Disney Pre-9/11 Video Vault: The Mighty Ducks Franchise

It’s been almost 23 years since we last cheered on the District Five, Junior Goodwill Team USA, Eden Hall Mighty Ducks and the country is worse off for it.

In 1992, The Mighty Ducks kicked off a string of Disney children’s sports films–which were all basically rip-offs of The Bad News Bears–which almost never happened. When NHL great Wayne Gretzky got traded to Los Angeles, he brought a tidal wave of hockey excitement into the Hollywood market. Well, not a tidal wave, but enough drops in the proverbial bucket to  warrant Disney picking up a sidelined script about a disgraced lawyer being forced to coach a ragtag group of multi-racial street rats.

The motley crew of poor-to-lower-middle class punk kids includes a young Jussie Smollett who proudly chants the team’s new mantra: “Take the fall, act hurt, get indignant,” which may explain how the events of his later career transpired…

Anyway…

The first Mighty Ducks film, despite being viewed and thoroughly enjoyed as a classic of childhood cinema by perhaps every Millennial in the country, has earned a shockingly tragic score of 23% on Rotten Tomatoes. 

At first, it makes you wonder who could have panned this film so mercilessly that it resulted in such a low score. Then you see reviews such as this gem from Janet Maslin of the failing New York Times:

“The film is remarkably oblivious to the fact that if the team weren’t hell-bent on a championship, young moviegoers would be significantly less interested in its adventures.”

Imagine this review being lobbed at any other film… Star Wars is remarkably oblivious to the fact that if the heroes weren’t hell-bent on defeating the Empire, young moviegoers would be significantly less interested in the adventure.

It becomes increasingly clear that these finger-wagging, anti-sports, Fun Police Critics have zero tolerance for any film that boasts the benefits of teamwork and athleticism without shoehorning in some message about transgender acceptance or how all of the white kids are racist until they figure out the magic of intersectionality.

No, The Mighty Ducks is a film where children of all races are playing hockey (of all sports) as a unit. Unsuccessfully, of course, at first, but nothing a reluctant alcoholic in a kids’ movie can’t fix! Unlike The Bad News Bears, the message of children of different ethnic backgrounds playing together is a non-issue. The District Five “Ducks” even have multiple girls on the team and it’s never even so much as mentioned.

This is what drives the critics nuts. There is only one major conflict or message in The Mighty Ducks outside of the journey to become the best junior hockey team: father figures. This is another theme that cuts into the progressive narrative that companies like Disney, for a time, seemed keen to thwart, but critics and journalists refused to support: Having a good father figure builds character.

This patriarchal theme is apparent in all three franchise films but really hits hard in the first and third. Let’s briefly play it out:

Image result for the mighty ducks franchiseGordon Bombay seemed like a sweet kid, passionate about hockey and impressing both his Father and his surrogate father, the Coach of the Hawks. His father passes away and his Coach becomes disillusioned by his failure. Gordon then turns to the supportive embrace of a local Minnesota sports gear shop owner named Hans.

When Bombay becomes a lawyer, his boss, Mr. Ducksworth replaces all other father figures. At first, Mr. Ducksworth seems to take Gordon under his wing (pun intended), but later abandons him almost arbitrarily over some favor he owed a client.

Gordon turns back to Hans for support, but now the tables have turned. The star player on Bombay’s new ragtag group of kids is a kind-hearted boy, passionate about hockey, who has…drumroll please…no dad. Feeling guilty and emotionally connected to Charlie Conway, Gordon ostensibly agrees to be Charlie’s Coach, Father, and Guardian. The film ends on a high note. All the poor kids have fatherly guidance in their lives and they’ve proven to themselves that they had the moderate talent it takes to win a junior hockey championship.

The 2nd and 3rd films in the franchise are less memorable, are often more goofy, and offer a bit less substance, but are still enjoyable nonetheless, and are far better than their abysmal 20% scores on Rotten Tomatoes.

