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…


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


The Last Jedi: Most Divisive ‘Star Wars’ Ever?

As an unapologetic Star Wars apologist, I feel that we need to get several things straight right away regarding a personal and a public response to this latest trilogy installment, The Last Jedi.

Let’s start with the personal. With the unquestionable exception of the Wookiee-related sections of the Star Wars Holiday Special, I can watch anything in the Star Wars franchise with varying levels of joy. There is little doubt that the Star Wars films, television shows, and spin-offs display widely inconsistent levels of quality; however, I am one who happens to be both realistic about those faults, and also someone who can enjoy the films almost equally based on their own merits.

My personal quick-review of The Last Jedi without spoilers (spoiler alert pending) is that it is, like every other film in the franchise, a flawed but exciting cinematic adventure. Films like The Last Jedi are why we go to the movies. I’ve only seen it once (so far) and my opinion may fluctuate in various areas over multiple views. But I loved every second of the movie during my initial theater viewing.

As we go on, you may find that the issues that you found ultimately franchise-breaking or trilogy-damning may be the same things I considered to be forgivable flaws, passable plot holes, or simply elements inherent to a mid-trilogy film that I may be able to change your thinking on.

1First, we need to discuss the critical and public response, which I find genuinely suspicious. Disney has been enjoying consistent critical success with a majority of its contemporary productions. Critics are often over-kind to Disney to the extent that they can almost do no wrong.

For example, the previous two “nothing to write home about” DISNEY/MARVEL movies Spider-Man Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok BOTH sit at a 92% with critics and 88% with audiences on Rotten Tomatoes.

Now, despite universal criticism (not from me, btw) that The Force Awakens was little more than a modern remake of A New Hope, it enjoyed a 93% Rotten Tomatoes rating from critics…and an 88% from the audience.

The Last Jedi also received a 93% critical response, but for some reason, a jaded and reactionary 56% from audiences. Why?

To put that number in perspective, it is at least 1-3 percentage points lower than all three Star Wars prequels. Was The Last Jedi truly a worse film than any of the Lucas-directed prequel trilogy installments? Objectively and categorically, no.

This is clearly a concentrated effort to devalue and dismiss the series, and I have some ideas what specific elements caused people to lose their minds and a theory on what it was that set them off: broken nostalgia.

benWe tend to like things when they’re new, misremember what made us fall in love with them, miss them when they’re gone, and appreciate them even more when they return. Pop culture has a lifelong love affair with Star Wars that runs so deep into t-shirts, slogans, special events, references, toys, collectibles, and gimmicks that the actual romantic feelings toward the franchise have been jaded by sexual depravity.

My assertion is that, essentially, fans–passive and former–have clung so hard to the Funko Pop-figurines and tattooed models in Princess Leia chains that they forgot what it was like to see these movies for the first time. If they’re not already divorced from this relationship, they’re headed toward a passionate murder-suicide at light-speed.

I don’t want to say that real fans liked (or loved) this movie, while passive fans hated it; but I think that would be an almost entirely accurate representation. This reaction can’t be universal, but I think it’s the closest to truth we’re likely to get.

1In response to this, I recommend that everyone ignore reviews of any fan-base franchise, because it’s not for critics and it’s not for people who hate it. There would be nothing LucasFilm could have possibly done to win over the haters. These movies are for the people who love Star Wars conceptually and unapologetically.

The people who hate it aren’t wrong, they’re just not the kind of people you want to hang around…they’re Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter people. Fuck ’em.

Now…have the negative nancies in the critical and self-flagellating ‘fandom’ lost their minds? Certainly, some of them have. Some of them hate new things, and some of them are genuinely disappointed in what has become of a franchise they used to get excited about.

However, I’m about to offer an even more condescending theory: Maybe they just didn’t get it?

2But let’s start off on a good foot. First, I want to talk about what I liked about the film. Rian Johnson’s contribution to the franchise worked so well visually. Johnson’s career-long cinematographer, Steve Yedlin has a fantastic vision that can be seen across Johnson’s entire body of directorial work. If you’re familiar with Rian Johnson’s previous work such as Brick, The Brothers Bloom, or Looper, you may catch the similarities in style.

