In 1992, Disney released its very first hockey-themed film, The Mighty Ducks. Though they didn’t know it at the time, the studio’s $10 million project would become a hit, grossing over $50 million in box office revenue in the fall of that year. For kids of the ’90s, Mighty Ducks emerged as a seminal favorite, a timeless classic, however cheesy, that an entire generation would gravitate towards well into adulthood.
Beyond striking a chord with its target audience, the movie had a lasting impact in other ways, as well. It rejuvenated the career of its star, Emilio Estevez; made a star out of one of its young supporting actors, Joshua Jackson; and even inspired an NHL franchise of the same nickname. The success of The Mighty Ducks prompted Disney to release a pair of sequels over the course of the next four years, unveiling D2: The Mighty Ducks and D3: The Mighty Ducks (really creative names, guys) in 1994 and 1996, respectively.
While D2 capitalized on the triumph of its prequel ($45 million box office gross), D3 was not nearly as fortunate, resulting in just $23 million in box office sales for the studio that birthed Mickey Mouse. Besides overloading the market with Duck fever in such a short amount of time, Disney appeared to cobble together D3 hastily, producing a film that elicited the same clichés and predictable outcomes as its predecessors.
Along the way, D3 acknowledged that its audience, just like its young actors, was quickly growing into adolescence. This inspired (or forced) writers to present a whole new set of non-hockey issues for viewers to try and relate to. Luis looking up cheerleaders’ skirts! Charlie falling in love with someone other than his coach, his mom, or the old guys from the skate shop! A political uprising over an offensive team nickname! It all became a bit much to cram into one whimsical sports picture, and yet cram those writers did.
As a result of Disney’s efforts to squeeze every last ounce of Ducks hype out of its surprising franchise, D3 floundered as the worst installment of the entire trilogy. Some might even argue that it emerged as one of the worst sports movies ever, but the third installment of the Major League series would beg to differ.
After a recent viewing of D3, I took some time to outline everything wrong with the film from start to finish. Adult Me is not nearly as impressionable as Kid Me, you see, and in looking back at a movie I knew was trash even at age 12, I’ve only become more incensed by such a disastrous conclusion to an otherwise great sequence of motion pictures.
Beware: The following list contains numerous spoilers. If you haven’t seen D3 and feel compelled to watch it, it’s currently available for instant viewing on Netflix.
1. The most plausible story line in the entire movie involves Gordon Bombay becoming a high-ranking director of personnel for the Junior Goodwill Games.
Before we get into all the other crap, let’s think about this for a second. We’re led to believe that in a couple years’ time, a former lawyer who coached just one season of district level hockey, followed by an implausible leap to one season as head coach of the U.S. Junior Hockey team (one season!), has now become director of personnel for the entire Junior Goodwill Games?! Bombay didn’t even find these kids! They fell into his lap!
And then we have to consider how Bombay got here in the first place.
As you may recall from the original installment of the trilogy, Bombay only became a hockey coach because he had a drinking problem. This basically all began as a more responsible version of Bad News Bears, only instead of a closet alcoholic coaching a baseball team for some extra cash, Bombay was court ordered to serve as a guiding light to the youth of Minneapolis. Yeah, that makes sense. Oh, you got a DUI? Well then, in lieu of jail time or heavy fines, we’ll just have you watch these kids for a few hours every day. Seems like a good idea. Go to it, coach.
Again, this insanity is the most plausible story line in the entire movie. This is your barometer. It only gets crazier from here.
2. Eden Hall Academy offers full scholarships to all the Ducks, then makes them play junior varsity.
I don’t care how big or how strong those 18-year-olds on varsity are. There is no freakin’ way you take an entire junior national team, put them into one high school, and have them compete at the jayvee level.
First of all, can you imagine the uproar from other schools in the district?
Think back to your high school days. If your jayvee team had to compete against the equivalent of budding Olympians, you’d flip out, your parents would flip out, the coaches would flip out, the administration would flip out, everyone would flip out! It’s jayvee! You’re supposed to be competing against rejects and nosepickers.
Second, you’re telling me the national squad can’t immediately dethrone whatever hodgepodge mix of high schoolers you’re trotting out there on varsity? Seriously?
The entire script is undermined by the fact that the Ducks should be able to kick the varsity’s ass from the opening credits, let alone by film’s end. That it takes them 90 minutes to realize they have the necessary heart – it’s always about heart in these flicks – to beat up on an older, yet clearly inferior opponent is damn near tragic. Of course they ultimately beat the varsity. They didn’t need to practice to beat the varsity. They just got done beating Iceland, for Christ’s sake. They knocked off the world.