Image result for d2 team usaIn 1994, the Gordon Bombay returned in D2: The Mighty Ducks, where he makes a decent run at minor league hockey before getting injured. He was then offered a lucrative position as spokesperson for sports gear company Hendrix, as well as the opportunity to coach the sensational Mighty Ducks once again, but this time as Junior Goodwill Olympic Games Team USA.

The lesson in D2 is a convoluted one. The Ducks have gained plenty of nationwide fame somehow, even to the point that Anaheim, California has named a new team after them. Their fame continues as they dominate countries like Trinidad and Tobago (who I guess have a hockey team?). Pride starts to go to everyone’s head, especially with the addition of a new handful of players that appear to have been taken straight out of a Street Fighter game.

When it came time for the Ducks to go up against more reasonably competitive countries, Gordon Bombay fears that team, and he, will be humiliated. Bombay begins to push the team to practice hard, thus turning him into what is essentially a Disney Villain. The team loses their faith in Bombay as a coach and seeks affirmation in a band of inner-city black street hockey playing youths led by trash-talking Keenan Thompson.

Gordon apologizes for trying to coach them, Charlie Conway accepts that even though his “dad” works too hard, he still loves them very much. The team adds to their roster again, and Bombay, the old Ducks, the figure skater, the cowboy, the suave hispanic guy who can’t use his brakes, the girl-goalie, and the Bash Brothers defeat Iceland (the real bad guys) and save the day for competitive sports merchandising!

D2 suffers from the strange absence of central character Mrs. Conway and even more essential character, Gordon’s mentor Hans who is inexplicably replaced with a similar-looking character named Jan… It is easily the least-memorable installment in the trilogy.

Image result for d4 the mighty ducksD3, released in 1996, completes the cycle and returns to form on the theme of role models, arrogance and the influence of male authority figures in the lives of young boys. Gordon Bombay pulls some strings and gets the entire Ducks team JV Hockey scholarships at his alma mater, Eden Hall. He wishes them well, and heads off on the road to work his new job with Hendrix Sports Gear.

This sends Charlie Conway into a downward spiral of abandonment issues, resulting in lashing out against the team’s new Eden Hall Academy coach who just seems like a normal guy who wants his team to do well. Charlie’s actions get him cut from the team and his constant tantrum-throwing disappoints Hans to death.

The gang re-unites for Hans’ funeral, where an emotionally broken Gordon Bombay explains to Charlie that he only left because he trusted that Charlie would take his place as leader of the team.

Charlie rejoins the Eden Hall JV Warriors which temporarily rename themselves the Eden Hall Ducks and win an ultimately meaningless scrimmage with the Varsity team. Having saved the team, and the team’s pending scholarship from imploding, a self-satisfied Gordon Bombay disappears into the crowd as if he never really existed at all.

Charlie Conway’s behavior in this final installment almost accidentally comes off as a hyper-realistic example of the effect paternal abandonment has on young men. He begins lashing out at everyone, including his friends and replacement mentors. He points the finger at everyone who doesn’t want to follow him on his crusade, accusing them of being treasonous and artificial.

Image result for emilio estevezIf Disney ever comes back with a D4: The Mighty Ducks after all these years, I would expect the plot to feature Charlie Conway, a barely-scraping by 38 year old alcoholic, breaking into Gordon Bombay’s home to complain about how none of the Mighty Ducks want to get back together. All of his former team-mates are now coaches, retired NHL players, or career-driven mothers and fathers. All except Charlie.

Seeing that Charlie is in a desperate state and ultimately self-destructive, a middle-aged Gordon Bombay secretly does one last favor for his old friend: convinces the old Mighty Ducks to get back together and compete in a fictional tournament against some college hockey teams.

Image result for joshua jacksonIn the midst of realizing they are no longer good enough to compete against young college athletes, the Mighty Ducks accidentally let it slip that this was all a rues so that Charlie Conway wouldn’t drink himself to death. This revelation lights the spark in Charlie to get the team motivated and competitive, bringing back classic old moves like the Flying V, Knuckle Puck, Triple Deke, and Fulton Reed’s concussive slap shot. The Ducks win the tournament, but what really matters is that Charlie learns the lengths his old friends will go to just to make sure he doesn’t die.