When it comes to the actual story, the nature of the force was expanded in such an organic way–if you’ve been paying attention to the canon–that it created a dynamic where every move the good characters made had an equal and opposite response in the realm of the evil characters. Let’s get into more detail…

***Spoiler Alert!***

The trailers and advertising campaign created an ongoing impression that our hero, Luke Skywalker, had turned to the dark side. And I’m still not so sure he didn’t. Although he gave his life to allow our new heroes time to escape in the film’s finale, he appears to be solely responsible for the rise of Kylo Ren. Had Luke not tried to murder his teenage student, perhaps he would have been able to save him.

The main theme that runs through The Last Jedi is hubris. Poe believes that he alone can be the hot-headed pilot who takes on the First Order. Kylo and Rey believe that they are much more powerful than they actually are, which leads to pain and suffering. Luke thinks he’s preserving the Jedi Order, which leads to galactic disaster. And Snoke thinks he has Ben Solo under his thumb, which leads to his early (for an ancient force-being) demise…or does it?

My biggest takeaway from this film were the overload of story elements, the vast amount of information we got all at once regarding the nature of the universe, the force, our new characters, and some old favorites.

Yoda popping in as a Force Ghost just to light shit up was one of the best moments of the movie. Yoda laid the ground work for Luke to have piece of mind by destroying the tree and (as far as Luke is aware) the ancient Jedi texts. In doing this, Yoda allows Luke to let the past die…even though unbeknownst to Skywalker, Rey has kept the books in tact.

One of the biggest themes in the Star Wars universe is characters misleading one another and hiding their intentions. This is why I believe that everything that was “revealed” in The Last Jedi was a lie. And if that disappointed you, or left you unfulfilled, I feel bad for you. Because, personally, it made me so excited for what comes next.

What did we learn? Snoke is dead. Rey’s parents are just anonymous junk traders. Force ghosts can impact the world around them more than we thought. Force-users can project their physical form across the galaxy. Kylo Ren wants to watch everything but the First Order burn. The most powerful place you can be in the force is not a Jedi/Sith, but somewhere in the middle. Luke is dead. The Resistance is operationally no better or worse than the First Order. And Rey is still a one-dimensional Mary Sue whose entire hero-journey is uninteresting.


What comes next (Predictions)? Snoke isn’t dead. He was either projecting himself in the throne room or his physical body is meaningless, as we all know, Jedi are more powerful when they return from death. Snoke is a Jedi; not just any Jedi, but the first Jedi. His image is on the floor in the center of Luke’s Jedi Temple. The ancient Jedi Texts were written (or partially written) by him. It will be through those texts, which Rey saved from the Tree before it was burned, that Rey will discover his true nature and how to ultimately destroy him.

1Snoke can’t be dead because he was in control of every element of this entire show so far. The fact that the recently revealed working title for Episode 9 is “Black Diamond” all but confirms my suspicions (Snoke wears a black diamond ring, an element found on Mustafar where Vader’s Castle is located).

2Rey is Kylo Ren’s sister. Snoke mentions the seed of Skywalker and hides this information from both of them because he knows Ben Solo is weak and will turn against him if he knew this. He couldn’t kill his mother, he won’t kill his sister.

Rey has one more movie (we can only hope) to become an interesting character. And I hope she will, because I like Daisy Ridley and want her to do well.

There is also a chance none of this happens and J.J. Abrams takes Episode IX in a totally unexpected direction. The scene tagged onto the end of The Last Jedi enabled the franchise to excuse away any and all aspects of being “Force Sensitive” or learning about the Force as, essentially, a superpower.

When the stable boy force-pulls his broom… could be the new “jumping the shark.” Or, like everything else, it could be a pure misdirection.


Now let’s get into what I took issue with…

Princess Leia has a scene where her ship blows up and she flies through space, surviving it all because of…the Force, I guess? It’s basically a replica of a space-death scene from Guardians of the Galaxy but I don’t see why Disney would do that…ever. I couldn’t help but cringe during this scene.

Also, you may have noticed that a majority of the characters in this movie didn’t even get an honorable mention in the spoilers or the things I liked. That’s because all of those characters were irrelevant to the plot of this film.

Every scene with Finn and/or Rose could have been deleted from the movie and it would not have changed one bit. Having said that, I found Rose a lot less annoying than I thought I would.

