you’ve seen the first film. This review also contains some D2 spoilers, but that’s OK, because reading this will save you two hours of your life.
D2 opens with Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) playing for a minor league hockey team called the Minnesota Waves. He is sidelined with a knee injury and returns to Minneapolis, where he is met by his mentor, Jan (pronounced YAHN).Jan? Wait — where the hell is Hans, the wise, old German guy from the first Ducks movie? You know, the man who was practically a surrogate father to Bombay?
Well, Hans is vacationing in Germany, while his brother Jan is running the pro shop. Funny that this is the first time that we’ve seen or heard of Jan, even though quite a bit of the first Ducks film took place at the pro shop. Stuff like this annoys me about sequels; just recast the character. Does Bombay really need two old German father-figures/mentors in his life?
Anyway, “Not Hans” gets Bombay in touch with a hockey equipment executive, who somehow has the pull to get Bombay recruited as the coach of the USA hockey team at the Junior Goodwill Games. If Bombay coaches Team USA to a gold medal, his endorsement will help to sell more hockey sticks or something.
Team captain Charlie Conway spends most of his time at the pro shop now that his mother is remarried. Apparently, there was no room in the “ice castle” for Bombay, but that’s fine, because it frees him up to flirt with the pretty women in this sequel.
Charlie gets the gang back together in a fun Rollerblading sequence, complete with hijinks and tomfoolery because, dammit, this is a kids movie, so hijinks and tomfoolery are required. Returning to the Ducks with Charlie are Jessie Hall, Les Averman, Greg Goldberg, Adam Banks, Connie Moreau, Guy Germaine and Fulton Reed.
I hope you didn’t get attached to Peter Mark, Dave Karp, Tammy Duncan, Tommy Duncan or Terry Hall, because they’re not back in D2. Yes, Terry is absent, even though his brother Jessie is still on the team. Awkward.Instead, they are replaced by new players from other parts of the U.S.: Lou Mendoza, who can skate fast but can’t stop; Dwayne Robertson, a cowboy who is also a wizard with the puck; Ken Wu, a diminutive figure skater; Dean Portman, an enforcer; and Julie “The Cat” Gaffney, a goalie. The Ducks are now truly a national team with players from all over the country.
After some initial strife between the old Ducks and new Ducks players, they all become friends, head to California and compete in the Junior Goodwill Games as Team USA. They easily demolish their first two opponents, then hit a wall when they play Iceland.
Iceland is basically the Hawks from the first Ducks movie: black uniforms, a draconian coach, and an overly-aggressive style of play, though this time with European accents and cool names like Gunnar Stahl. Our heroes get clobbered by the evil hockey team, star player Adan Banks gets hurt, Bombay gets mad at the team, and the team gets mad at Bombay.That should all sound familiar to you if you saw the first Ducks movie — because all of that literally happened in the first Ducks movie! And just like the previous film, Bombay does some soul-searching while skating — but this time on Rollerblades instead of ice skates — and realizes that he let his team down.
Meanwhile, the Team USA players have a run-in with Russ Tyler, a streetwise roller hockey player. Tyler, played by a young, scene-stealing Kenan Thompson, and his friends challenge Team USA to a game of roller hockey, which somehow makes Team USA ready to take on Iceland. He also teaches them his famous “knuckle puck” slap shot, which will probably be important later on in the film.Charlie recruits Russ to play for Team USA to fill in for the injured Adam because there’s nothing in the rulebook about adding players mid-tournament. But then Adam’s wrist heals and Charlie steps aside to make room for him and to help Bombay with coaching.
The rest of the film predictably falls into place.
My biggest problem with D2 are the half-hearted attempts at character development. Bombay quickly lets money and fame go to his head, then just as quickly realizes that he was wrong. Charlie starts to come into his own as a leader, but more so because everyone keeps saying he is, rather than actually demonstrating some leadership qualities like he did in the first Ducks film.
For example, when Bombay is late to a game, Charlie convinces Team USA’s tutor to pretend to be their coach. Wouldn’t it have made for a better story if Charlie had stepped in and coached in Bombay’s absence?Another complaint of mine is that much of the action in this film is so absurd that it is cringe-worthy. For example, “cowboy” Dwayne lassos an unruly opponent with a rope. Later, Russ disguises himself in Goldberg’s jersey and goalie gear so he can fire off a “knuckle puck” when the other team least suspects it. I’m all for a little suspension of disbelief when watching a movie, but this all is just so stupid.
D2: The Mighty Ducks is a dumb movie for kids, and that’s OK. Not everything has to be serious or even believable; fun is fine most of the time, and D2 is still a fun movie. It is basically a rehash of The Mighty Ducks, but this time on an international stage and minus any of the twists or character development that made the first film so enjoyable.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk. ■