Cynical Disney's lame 'Ducks' redux doesn't have a wing to fly on

March 25, 1994|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

M R "Ducks"?

M ain't "Ducks."

M R bucks, which is the only thing that "D2: The Mighty Ducks" is all about.

Is there a zone beyond shameless? Is there some distant county on the far side of squalor? Is there an answer to the eternal question "How low will you go?"

The answers to these riddles are, Yes, Yes and Very Low, and all are contained in this pathetic sequel, a film that panders so grimly to its audience that it gives sniveling a bad name. It leaves no flag unwaved, no ethnic or demographic group unslobbered over, no cliche unmolested. It recycles the robotic Emilio Estevez as a peewee hockey coach who manages to find tin-pan redemption on an ice rink.

I actually think we Americans deserve this movie, but I'm wondering what the poor Icelanders did to be swept up in its smarmy web. I have searched the Columbia Desk Encyclopedia for hours in search of some evidence of Icelandic perfidy, some aggressiveness of nature or brutality of temperament, but the only thing I can locate is an undue fondness for the tango. Certainly that's not sin enough to be slandered on 2,000 movie screens by Walt Disney!

For, the world being largely empty of international enemies, it's the poor Icelanders who are made to stand in for what in the last decade would have been vile Soviet Russkies. These Islanders are portrayed somewhat like a young troop of NKVD executioners on their merry way to machine-gun Ukrainian kulaks, complete to black uniforms, slicked-back greasy hair, theatrically exaggerated Slavic accents and dead baby-blue eyes. The Icelanders! They should declare war. Clinton would surrender in a day!

Estevez is back as Gordon Bombay, coach of The Mighty Ducks, misfit team of suburban wannabes who, by magic that only a screenwriter could invent, win a state title. By contrivances too lame to chronicle, the Ducks, with an infusion of new talent designed to appeal to still further demographic groups, have come to represent the U.S. in some kind of international hockey competition in L.A. That's where the fascistic, baby-killing, napalm-dousing, blood-dripping Icelanders come in. That's also where the Anaheim Arena comes in, recently built by Disney to house its own pet NHL team, to which the movie gives a mega-giant plug.

Cynically, the subtext of the film is the co-option of the athletic spirit by corporate groups for profit, paid for, of course, by a corporate group (Disney) that has co-opted the athletic spirit for profit. Anyway, Bombay and his Ducks -- sponsored by a hockey equipment manufacturing concern -- are so lionized at the tournament that they are quickly absorbed into the Hollywood lifestyle and lose contact with the sport that got them there.

This enables screenwriter Steven Brill to unspool a litany of dreary little dramas and solve each one with a thunder of patriotic music, a wave of the flag and a crocodile tear made of 100 percent glycerin. Will the black Duck learn from his street brothers the secret of the knuckle puck? Will the two tough Ducks get a chance to kick Icelandic butt? Will the talentless but clever rich Duck figure out a play on the bench that will result in a last-minute goal? Will the pretty Duck get even with the sexist Icelandic hunk? Will the cowboy Duck get to do his rope trick? Will the bad Icelandic coach learn the value of sportsmanship?

Will this movie ever be over?

Eventually it ends, after glumly recycling every sports cliche known to man as if it's a new-minted June morn or a key event in the liturgy. Even Gordon Bombay washes the mousse out of his hair, puts on a suit that wasn't designed by Giorgio Armani and once again finds cheese ball redemption by returning to his roots. It stinks.

"D2: The Mighty Ducks"

Starring Emilio Estevez

Directed by Sam Weisman

Released by the Walt Disney Studio

PG-rated

*

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