The Bombay Ducks
"The Mighty Ducks" or "Champions" as it is also known is a sports movie based around pee-wee hockey and aimed at younger audiences, but strip away the pee-wee hockey and it is a formula driven sports movie. You could even say it's a paint in by numbers movie because you have an underdog story, important life lessons to be learned, a range of stereotypical characters, a villainous rival coach and an outcome which is obvious within minutes of the movie starting. But then none of this matters because "The Mighty Ducks" is a fun movie providing laughs for younger audiences whilst pleasant for older ones and is the reason why it went on to generate 2 sequels.
Having been arrested on a DUI, hotshot layer Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez - Men at Work) is ordered to coach a pee-wee hockey team as part of his punishment. Having once played pee-wee hockey for the Hawks, Gordon has bad memories of the experience having missed an important goal and is less than happy to be back in the game. He's also less than happy that he has to coach a bunch of losers and come up against the coach who made his life a misery. But slowly Bombay rediscovers the fun of pee-wee hockey again and turns the bunch of losers into contenders for the championship, the only thing standing in his way is his old coach.
So in reality there isn't an ounce of originality in "The Mighty Ducks" as the storyline is built around cliche elements which provide the basis for countless sports based movies, think "The Bad News Bears" and you know what to expect. We get introduced to Gordon Bombay, an arrogant lawyer who gets caught for a DUI and forced to coach pee-wee hockey and we know by the time the movie ends he will have learnt to love the sport once more and become a hero to the children. On top of this we have the team of losers who we know by the end of the movie will come good and the team is built up from a variety of stereotypical characters such as oddballs and angry teens as well as one with a single mum who can provide a minor romantic subplot. And whilst we watch Bombay turn the Ducks from no hopers to champions they all learn some important lessons along the way such as team work and having fun. It is all as cliche and paint it by numbers as it comes with not a single surprise or new angle on an old story showing up anywhere.
But being so stereotypical doesn't really matter because "The Mighty Ducks" works, it is fun for young and old alike. In amongst all the cliche elements there is plenty of humour, stupid comedy with kids skating through shopping malls, playing pranks, falling over on the ice all of which will amuse younger eyes. But it is all very inoffensive and pleasant making it surprisingly easy to watch and enjoy for older audiences.
At the centre of all this stereotypical storyline is Emilio Estevez as Gordon Bombay and to be honest Estevez is the reason why "The Mighty Ducks" works. Whilst the various child actors such as Joshua Jackson, Elden Henson and Shaun Weiss provide plenty of youthful comedy and the older actors such as Joss Ackland, Lane Smith and Heidi Kling go through the motions in their cliche roles it is Estevez who gives the movie energy. Estevez is amusing during the first part as the arrogant lawyer and builds on this as he transforms from being arrogant to a friend and leader of his team. And whilst Bombay is a cliche character at least Estevez makes him likeable which is what matters.
What this all boils down to is that "The Mighty Ducks" is by no means a brilliant movie, in fact it is as cliche as it comes with not a single original element to its name. But it doesn't matter because it works; it is fun for younger audiences and pleasant for older ones whilst delivering those important life lessons to make it all worthwhile.