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

Advertisements

Disney Pre-9/11 Video Vault: Hocus Pocus

HOCUS 2.jpgIt’s been far too long since the last Disney Pre-9/11 Video Vault–last November, actually! Not to pat myself on the back too much, but I think I picked the perfect film to cover this time around. Disney has recently announced its plan to remake a favorite amongst Millennials specifically for the Disney Channel. But isn’t every pre-9/11 Disney film a Millennial Holy Grail? Of course they are.

In the immediate aftermath of Clinton-era cruise missile attacks on Iraqi Intelligence Headquarters, Gian Ferri committed a mass shooting at 101 California Street leading to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. Weeks later, three things would happen: the Clinton Administration would enact “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” which allowed gays to serve in the military as long as they weren’t being gay about it, Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster was found dead amidst an ethics controversy, and a little horror comedy called Hocus Pocus was released to little critical or commercial success.

Hocus Pocus, directed by Disney superstar, Kenny Ortega, centers around three witches named Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker)…the Sanderson Sisters. Walt Disney, himself, would have been endlessly proud of the way Jewish women were portrayed as vain egomaniacal occultists.

We open the film on Halloween night, 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts. Spooky stuff. A boy named Thackery Binx witnesses his sister’s youth absorbed by the Sanderson sisters. When he confronts them, they transform him into a spinster’s fantasy: an immortal cat. This will serve as a strange and forced plot device to bring a good character from the olden times into the present.

In 1693, the Sanderson sisters are hanged–but not before casting a spell that ensures their resurrection on a full moon…on Halloween…when a virgin lights a Black Flame Candle. Spoiler alert: it takes exactly 300 years for this shit to happen. And a Disney movie wouldn’t begin with a hanging until Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. 

If these witches died in 2017, it would’ve taken about 15 minutes to get a virgin to light a black candle on Halloween. And, of course, the real magic in this fun children’s flick was managing to convince young boys that Sarah Jessica Parker was hot.

300 Years Later, it’s 1993 and our main character, Max Dennison (good solid name for every kids’ movie character ever), has just moved from LA to fucking Salem fucking Massachusetts. He’s a wise-crackin’ smart ass know-it-all who makes an ass out of himself in front of his class of teenagers who are unrealistically excited about Halloween. He responds to the utter humiliation by giving Allison–the hottest girl in class, I guess?–a note with his number on it…in front of the whole class!

We have to pause for a moment and reiterate something about 90’s Disney movie boys. They are always too cool for school. Even if they’re bullied, it’s because they’re too cool and the bullies are all dorks. And in those rare circumstances where our protagonist is an actual loser, he’ll be vindicated in the first act by doing something anticlimactic like joining in on a prank or catching a baseball.

Moving on–Max’s cool guy LA attitude and his tie-dye shirt are no match for the conservative yet questionably superstitious attitudes of his classmates and he doesn’t get the date. So just as we were rooting for our cool hero, he gets played–hard. Not so cool after all, are we, Max? But Disney won’t stop there. No sir! Enter…the bullies!

Jay and Ernie…I mean…Jay and ICE…are almost certainly the highlight of the entire film. These two mentally challenged teens more than make up for the film’s stale plot and obvious anti-Semitic overtones. They’re pretty stylish for dumb kids, and they smoke. It’s odd, though that they decide to steal Max’s sneakers but not his bike…

When Max returns home, we find out that his parents are just getting moved in to their new home and Max is very upset to have been transplanted from cool tie-dye LA to bland, bully-ridden Massachusetts. Just as Max had finished lamenting his lot in life and settled into bed to masturbate to the memory of being rejected by Allison, we get a surprise introduction to Max’s 8-year old sister Dani (Thora Birch). Not so fast, Max!

Max is forced to take Dani trick-or-treating by his disturbingly-normal-for-a-kids-movie parents. Dani dresses as a witch (of course), and a reluctant Max dresses like a “rap singer” (without the blackface). When the bullies show up again, he is forced to defend his honor and stick up for his little sister, solidifying Max as not just the good guy of our story…but the best guy of the story. His flaws have officially been erased. Now we can get on with our Disney flick.