Hopefully the clock hasn’t run out on making this film happen. I think the nostalgia value alone would more than make up for the crippling darkness of the plot.

And this is exactly why there will never be another kids’ film franchise like The Mighty Ducks. Something happened to our culture after September 11, 2001 that increased our desire for two things: looking back at a time before 9/11, and escaping completely from reality. Superhero movies and Fantasy flicks rule the day, and the only reprieve we get are shallow remakes and Muppet Movie-style cameos that give us a fleeting feeling that our childhoods are not entirely corrupted and lost.

I have more confidence that Disney will eventually reboot The Mighty Ducks, destroying the cast dynamic irreparably. The coach will be a trans female, and the ragtag group of inner city black hockey playing kids from Chicago will have to learn to take orders from a “girl” coach in order to improve to the point of winning the PeeWee Hockey Championship. But let’s face it, they were the best and most talented team all along anyway. Let Disney take the loss.

Image result for the mighty ducks franchise

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The Road to Star Wars: Episode IX

In my last Star Wars-heavy article, I put forth an honest and complete review of The Last Jedi. I can’t fully comprehend the level of hatred the film is getting; but I think it’s mainly based on what I referred to as “broken nostalgia” and perhaps a little bit of good ol’ fashioned butt-hurt over not getting the story they had been picturing in their mind’s eye for 2 years. But you can go check out my full review in due time.

This article is going to be about what to expect going forward, because I think I’ve got this whole messy thing figured out. Cocky, I know. And part of me fully expects to be wrong on this…but bear with me. Just go with it.

1.gifTwo things have been revealed to the public since the release of The Last Jedi. The working title of Episode IX in development right now is “Black Diamond.” Working titles are place-holders for a film’s final title, sometimes an inside joke, sometimes an element of the story. For instance, the “working title” of the upcoming Han Solo stand-alone flick was “Red Cup.” Red Solo Cup. Get it?

The other nugget that has been revealed was a little bit more information about Supreme Leader Snoke, an ominous and mysterious evil character whose life (and body) was tragically cut short in the latest trilogy installment.

What we learned, from an official LucasFilm tie-in magazine called The Souvenir Guide to the Movie Star Wars: The Last Jediwas that aside from Kylo Ren, Snoke has trained at least one other apprentice. Now, what could this mean? Maybe something, maybe nothing. But I’m willing to believe that either he is Darth Plagueis and his “other apprentice” was Darth Sidious…or this information is just another meaningless mislead.

Here’s where you need to go on this little ride with me, because it’s going to be intense, and maybe a little unbelievable…but if I’m right, Episode IX is going to explore some very interesting themes.

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 5.51.18 PMbelieve that Star Wars: Episode IX is going to focus on the character of Supreme Leader Snoke. His origins, his fate, and his ongoing presence in this Universe. “Black Diamond” almost has to refer to the ring Snoke wears.

The black “diamond” ring is actually a piece of Obsidian from the catacombs beneath Darth Vader’s Mustafar Castle. It is inscribed with Dwartii lettering. According to canon, the Sages of Dwartii were philosophers from the old Galactic Republic. Darth Sidious’ master, Darth Plagueis, had statues of the Sages of Dwartii in his possession. When Sidious “murdered” his master, he took the statues and put them on display in his own quarters.

So now we have a link to both Darth Vader, The Emperor, and Darth Plagueis. I don’t think your Snoke theory” was bullshit after all. Either Snoke is Darth Plagueis himself (which would make him the being who created Darth Vader as a virgin birth in the Force) or he is simply a new character with all of the packaging and characteristics of Darth Plagueis.