The Force Awakens created an intriguing anti-hero in Finn, an escaped Stormtrooper who had no allegiance to the Resistance and was conflicted about fighting for anything but his obvious interest in Rey.

I want Finn to have a role in this story, and he just didn’t have one in The Last Jedi. I still believe he is the stolen child of Lando Calrissian, but I don’t want to believe that his only purpose is as a plot device to bring Billy Dee Williams into the fold.

The Finn and Rose story was meant to be the B-story of the film, but it wound up affecting nothing, having no worth, and having no impact on any other character’s path.

That being said, I loved Canto Bight and I was very excited for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s cameo. But I’m a sucker for ensemble creature scenes. I would’ve settled for arbitrary cuts to Canto Bight rather than a B-Story that doesn’t serve the A-story.

finnLet’s follow Finn’s story arc for just a moment:

  • Finn wanted to flee the existential crisis the Resistance was caught in just to protect Rey from returning to a trap.
  • He’s then caught by a crying Rose who explains that somehow a low level mechanic knows how to get out of this situation better than the military strategists.
  • They explain their plan to Poe Dameron who goes “Great, let’s do it.” They say, they can’t. Great plan.
  • Maz fucking Kanata inexplicably shows up on a screen to say they have to sneak in to another very specific place to find a very specific man. Can’t they find another capable man? No. Just one man can do this. Just. One.
  • Finn and Rose are caught by the police for illegally parking their car (yes, it’s true) and wind up in jail with Benicio Del Toro, who isn’t the man they needed to find, but for some reason, he’ll do.
  • Rose exposes her entire backstory to Finn and uses him to free some fucking horses from a horse-racing track.poe-run
  • Del Toro reveals a BOMBSHELL to Finn that the Resistance and First Order get their money and supplies from the same criminals and villains. This seems to matter to Finn, but you’d never know it, because it’s literally never mentioned again.
  • Del Toro gets them aboard Snoke’s Star Destroyer, as promised then immediately sells them out.
  • The Resistance has no idea about Poe’s private plan with Finn and make their own plan. Finn and Rose fail on their mission and barely escape with their lives.
  • Then they meet up with the Resistance on Krait where Finn decides NOW would be the right moment to sacrifice himself, but Rose stops him at the last second and tells him she loves him….out of nowhere.

So, none of it mattered and nobody cares. Finn being captured did serve one purpose, to bring Captain Phasma back just to kill her off.

1I didn’t like that they wasted Captain Phasma as a character, but I wasn’t that bothered by her death because she was never significant other than to nerds who read her novel and comics. She didn’t need to be in the films. Some people had issues with the deaths of the film, mainly the underwhelming death of a new (unimportant) character, Admiral Holdo, in an emotionally overwhelming scene.

Yes, The Last Jedi introduces a new character to make an ultimate sacrifice rather than utilize a death that would have mattered…like Admiral Ackbar…or an appropriate send off for Carrie Fisher/Princess Leia.

The scene, however, was dope.

And, honestly, that’s what this movie was…a lot of confusing moments, unnecessary scenes, and poor character exposition/development bookended by some of the most amazing scenes I’ve ever witnessed in a Star Wars film. I loved the call-backs, I loved the acting, and I loved the dynamic between every character, even if their role was secondary or completely unnecessary.

For all of it’s faults, it was Star Wars, and because it was Star Wars, it was perfect.



Talking Nerdy, Ep. 208: D4 The Mighty Dorks


A trip to the Mahoning Drive-In TheaterJurassic Park and Jaws double feature / Rio 2016 Olympic Games kicks off with a career-ending injurySuicide Squad kicks the bucket / The Stranger Things debate / 2016 Election–Clinton VS Trump / The Trump-Yourself App / Voting for VaginaMasterchef is no longer about cooking / Nathan loses his mind / This week in Local News: Dunkin Donuts Fire / This week in Local NewsThe Old Swimming Hole / We learn about self-righteous Sugar Babies / Michael Ray Bower takes to the streets with some uncomfortable women.


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–Follow today’s crew:  @NerdyPodcast@Dan_SuperDPS@JoeyHAHAs, and @SuperDudeDavey