The two inadvertently wander into Allison’s house where she’s having some kind of weird Eyes Wide Shut meets Amadeus Halloween Party. Dani and Max also introduce us to a new word for breasts: Yabbos.

Allison wants to take Max and Dani on a tour of the Sanderson Sisters House to prove that Salem is all ’bout dem witchez! But when they inevitably break into the house, they get more than they bargain for as shit starts to get real about 30 minutes in.

The Sanderson House is supposed to be some kind of museum to the three witches’ legacy, but it appears like it’s never been in use–covered in cobwebs and dust. Max gets viciously attacked by Immortal Cat and, trying to show he’s not scared, proceeds to light the BLACK CANDLE! He claimed that all that witch stuff is just a bunch of “Hocus Pocus.” Get it? That’s the name of the movie. So Max fucks up and the witches come back, of course–which tells us two things about this universe: Magic is Real…and Max is a Virgin. No wonder he’s been yankin’ it to Allison’s yabbos.

Naturally, the three resurrected Jewish Witches want to eat Thora Birch and Sarah Jessica Parker wants to make Max less of a virgin. She was always my favorite witch as she didn’t really seem all that evil in the grand scheme of things.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Hocus Pocus but the movie is both intensely suggestive and intensely silly. I suppose once you’ve raised three Jewish Witches from their 300 year slumber, a talking cat is no big deal.

Our heroes run into a graveyard where the witches can’t go. I’m not sure if it’s because they’re demonic or Jewish, but either way, they can’t set foot on Christian Turf. So, instead, they decide to raise a random corpse from the grave to help them catch dem kidz. The dead guy they raise is called “Billy Butcherson“, because why not? We don’t know much about Billy except that he was a “Lost Soul”…whatever that means.

As this nonsense goes on it becomes clear that this film is semi-autobiographical in that Kenny Ortega must use the souls of young gay men to remain so fresh and youthful in the Disney universe. There’s also an oddly out of place scene where the witches wind up at some old Jewish man’s house where they watch TV and piss off his wife. None of this belongs in the film at all and I can’t comprehend why it exists.

About half-way through the movie we get another pair of suggestive and then torturous scenes for a children’s movie. Sarah Jessica Parker is driving a bus while bouncing on the bus driver’s lap when, suddenly and without warning, our Immortal Talking Cat gets run over. Cut to…a close-up of a roadkill cat. Fun for the whole family.

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 2.33.45 PMBut, just kidding. He’s immortal, right? The cat’s fine. As always happens in fantasy/horror films, the kids quickly realize this situation is entirely out of their control so they go to the adults for help. But the adults don’t believe a word. Also, the fake police officer they go to seems a little too interested in Max being a virgin.

At this point we’ve established that the ultimate goal of the Sanderson Sisters is…to…not die? This seems perfectly reasonable to me, other than added detail that they need the souls of the young to live forever. But don’t we all?

What’s the best way to captivate the kiddos for long enough to suck out their souls? I mean, besides putting on Disney’s Hocus Pocus. How about a lame Halloween-themed concert being attended by Max’s parents? Next best thing. The Sanderson Sisters need to find Max and get their Book of Spells back. Good thing Max decides to take center stage and once again brazenly make a fool of himself, while disclosing his whereabouts to our three witches…at least it’s a good excuse to get Bette Midler to sing.

So while Bette Midler hypnotizes all of the town’s mommies and daddies into dancing all night, the kids make their escape. Every scene in this movie seems more redundant than the last. There was no reason to hypnotize the parents. Sarah finds the kids and lets them go for some reason. And then, the witches wind up finding the kids who have taken refuge in the school…when suddenly another grisly and wholly offensive scene takes place…

Now, read this carefully because it’s…shocking if you don’t recall this scene from your childhood. Max and the kids force the trio of 300-year old Jewish Women into an OVEN and set them on fire. Yes. You’ve read that correctly. I wonder if that scene will be in the remake…

As dawn approaches, the witches kidnap Dani and fly away. Then we get another song. Sarah Jessica Parker sings an enchantment spell that causes all of the town’s children to follow them to their resting place, which begs the question…why did they need DANI at all? Why not just do this from the beginning? And why did they need the spell book?! Presumably they’ve done this before…we know at least once at the beginning of the movie.

