The Mighty Ducks
|The Mighty Ducks|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stephen Herek|
|Written by||Steven Brill|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Cinematography||Thomas Del Ruth|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$50.7 million|
The Mighty Ducks (also known as The Mighty Ducks: Part 1, D1: The Mighty Ducks and Champions) is a 1992 American sports comedy-drama film about a youth league hockey team, directed by Stephen Herek and starring Emilio Estevez. It was produced by The Kerner Entertainment Company and Avnet–Kerner Productions and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. It was the first film in The Mighty Ducks film series, and was filmed in several locations in Minnesota.
In the UK, South Africa, and Australia, the film was retitled Champions. Subsequently, UK home releases are now titled The Mighty Ducks Are the Champions, reflecting both titles, as well as to possibly avoid confusion with D2: The Mighty Ducks (retitled as just The Mighty Ducks). The year after the film's release, Disney founded a National Hockey League hockey team, named the "Mighty Ducks of Anaheim" after the film.
Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) is an arrogant but successful Minneapolis defense attorney. After his 30th successful case, he celebrates by going out drinking, but is arrested for drunk driving and sentenced to 500 hours of community service by coaching the local "District 5" Pee-Wee hockey team. Bombay has an unpleasant history with the sport: in 1973, he was the Hawks’ star player but, struggling with the loss of his father, he missed a penalty shot in the championship game, disappointing his hyper-competitive coach, Jack Reilly (Lane Smith). The Hawks went on to lose in overtime.
Bombay meets the District 5 team, and realizes the children have no practice facility, equipment, or ability. Their first game with Bombay at the helm is against the Hawks. Reilly is still the Hawks' head coach and, despite a string of championship wins, remains bitter about Gordon's missed penalty shot. District 5 is roundly defeated as Reilly demands the Hawks run up the score. Bombay berates the team for not listening to him, and the players challenge his authority. For the next match, Bombay tries to teach his team how to dive and draw penalties, which results in another loss – this time to the Jets – angering the team further. Bombay visits his old mentor Hans (Joss Ackland), who owns a nearby sporting goods store and was in attendance at the game against the Hawks. While there, he recalls that he quit playing hockey after losing his father four months before the championship game, and because Reilly blamed him for the missed penalty shot. Hans encourages him to rekindle his childhood passion for the sport.
Bombay approaches his boss, Gerald Ducksworth (Josef Sommer), to sponsor the team, allowing them to purchase professional-grade equipment and give Bombay time to teach the players fundamentals. Renamed the Ducks – after Ducksworth – the team fights its next game against the Cardinals to a tie. They recruit three new players: Figure skating siblings Tommy (Danny Tamberelli) and Tammy Duncan (Jane Plank), and slap shot specialist and enforcer Fulton Reed (Elden Henson). The potential of Ducks player Charlie Conway (Joshua Jackson) catches Bombay's eye; he takes Charlie under his wing and teaches him some of the tactics he used playing with the Hawks.
Bombay learns that, due to redistricting, the Hawks’ star player Adam Banks (Vincent Larusso) lives in District Five and should be playing for the Ducks, and threatens Reilly into transferring Banks to the Ducks. After overhearing an out-of-context quote about the team, most of the players walk out, resulting in a loss on forfeit to the Flames. The Ducks lose faith in Bombay and revert to their old habits.
Ducksworth makes a deal with Reilly for the Hawks to keep Banks, which Bombay refuses on the principles of fair play, which Ducksworth berated him about when he started his community service. Left with the choice of letting his team down or being fired from his job, he takes the latter.
Bombay manages to regain his players’ trust after they win a crucial match against the Huskies, and Banks, who decided to stay with the Ducks rather than not play hockey at all, proves to be an asset. With further wins against the Hornets and the Cardinals, the Ducks reach the championship against the Hawks. Despite the Hawks taking Banks out of the game, the Ducks manage to tie late in the final period, and Charlie is tripped by a Hawks player as time expires. In precisely the same situation Bombay faced at the film’s beginning, Charlie prepares for a game-deciding penalty shot. In stark contrast to Reilly – who told Bombay that if he missed, he was letting everyone down – Bombay tells Charlie to take his best shot and that he will believe in him no matter what. Inspired, Charlie jukes out the goalie with a "triple-deke" Bombay taught him and scores, winning the state championship.
