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 is a 1992 American sports comedy-drama film about a minor ice hockey, directed by Stephen Herek, 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 trilogy.
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 the sequel (retitled as just The Mighty Ducks). The year after the film's release, Disney founded an NHL hockey team, named the "Mighty Ducks of Anaheim" in reference to the film.
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Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) is a successful Minneapolis defense attorney of the Ducksworth, Saver & Gross firm, who never loses a case but whose truculent courtroom antics have earned him no respect among his peers. After successfully defending a client resulting in his 30th win, Bombay is called into his boss's office to be congratulated, but also chastised for embarrassing the judge. Regardless, he celebrates by going out drinking and is subsequently arrested for drunken driving. Bombay is sentenced to community service by coaching the local "District 5" PeeWee hockey team. Bombay has a history with the sport, although his memories are far from pleasant: Years ago, Bombay was the star player on the Hawks. When struggling to cope with the loss of his father, Bombay missed a penalty shot during a championship game, costing his team the title for the first time and disappointing his hyper-competitive coach, Jack Reilly (Lane Smith).
When Bombay meets the team, he realizes the children have no practice facility, equipment or ability to go with it. The team's first game with Bombay at the helm is against the Hawks, the team from the snooty suburb of Edina. Reilly is still head coach and remains bitter about Gordon's shortcoming in the game years earlier (even lamenting that they should take the runner-up banner down from that season despite having a wall full of first place banners from other years). District 5 gets outclassed and pummeled during the game due to Reilly demanding the Hawks run up the score; after the game, Bombay berates the team for not listening to him and the players challenge his authority. For the next game, Bombay tries to teach his team how to dive and draw penalties. Meanwhile, Bombay discovers his old mentor and family friend Hans (Joss Ackland) who owns a nearby sporting goods store, was in attendance. While visiting him, Bombay recalls that he quit playing hockey after losing his father four months before the championship game, and due to Reilly solely blaming Gordon for the loss. Hans encourages him to rekindle his childhood passion.
Bombay approaches his boss, the firm's co-founder Gerald Ducksworth (Josef Sommer) to sponsor the team, something Ducksworth reluctantly agrees to do, after being offered his own jersey. The result is a complete makeover for the team, both in look (as they can now buy professional equipment) and in skill (as Bombay has more time to teach the kids hockey fundamentals). Now playing as the Ducks (named for Ducksworth), they fight to a tie in the next game and 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 him under his wing and teaches him some of the hockey tactics he used when he played with the Hawks.
Bombay learns that, due to redistricting, the star player for the Hawks, Adam Banks (Vincent Larusso), should actually be playing for the Ducks. He then threatens Reilly into transferring Banks to the Ducks. After hearing an out-of-context quote about them, the Ducks players lose faith in Bombay and revert to their old habits.
Ducksworth makes a deal with Reilly about the Hawks keeping Banks; however, Bombay refuses it, since it would be against fair play, which Ducksworth berated him about when he started his community service. Left with either the choice of letting his team down or get fired from his job, Bombay takes the latter.
Bombay manages to win back the trust of his players after they win a crucial match and Adam Banks, who decided he'd rather play for the Ducks than not play hockey at all, proves to be a valuable asset. Because of his well-to-do background, Adam is given the nickname "Cake Eater" by his teammates. The name is, at first, seen as derisive, but then becomes a term of endearment. The Ducks manage to make it to the championship against the Hawks. Despite the Hawks' heavy attacks taking Banks out of the game, the Ducks manage to tie the game late and Charlie is tripped by a Hawks player as time expires. In exactly the same situation Bombay was at the beginning of the film, Charlie prepares for a penalty shot to win the championship. In stark contrast to former coach Reilly's attitude (Reilly told Bombay that if he missed, he was letting everyone down), Bombay tells Charlie that he will believe in him no matter what happens. Inspired, Charlie jukes out the goalie with a "triple-deke" (taught to him by Bombay) to defeat the Hawks for the state Pee Wee Championship.
The Ducks and family race out 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 headed to a minor-league tryout, secured for him by the NHL's Basil McRae of the Minnesota North Stars (now known as the Dallas Stars). Although he seems 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 he will return next season to defend their title.
The film was written by Steve Brill who later sued for royalties for the movie. Jake Gyllenhaal was originally intended to take the role of Charlie Conway. Emilio Estevez was cast in 1991 after Herek was impressed his performances in the Brat Pack movies The Outsiders (1983), The Breakfast Club (1985) & St Elmo's Fire (1985).
- 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
- M. C. Gainey as Lewis
- Matt Doherty as Lester Averman, #4
- Brandon Adams as Jesse Hall, #9
- 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
- Danny Tamberelli as Tommy Duncan, #2
- Jane Plank as Tammy Duncan, #5
- Jussie Smollett as Terry Hall, #1
- Vincent Larusso as Adam Banks, #99
- 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 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 less well-received, currently holding a 15% 'rotten' rating on Rotten Tomatoes. By contrast, it has a 65% positive audience rating on the site. 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.' Emilio Estevez was surprised at the popularity of the movie series. The Mighty Ducks made $54 million in home video rentals according to Video Week magazine in 1992.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- The Bad News Bears, an earlier film with a similar premise.
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- Maslin, Janet (October 2, 1992). "Review/Film; Hockey That Transcends Mere Winning". The New York Times. Retrieved October 9, 2010.
- "The Mighty Ducks". Washington Post. October 2, 1992. Retrieved October 9, 2010.
- "Review/Film; Hockey That Transcends Mere Winning". Chicago Sun-Times. October 2, 1992. Retrieved October 9, 2010.
- "The Mighty Ducks". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
- Roger Ebert (October 2, 1992). "The Mighty Ducks". Retrieved October 4, 2014.
- "'The Mighty Ducks' (PG)". The Washington Post. October 5, 1992.
- "Emilio Estevez on the Success of Mighty Ducks Video – NHL VideoCenter". Video.nhl.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
- Malinowski, Erik (2015-11-25). "How Mighty Ducks the Movie Became Mighty Ducks the NHL Team". Esquire.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-14.
- "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.