For some reason the Sandersons have kidnapped Jay and Ice and are force-feeding them candy…which is a pretty extreme come-uppins for the bullies, but whatever.

All Max needs to do now is use his wit and knowledge of modern conveniences (like car headlights) to trick the Sandersons into believing it’s morning and they’re going to die. Spoiler Alert, they don’t die. At least, not yet. Nothing in this film makes sense, but that’s why it’s a cult classic and not a real classic.

As it turns out, all our heroes had to do was survive until morning…which would have been easier to do if not for all of their scheming.

The ending we get is even more confounding as our zombie friend Billy returns to his grave, our immortal cat actually dies, and the ghost of the young man who embodied the immortal cat has some kind of romantic connection to a drastically underage Thora Birch.

Then, as if it were a last-ditch effort to wrap up loose ends, we see the parents of Salem exiting their house party, while Jay and Ice remain locked in cages. But…what? The spell book opens up once again! Could there be a sequel in the works?

No. Not now. Not ever. Hopefully. The remake will be a Disney Channel Original so it won’t be surprising when it tries and fails to match the appeal (whatever appeal there was) about the original while falling into all the same plot holes.

Look, I know you all remember loving this movie, and that’s fine. Nothing can take that away from you; not even a remake. But let’s be honest, this movie makes zero sense and there is no way anyone will convince me that Mick GarrisNeil Cuthbert, and David Mickey Evans weren’t mentally impaired while writing it.

It was fun watching it again, though! Maybe I’ll give it another shot in 20 more years…

X

 

Disney Pre-9/11 Video Vault: Man of the House

In the 95th year of the 20th Century, something extraordinary happened. Valeri Polyakov broke the record for days spent in space on the Mir Space Station at 366. Subsequently, the TV series Star Trek: Voyager premiered on UPN. And while the opening statements began for the O.J. Simpson trial, and America was wrapped up in race-baiting here on Earth, Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr. became the second African American in fucking space; a feat that is decidedly accomplished by not trying to decapitate your ex-wife. In an unrelated story, Scott Amedure confessed his crush on his heterosexual acquaintance on The Jenny Jones Show only to turn up murdered by that same acquaintance days later.

It wasn’t all bad, though. Internet search engines were getting off the ground, business was booming in the good ol’ US of A; and Canadian filmmaker James Orr (writer of Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit) was about to release his magnum opus: Man of the House.

Man of the House continues Disney’s love affair with Jonathan Taylor Thomas which began with 1993’s The Lion KingIt also existed during a period in history where Disney could not procure the licensing rights for songs by C+C Music Factory or Enigma to release on a soundtrack for Man of the House. As opposed to now, where Disney owns every major franchise ever created.

This is the description of the film on Disney’s website, where they are also attempting to sell DVD copies of the film for $12.95.

troll“Funnyman Chevy Chase is Jack, a guy who’s found the woman of his dreams. Too bad her stubborn 11-year-old son, Ben thinks Jack is a geek! As a test, Ben coaxes Jack into joining the YMCA Indian Guides. Chaos ensues as Jack struggles to prove to Ben that he’s not totally uncool! From rain dancing to building a teepee, Jack will do anything to win Ben’s approval – and his mom’s affection!”

So, other than being right up Elizabeth Warren’s alley with the rain dancing and teepee-building, this film has a lot to offer; namely “funnyman” Chevy Chase and his love interest, Farrah FawcettFawcett does what she did best–exist and be remembered for not talking.

Like most Disney films around this time, Man of the House relies on two, seemingly unrelated, tropes: the child who needs to be taught an adult lesson, and the adult who inadvertently brings a child into a serious real-world life-and-death situation involving murderers. Practically every Disney film in this era mimicked some kind of already-existing action/drama adult franchise, and then forced in some subplot about a bratty Bart Simpson type kid.

The film centers around the relationship between Chevy Chase’s hot-shot attorney character, Jack, and JTT’s “no man will ever be good enough for my mom since my deadbeat dad skipped town” archetype, Ben. Ben hopes that he can keep his mother single forever, and I guess, one day live off her fixed income and rotting corpse. But Jack falls in love with her. You see, he’s the lawyer and she’s court sketch artist (a job that actually still exists)…so the fireworks are inevitable.