Third, the “bad guys” in this installment are the varsity squad.
Now generally, there’s a certain harmony between the varsity and junior varsity teams in any sport at any school. Sure, the players might not always get along, but at least the coaches do. It’s not about one team, necessarily, but about the entire program, top to bottom. That couldn’t be farther from reality at dysfunctional Eden Hall Academy, where not even the head coaches of their respective teams speak to one another.
And has there ever been a shittier foe in any sports movie than this?
In the original Ducks, we were conditioned to root against the vaunted Hawks, district champions since basically the beginning of time. In D2, we loathed those ne’er-do-wells from Iceland, because who likes Iceland anyway? But now you’re asking us to hate a team from the same school? With the same mascot, same jerseys, everything? It’s a hard pill to swallow.
3. What happened to Jesse?
Oh, hey, whatever happened to that Hall kid? You know, Jesse Hall? One-third of the Oreo Line? The one who called Banks a “cake-eater”? The one who mysteriously lost his brother, Terry, in D2?
It seems the entire Hall family is slowly being vanquished from the face of the earth. Someone should probably investigate, because these kids are disappearing and no one seems to notice, let alone their very best friends in the whole world. No one inquired about Terry Hall’s whereabouts in D2 and now Jesse’s gone missing and people still don’t seem to care. You’re oblivious assholes, every last one of you.
Apparently, Brandon Adams, the actor who played Hall in the first two Ducks installments, opted not to reprise his role in the series finale. As far as career moves go, this could be viewed as good or bad. Good, in that Adams didn’t have to withstand the mediocrity of D3. Bad, in that Adams’ acting opportunities all but dried up after D2.
4. Does the varsity head coach look familiar to you?
He should. Because he appeared in both of the previous installments as a referee. Yep, that’s right. Somehow, this guy experienced nearly the same meteoric rise as Bombay.
He was a district level ref in the first installment, who got called up to the national level in the second installment, who somehow parlayed all of that officiating experience into a head coaching gig at a prestigious prep school by the third installment.
Oh, and not only that, but we’re also led to believe that this guy has been at the helm of Eden Hall Academy’s varsity hockey team for over a decade, whereupon he’s led the Warriors to 10 consecutive state titles. Meaning he somehow found time to be a junior level ref on the side, all whilst taking home a paycheck from this prestigious prep school.
Perhaps he used the reffing gig to recruit, we don’t know.
5. Speaking of familiar faces, what about that varsity goalie?
Yeah, that’s Gunnar Stahl. You remember Gunnar Stahl. He was the captain of Team Iceland in D2. He used to be a scoring machine, not a goalie. He was also, you know, from Iceland. Oh, and his name wasn’t Scott “Scooter” Holland back then, either. But it is now.
Yes, in an egregious bastardization of series continuity, directors opted to take one of the bad guys from earlier in the series, re-cast him as a different bad guy in the finale, and hope no one noticed. We noticed.
And yet in a subtle nod (I guess) to his previous role, writers turn Holland/Stahl into a closet good guy who shows his true colors at the conclusion of both movies, even complimenting Julie “The Cat” Gaffney in a similar manner in each film. Go back and watch. You’ll see.
6. How on earth does Charlie get to rejoin the team with zero penance after quitting?
So let me get this straight. Charlie Conway, ex-captain of the Ducks, shows up at Eden Hall, is a dick to his new coach, Coach Orion, then quits the team in a huff when things don’t go his way? Okay, got it.
But then when he decides to return to the team at the behest of his old coach, Coach Bombay, Orion just accepts him back without so much as a closed-door meeting? No laps, no punishment, nothing?
What the shit?
7. You want me to believe a prep school would offer scholarships to an entire hockey team, then revoke those scholarship after one game?
And they didn’t even lose the goddamn game, either. Yeah, they blew a nine-goal lead and settled for a tie, but come on. You’ve put them on jayvee, they probably don’t give a shit … BECAUSE IT’S JAYVEE! And now you want to essentially kick them out of school because … well, because, you don’t like them, or they’re not playing well, or this was all a big mistake to begin with, or maybe all of the above.
It’s like the writers only scripted this plot twist to try and cover up their own blemishes from the movie’s outset. Yes, offering scholarships to an entire junior national hockey team is stupid. Yes, this was a big mistake. Yes, having these kids play junior varsity is ridiculous. But how do we fix it? We threaten to kick them out of school!
8. What the hell is Paul Kariya doing at a high school intrasquad scrimmage in Minnesota?
In case you forgot, the Big Game in D3 is nothing more than a glorified practice. It’s a jayvee-varsity matchup between players in the same program. It’s not exactly the world championship of the Junior Goodwill Games from the previous episode. And yet, for some odd reason, Anaheim Mighty Ducks captain Paul Kariya has decided to attend this practice AND grant an interview to some teenage play-by-play announcer between periods.
