March 6, 2008

Flying V Doesn’t Distract Mix From Holes in D2’s Story

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I was sitting in Lynah Rink this past weekend, when the P.A. announcer made a startling announcement — the film The Mighty Ducks was showing at Cornell Cinema. I was a bit shocked; Cornell Cinema usually only shows films that are new or have some artistic merit. While I didn’t actually go see the movie, it got me thinking about the Mighty Ducks series in general and, more specifically, D2: The Mighty Ducks.
I am a movie buff, so I will be the first to admit that the 1994 sequel is pretty awful. But while the first and third films in the series are boring, the second provides a lot of fodder for discussion. I actually watched it in its entirety this past summer with the people I lived with, and we had a glorious time. So as the first and last entry in the Michael Mix Terrible Children’s Sports Films Series, I will now deconstruct D2: The Mighty Ducks.
As most people our age know, the first film revolved around an underdog Minnesota youth hockey team named the Ducks. Led by their court-ordered coach Gordon Bombay (played by Emilio Estevez in a career-ending role) and facing an evil, gerrymandering team from another district, the Ducks pulled together as a team and won the title. Good for them. I’m sure Rick Reilly would have been on that story in a heartbeat.
In the second film, however, the organizers of the Junior Goodwill Games somehow decide that Bombay should coach Team USA. While this might be plausible, the film goes off the deep end the moment that it is announced that the entire Ducks squad will fill out the United States’ roster. To help the team, the brass gives the Ducks five new players, which is really bad news for the sixth-best junior hockey player in the United States, who can’t play on the national team because some random kids in Minnesota happened to overcome long odds the previous season. I smell a lawsuit. To make matters worse, four of the new players have serious flaws and the one truly good player, netminder Julie “The Cat” Gaffney, is inexplicably benched by Bombay because the Ducks already have a goalie.
When the team arrives in Los Angeles to play in the Junior Goodwill Games, it finds itself matched up against the favored squad from Iceland. Yes, Iceland. Not Canada, Russia or Sweden. Iceland. My guess is that the screenwriters did not want to make the antagonist team from a country that might actually contribute to the gross of the movie. But couldn’t they have picked a nation with a little more hockey prowess, or at least with a population over 400,000? In fact, there are a grand total of zero players currently in the NHL from Iceland. They couldn’t have even picked Kazakhstan, which at least is the home of Toronto Maple Leaf Nik Antropov? A part of me hoped that it really was true that every young player in Iceland in 1994 was freakishly good and that there would be an influx of Icelandic players in the NHL by 2008. Unfortunately, this has not happened.
As the film progresses, the team starts out well, struggles, then predictably pulls it together at the end and eventually takes the crown. But it needed a little help, which came in the form of Russ Tyler, played by current Saturday Night Live star Keenan Thompson. Tyler perfected his own patented shot, called the “knucklepuck,” which is probably the most famous aspect of the film. However, in case you have not heard of it, the knucklepuck consists of taking one’s stick, making the puck stand on its side, then taking a slap shot.
In the movie, the knucklepuck looks awesome. Whenever Tyler shoots it, the other team literally has to get out of the way and does not even attempt to stop it. But as many of you know, it is virtually impossible to correctly shoot a knucklepuck. When I was about nine or ten, I used to like to play street hockey and mimic my favorite Hartford Whalers, Geoff Sanderson and Andrew Cassels. But I would always try a knucklepuck, and it never worked. My friends could not make it work either.
Therefore, I believe that the knucklepuck is a sham concocted by the writers of D2: The Mighty Ducks so that kids of all ages would quickly become frustrated with playing sports and just be content to watch movies about them (anybody that has ever tried the swing from Happy Gilmore knows what I’m talking about).
In addition to the knucklepuck, the team also employs the dreaded “Flying V,” which was a holdover play from the first film. To execute a successful Flying V, all five skaters line up in a “V” shape, and pass it back and forth to one another. For some reason, this perplexes the opposing team, although I’m not sure quite how. Also, if you look carefully, the Ducks are almost always offside when they execute the Flying V. Somehow, the refs always fail to call this.
The final absurdity of D2: The Mighty Ducks is the inordinate amount of media attention that the team gets. All their games are on television with real announcers, and they are frequently on the front page of the USA Today sports section. It must have been a really slow news day, or maybe all four major sports, as well as NASCAR, tennis, golf, bowling, cricket, soccer, polo and competitive eating, were all on strike.
There are so many more interesting aspects to the film, like the legality of the final play, Bombay’s questionable diagnosis of Banks’s injury and the absurdly racist portrayal of the team from Trinidad and Tobago. But alas, that is for another time. D2: The Mighty Ducks stands the test of time as a movie to make fun of with friends and feel nostalgic. Unless you are from Iceland.