Man of the House sets the tension early by having Jack make the mistake of telling off the gangster son of a man he’s just sentenced to 50 years in prison. The gangster, Joey Renda, swears vengeance on Jack…which becomes a plot device that is completely forgotten by the time it becomes relevant again in the film.

TROLL.jpg“I’m 11. I hate girls,” is a line of dialogue that actually comes out of JTT’s character’s mouth when Chevy Chase attempts to make nervous small talk about relationships. It’s about this time that it becomes clear that Ben is James Orr’s “Mary Sue”…as well as obscenely evident that Orr has no idea how to write dialogue for an 11-year old. I’d imagine James Orr’s thought process for writing this character was “What would James Orr say if James Orr were trapped inside the supple, smooth young body of an 11-year old Jonathan Taylor Thomas? Oh, I know–I’m 11. I hate girls.

Another Disney trope that crops up a lot during this era is the non-threatening “villain” in the adult. Because there are real threats in the world (the gangsters who won’t hesitate to kill children or adults), the villain in the child’s eyes has to be…well…less villainous; that is to say–not actually a bad guy in any way, shape or form. Jack does literally nothing wrong aside from loving a woman enough to want to move in with her, despite her fucking dickhead 11-year old son. He sings in the shower and accidentally calls Ben “Benny” a few times…which can be vexing, but in no way makes him a bad guy.

As a kid, I remember seeing Jack as a fucking tool. But, it’s very clear from an adult perspective, that he’s just a potential step-dad doing his absolute best.

giphy (21).gifBen essentially treats Jack with the domestic equivalency of how Kevin McCallister treats the Wet Bandits; and with the same sadistic pleasure as Macaulay Culkin destroys lives in The Good Son. For no reason other than some slight inconveniences and a possible oedipal complex.

Jonathan Taylor Thomas fits in eerily well in Southern California where the movie is filmed, despite being from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; a fact that is a total shell-shock when it’s revealed that this is all taking place in Seattle, almost an hour into the film! Ben  scolds Jack for throwing trash in the inappropriate recycling receptacles and actually complains about being made a huge breakfast in the morning.

“I’m 11. I hate eggs and bacon,” is something that Ben doesn’t actually say, but he might as well have. He says it in a much more whiny California (sorry…Seattle) way:

Does the word cholesterol mean anything to you?” and “Jack’s trying to kill us with animal fat.”

Ben’s mother explains that she and Ben usually just have granola and yogurt for breakfast. Which, in any other movie, would expose Ben as a little pussy who gets his shit pushed in at school. But not so fast! This is Man of the House! Ben is too cool for school. He’s friends with the only black kid in the school; and winds up rescuing squirrely runt, Norman Bronski, from a locker (with the combination 38-24-36, oh James Orr, you perv, you). That’s a joke for the parents.

Norman is a YMCA Indian Guide, which is a Boy Scouts rip-off that furthers the plot device because of its nature of being a “Father and Son” activity. This is also where the story picks up–and gets Disneyracist; which is to say “funny.” At this point we meet the other Indian Guide dads: Art LaFleurDavid Shiner, and Jason Sudeikis’ uncle–George WendtWe get heavy into the bonding rituals, which are just standard and decidedly uninspired camping and party games. Ben actively tries to humiliate Jack, and winds up costing him a huge case at work, and his relationship with Ben’s Mom. Understandably, this makes Jack want to quit the Indian Guides; but he’s determined to fix things and make it work, for the benefit of his relationship, and to make Ben happy.

It’s at this point that Jack finds out that Ben’s whole crybaby schtick was bullshit, and he decides to get revenge…well…Dad Revenge, that is, by taking the Indian Guides super seriously just to spite an 11-year old. Jack enlists the help of an Indian Chief he happens to be friends with (because who isn’t?) and the “revenge” turns out to be a montage of positive training, spirituality, and bonding for the father and son teams of the Indian Guides. Who knew? I figured all they’d have to do would be go protest an oil pipeline or cry over some litter.

The boys learn useful skills for a possible showdown toward the end of the movie, which include–and are also limited to–tomahawk-chucking, archery and doing a rain dance.