It’s pretty clear this is Disney’s attempt to cross-promote the NHL team they owned at the time, but maybe there’s some fictional explanation as to why Kariya would be in attendance. Did he attend the (fictional) Eden Hall Academy, perhaps? Is he friends with the jayvee coach, who himself was a former NHL player? Does he want to get with Charlie’s mom?
Nope, none of the above. In fact, there is no reason given as to why Kariya might just happen upon a Minnesota high school scrimmage during his down time, which is flat-out egregious. Cross-promote all you want, Disney, but don’t take us for idiots.
9. How is it that a hard-ass like Coach Orion puts his team through the gauntlet for weeks on end, making them earn everything and play “his way” before mastering the art of two-way hockey, only to let Dean Portman show up two-thirds of the way through the Big Game and immediately start the third period?
We’re really struggling, guys. It’s 0-0 through two frames and, man, we could use a boost. But what will it be? An inspirational speech? The return of Coach Bombay? Charlie’s mom walking into the locker room topless?
Nope. It’s gonna be Dean Effing Portman.
That’s right, team. Portman’s here to save the day. He didn’t sign that scholarship offer a few months ago, when it was first given to him – why, we don’t know – but he up and decided to ink it now, and here he is!
And what does Coach Orion do?
Never mind the fact that he’s a total hard-ass.
Never mind that his team is holding serve against an opponent we’re led to believe is pretty darn tough.
Never mind that Portman has not so much as laced up skates in a few months and is likely out of shape.
Never mind that Portman has yet to attend a single team function, including practice, and hasn’t even earned the right to play.
Never mind that it’s two-thirds of the way through the freakin’ game.
Let’s get him out there. Give him someone else’s spot, who cares. He deserves it. He’s the Other Bash Brother. And movies like this only work if Bash Brothers play in pairs.
This is just the stupidest.
Yeah, that’s right. I’m picking on Goldberg. I mean, just look at the guy. Sure, he was pleasantly plump in the first two flicks. But now? Well, let’s just say that puberty hasn’t been kind to the former goalie.
And yes, he’s a former goalie now. Because he was an awful goalie to begin with, but somehow managed to get even worse when he completely let himself go after D2. So what’s he up to these days? He’s a defenseman.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
Disney, never one to really concern themselves with minute details, wants us to believe that a guy who got too fat, too slow, and too terrible to be a serviceable junior varsity goalie has now been converted to the role of starting defenseman in place of none other than Fulton Reed.
Goldberg, who was the butt of all the jokes in the previous two installments, is now a quality defenseman.
Goldberg, who began this film by not even being able to rollerblade, let alone ice skate, is now a quality defenseman.
Goldberg, who couldn’t even stand in goal without getting tired, is now a quality defenseman.
11. Eden Hall Academy’s abrupt disposal of the school’s “Warriors” nickname in favor of “Ducks” at the film’s conclusion.
A little credit to Disney here. Back in 1996, ridding your team of an offensive nickname wasn’t nearly as chic as it is now. Somehow, D3 writers had the foresight to look past all of that and make this an underlying storyline in the plot, anyway. So what if the campaign to change the nickname was spearheaded by a rebellious outcast? That outcast also doubled as Charlie Conway’s love interest, so she had to be a likable gal.
To tie up the loose ends of their politically correct endeavor, writers needed to find some way to jettison the “Warriors” nickname as quickly and as easily as possible by movie’s end. In real life, this process would have dragged out over a period of many months. Surveys would have been conducted with indigenous people, board members would have lobbied for or against a change, some picketing would have taken place, Dan Snyder would have gotten involved, and a bunch of other stuff that could sabotage a 90-minute kids movie would have occurred.
So what did Disney do? Simple. They had the Eden Hall jayvee squad don their Ducks jerseys for the Big Game, let the jayvee squad thwart their varsity counterparts on a last-second goal (did not see that coming), then lowered a Ducks banner from the rafters during the post-game celebration.
You’ve been called the Warriors for decades upon decades.
Many of your students, faculty, and administrative staff held serious opposition towards admitting the Ducks players into the school for free.
You almost kicked the Ducks out of school just a couple weeks ago.
You’ve held zero meetings or discussions on a proposed nickname change, nor has anyone besides Charlie’s rebellious outcast love interest even raised the idea of altering the nickname.
But what the heck. Let’s do it. Ducks it is. The Eden Hall Academy Ducks. It rolls off the tongue.