The Ducks players and their families race onto the ice in jubilation, where Bombay thanks Hans for his belief in him and Hans tells Bombay he is proud of him. Later, Bombay boards a bus to a minor-league tryout, secured for him by the NHL's Basil McRae of the Minnesota North Stars. Although daunted at the prospect of going up against younger players, he receives the same words of encouragement and advice from the Ducks he had given them, promising to return next season to defend their title.
- Emilio Estevez as Gordon Bombay
- Joss Ackland as Hans
- Lane Smith as Coach Jack Reilly
- Heidi Kling as Casey Conway
- Josef Sommer as Mr. Gerald Ducksworth
- Joshua Jackson as Charlie Conway, #96
- Elden Henson as Fulton Reed, #44
- Shaun Weiss as Greg Goldberg, #33
- Brandon Adams as Jesse Hall, #9
- M. C. Gainey as Lewis
- Matt Doherty as Lester Averman, #4
- J. D. Daniels as Peter Mark, #24
- Aaron Schwartz as Dave Karp, #11
- Garette Ratliff Henson as Guy Germaine, #00
- Marguerite Moreau as Connie Moreau, #18
- Vincent Larusso as Adam Banks, #9 (Hawks), #99
- Jussie Smollett as Terry Hall, #1
- Danny Tamberelli as Tommy Duncan, #2
- Jane Plank as Tammy Duncan, #5
- Michael Ooms as McGill, #7
- Casey Garven as Larson, #33
- Hal Fort Atkinson III as Phillip Banks
- Basil McRae as Himself
- Mike Modano as Himself
- John Beasley as Mr. Hall
- Brock Pierce as Gordon Bombay – 10 years old
- Robert Pall as Gordon's Father
- John Paul Gamoke as Mr. Tolbert
- Steven Brill as Frank Huddy
- George Coe as Judge
The film was written by Steve Brill, who later sued for royalties for the film. Jake Gyllenhaal turned down the role of Charlie Conway. Emilio Estevez was cast in 1991, after Herek was impressed by his performances in Brat Pack films, The Outsiders (1983), The Breakfast Club (1985) and St. Elmo's Fire (1985).
The film grossed $50,752,337 domestically in the U.S, becoming a surprising success with audiences, which in turn inspired two sequels and an animated TV series (the latter taking on a science fiction angle with actual anthropomorphic ducks). While neither sequel's box-office total matched that of the first movie, they were still financially successful.
Critically, The Mighty Ducks was not well-received. It currently holds a 23% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 30 reviews, with an average rating of 4/10. The site's consensus reads, "The Mighty Ducks has feel-good goals, but only scores a penalty shot for predictability". Roger Ebert said the film was 'sweet and innocent, and that at a certain level it might appeal to younger kids. I doubt if its ambitions reach much beyond that', and gave it a 2 star rating. Rita Kempley of The Washington Post described the film as 'Steven Brill, who has a small role in the film, constructed the screenplay much as one would put together some of those particleboard bookcases from Ikea.'
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
Home video release
The film was released on DVD in September 2, 2002 and also was released on Blu Ray in May 23, 2017.
- The Bad News Bears, an earlier film with a similar premise.
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- Ebert, Roger (October 2, 1992). "The Mighty Ducks". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
- Kempley, Rita (October 5, 1992). "'The Mighty Ducks' (PG)". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
- "Emilio Estevez on the Success of Mighty Ducks Video". NHL VideoCenter. National Hockey League. October 18, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
- Malinowski, Erik (November 25, 2015). "How Mighty Ducks the Movie Became Mighty Ducks the NHL Team". Esquire. Hearst Communications. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 14, 2016.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 16, 2011. Retrieved August 19, 2016.