And that showdown can’t come soon enough! The third act kicks off with a bang as Jack is running late for the big canoeing trip, when he is suddenly attacked by the mafia guys in a truck who have also, evidently, cut the brakes on his car…to make his death look like an accident. I’ll remind you, this is a Disney movie for children.

Chevy Chase doesn’t die. But his SUV winds up crashing into the Puget Sound (in Seattle). Meanwhile, back at the Indian Guides, the gang waits for poor Jack for exactly 47 minutes before leaving him, and Ben for dead. As the Indian Guides leave, we get an emotional flashback to when Ben’s actual father left him forever, showing JTT’s true range as a child star.

trollBefore finding out from his boss that his “car accident” was no accident, Jack promises Ben that he definitely won’t miss the next Indian Guide camping trip; a promise he intends to keep…even if it means risking his job…or his life. Jack’s boss wants him to work in Portland temporarily until they can find out who’s trying to murder him, but Jack says “NO WAY JOSE!” What’s more important than his life? Right now, a fucking camping trip with fucking Ben.

Side note: this movie would have bee 100x better if Jack found out that Ben cut his brakes. But we don’t get that lucky in life, do we?

So, Jack and Ben get to go on that camping trip, with the rest of the Indian Guides. But guess who shows up to ruin the fun? Fucking A–The Mafia Guys! How did they know?!

It winds up being Ben who happens upon the Mafia Guys, who inexplicably spend the night in the woods despite giving up on their plan to make Jack’s death look like an accident after one try. Now, it seems, they just plan to shoot him, and, if necessary, murder everyone else on the camping trip, too. Uh oh!

trollJack tells everyone, including Ben to head back to the Ranger’s station to get help while he leads the men with guns up a mountain. Solid plan. Of course, Ben and the adults want to stay and help–even suggesting the kids fight the men with guns. Looks like the father/son bonding and rain dancing went to their heads.

It doesn’t matter, though. After merely seconds, Jack finds himself fucked and trapped under a log. His master plan foiled. Luckily, Ben is a piece of shit who doesn’t listen and has no sense of self-preservation, because he’s back to help out his would-be step-dad get out from under that log using nothing but pure JTT strength.

As it turns out, Ben’s Indian mentor, Red Crow, taught him one last lesson–if you get in trouble, just listen to nature. And that’s when Ben and Jack discover their secret weapon: BEEEEES!

giphy (21).gifAfter sharpening their arrows and axes, Little Wing and Squatting Dog (that’s Ben and Jack, Indian-style) retrieve a beehive, which Ben does with zen-like nature powers, despite only having ever met an actual Indian once. They make easy work of two of the three bad guys, but are then caught at gunpoint by the third and forced into an abandoned mine(?) which is then loaded with cartoon-style red-wrapped TNT.

The boys attempt to reverse-psychology their way out of this mess, but it doesn’t pan out. Only one option left: have your father and son lead get blown to bits in a mine shaft. WAIT–what’s that?! Holy fucking shit–it’s the other Indian Guides, and they manage to play-fight their way around getting shot by three adults with guns to save the day! Jack knocks out the main mafia guy, impresses Ben, and everything is back to normal.

By the end of the movie, we’re left to assume that Jack and Ben are now solidified as father and son, and Farrah Fawcett, who serves no real purpose in the film at all, is not dead of anal cancer.

Man of the House was one of my favorite mid-90’s Disney fuck-arounds. It gave us TV tropes like the classic Indian chant “HeyHowAreYa?” and the last watchable Chevy Chase feature film up-to-and-including Vegas Vacation. There’s so much to love here, with treats in store at every turn.

You get Chevy Chase’s dry, humorless acting, attempting to make the best of the situation, while being impossible to work with. You’ve got Richard Portnow, the stereotypical Italian bad guy in everything you’ve ever, or will ever see. You’ve got Home Improvement’s Jonathan Taylor Thomas, playing cool as you watch him slowly age out of being Teen Beat Disney-cute. And finally, you’ve got the constant and not-at-all subtle belittling of the proud culture of some ridiculous Native American tribe, of which this film is almost certainly a constant and unyielding thorn in the side.

And that makes all 90-minutes worth it to the moon and back.

X