Furthermore, Luke Skywalker mentions Darth Sidious in The Last Jedi. Why use that name? Why not say “The Emperor”? Luke never knew The Emperor as “Darth Sidious,” so why include that line in the film? Because there is a connection to the prequels through Snoke. So let’s say for the sake of the next argument I’m going to make that Snoke isn’t Darth Plagueis…but he is still the timeless Force User/Prime Jedi who used the Force and the midi-chlorians to create Darth Vader. He can transcend death and be one with the force, but when he is in a body, he is confined to that body. So now that he is “dead” he can become more powerful.

And as we know, the only thing in this universe more powerful than Mary Sue Rey… is Snoke.

Now, you’re going to have to strap seat-belts to your brain because I’m about to take it on the ride of its life…

Let’s move on to new-trilogy creator JJ AbramsJJ kicked off this whole sha-bang with The Force Awakens and has been tasked with helming/writing Episode IX as well. JJ Abrams is a talented writer and director who is known to explore similar themes in many of his projects. Why not? He’s interested in mythology and he sticks with certain ideas.

Well, way back in September of 2004, JJ Abrams premiered a television phenomenon called…LOST. According to the mythology of LOST that many people found confounding and difficult to follow, the ISLAND was a sort-of birthplace of good and evil. In order to keep the evil confined to the ISLAND, the good guy killed/buried him. The ISLAND then acted as a sort of “cork” to hold the evil in place.

The evil took a very familiar form: Smoke.

In The Last Jedi we get a very similar mythology. An ISLAND where good and evil coexist, a birthplace of the Jedi. Luke attempts to keep Rey’s attention away from one specific location on the island…a mysterious hole; a hole where it looks like something has broken free.

The ultimate evil: Snoke.

If you recall the shape and appearance of this hole in the Island (Ahch-To), it bears a very striking resemblance to a certain symbol:

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Familiar? Coincidence?

Another clue to Snoke’s possible connection to the island of Ahch-To is an interesting symbol we catch several glimpses of in The Last Jedi. It depicts the Prime Jedi, the one who started the First Jedi Order. The Prime Jedi is even defined by the Star Wars: The Last Jedi Visual Dictionary as “the first of the order.”

What happens when you take the Jedi out of the “First Jedi Order”?

IMG_5987
The First Order. Is Snoke the FIRST Jedi?

The Jedi knew that Snoke was too powerful as he was well-versed in both the light side, and the dark, and as all Jedi know…if you strike him down, he will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

So–like the Smoke Monster/Man in Black in LOSTSnoke was imprisoned and confined to the Island. There, he communicated with Kylo Ren. Luke was attempting to keep the cork in the bottle, but Kylo Ren was too powerful. Kylo Ren released Snoke from his prison, bringing the Darkness back into the Galaxy. THIS was Luke’s failure…this is why Luke felt so responsible.

But because all of this was a Jedi secret, Kylo Ren only knew that Luke was some bastard keeping a prisoner locked up…a prisoner who promised Kylo Ren that he could be more powerful…and that Luke had been holding him back. So Snoke and Kylo Ren flee and create the First Order, not as Sith Master and Sith Apprentice, but something new.

Because Luke never told Kylo Ren about the nature of Snoke or why he was being confined to the Island, Kylo has no idea that killing his new Master will make him even stronger. This is how we get Snoke back in Episode IX. And all of these flashback plot details will be revealed to the audience then.

As for the rest of the plot of Episode IX, my best guess is that–similarly to The Last Jedi–the other characters don’t really matter all that much. We’ll get a complete wrap-up of Darth Vader’s story, ending with the reveal that his “father” was Snoke. All of the original cast members are dead, and the Skywalker Saga is over. This is also why it doesn’t really matter who Rey’s Parents are, but I’d still really like to know. I don’t think they’re “nobody.”

So here’s what I believe will happen in Episode IX, with all the hypothesis I’ve just laid out…

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Luke will appear to Rey, informing her that she is the Galaxy’s last hope. He’ll tell her that Snoke is still “alive” and more powerful now. And he’ll explain his failure to keep Snoke contained…and the effects of what Kylo Ren has done. Essentially as a “god” now, Snoke can destroy the Resistance pretty easily. He must have some limitations, but who knows?

Luke will say that even he has no idea how to stop Snoke. There was only one place to find those kinds of answers, and they were the ancient texts he protected in the tree back on the island…but stupid YODA had to go and burn them all up! OH WAIT–Rey saved the texts! We saw this at the end of The Last Jedi when Finn goes to get Rose a blanket (the only thing Finn did throughout the whole movie to serve the plot, interestingly enough).

So now Rey has to do some studying. Good, keep her occupied for a while. She’ll find out something along the lines of: the only way to kill a Force Ghost is to sacrifice your life, or to kill another force ghost, or to give up something special, whatever…you get it.

Throughout this series, Rey has only been vulnerable once so far. And she is saved by Kylo Ren. Because he felt a connection to her, because of Snoke. But Snoke kept some information from both of them…he convinced Kylo Ren and Rey that her parents were “nobody.” Because if Snoke allowed Kylo Ren to access the true information, he would definitely join Rey–since he’s weak and conflicted and all. Kylo Ren and Rey are brother and sister. They were kept separate on purpose (like Luke and Leia).

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 5.51.18 PMKylo Ren learns this little tidbit and it leads to him sacrificing his life to both kill Snoke (like Vader kills the Emperor, but a ghost this time) and save Rey’s life one last time. So, in a sense, he finally fulfills his destiny and becomes the new “Darth Vader.” Happy ending.

Meanwhile, we will get another Finn & Rose subplot that will have no connection to the main story.

In this installment of the Adventures of Finn & Rose, the Resistance has to regroup. Everyone is sort of tasked with gathering reinforcements to build the Resistance up to Rebellion levels. Finn and Rose have a discussion about loss/family. Finn will explain that he never knew his family and he was taken by the First Order as a baby.

This grinds Rose’s gears because family is super important to her, remember?

So Finn & Rose go looking for Finn’s family. But where do they start? Maybe someone who has access to things that are locked or missing? BOOM–we bring back Benicio Del Toro’s mysterious “Don’t Join” character. This will also re-up Finn’s hesitation moment about the Resistance not being as pure and perfect as he’d imagined.

So as the Resistance/Rebellion grows, Finn, Rose and “DJ” go Family huntin’. Through records and First Order/Empire activity in various areas, they’re led to Bespin only to find out that Finn’s father is….dun dun dun…come on, it’s totally Lando Calrissian.

We get a solid excuse to bring Lando back into the movies, and we get a closing to the trilogy that’s all about family, loss, revelation, and peace. With Snoke destroyed and the New Rebellion a success at wiping out the rest of the remaining First Order, The Galactic Republic can start anew…but Finn can go “but this time, we do it the right way” because of all the shady stuff he learned from “DJ.”

What about Poe Dameron? He’ll be doing whatever he does with the Resistance. Maybe they’ll bring Maz Kanata back and we can figure out how the fuck Poe knew who she was in The Last Jedi.

So there’s your movie. Will it all turn out that way? Maybe. Maybe not. Based on all the clues available to me, this is what I came up with–and, frankly, this is actually a movie I’d really like to see. And I think it would be a fitting end to the Skywalker Saga.

No need to continue on Rey’s story for another trilogy. The Jedi are over, the Darkness has been destroyed, we’re done!

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Rox Trash Radio, Ep. 205

We kick this episode off with Net Neutrality and why everything you heard is wrong / My ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ thoughts and review with spoilers / Turning to local politics with the rise of the Asians / Helen Gym embarrasses herself and wheels out a bewildered black woman on DemocracyNow / The ‘Different Kind of Democrat’ coalition becomes the ‘Lady B Army’ and diverts all of their attention to getting a washed up DJ re-hired / The new Eminem album is a stale mess of nonsense references and tired Trump insults / A Christmas Story: Live ruins A Christmas Story / TJ Miller is the next Little Weinstein and Pete Davidson loses what was left of his mind.

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