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D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994) - Does it hold up?

The rare sequel that improves on the original!

Characters from the movie huddle together during a game

I am so glad I didn’t give up on my original plan to watch and write about this movie after watching The Mighty Ducks. It’s almost as if the creative team traveled 30 years into the future to read my thoughts about the original, then went back in time and tried to fix everything for the sequel.

Whereas the first one had way-too-long pranks involving dog poop and obviously sped-up film of a chase sequence, this film gives us the classic “Shaving cream in hand, feather to tickle the nose” gag. Even better, it’s presented in three acts as part of a team-building montage instead of being entirely unrelated to the rest of the film. We also got the incredibly bizarre second period in the final match where everyone acted out due to frustration and renewed desire to have fun. Then we got Coach Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) reminding them that what they were doing wasn’t a good way to win a hockey game. It was the best of both worlds in that we got some wacky shenanigans and an acknowledgment that the time and place they chose for the wacky shenanigans was a pretty dumb way to play hockey.

The movie isn’t perfect, of course. I would have liked to have seen the two women hockey players get a bit more to do. Despite all logic, a Viking who twice attacks Adam Banks (Vincent LaRusso) earns only a two-minute penalty each time. Lest you think penalties were generally underplayed in the movie, Dean Portman (Aaron Lohr) and Julie Gaffney (Colombe Jacobsen) were ejected for an accident and a minor shove, respectively. There’s also a little too much emphasis on the moral of the story, “The only correct way to play sports is to play for pride, not for money.” which, honestly, isn’t a great moral. The first one with its moral of, “Sports are for having fun and believing in yourself,” was a bit better in this regard, at least.

The most considerable improvement in the film, though, might have been the conflict between Bombay and his team that arises this time. In the first movie, it comes for no reason because the kids temporarily can’t understand sarcasm. In this movie, Bombay loses sight of the fact that he’s coaching a bunch of kids and becomes overly focused on winning, which distances him from the team. He also doesn’t spend as much time with them as he should because he’s focused on doing the promotional work for the team’s sponsor. So when Fulton Reed (Elden Ryan Ratliff) and Portman find that he’s going on a date with the Icelandic tutor, there’s reason for them to doubt him due to his behavior toward them before that. They’re also far more likely to misunderstand the import of getting ice cream with a woman from another team than any of them were to misunderstand sarcasm.

The characters were better in this movie, too, I think. In the first film, the team is comprised of a bunch of generic, sarcastic kids. The stand-outs were Charlie Conway (Joshua Jackson) with his good heart but lack of talent, Greg Goldberg (Shaun Weiss) with his weight problem and fear of pucks, Fulton Reed with his impressive strength compared to his peers, Adam Banks with his skill, and Lester Averman (Matt Doherty) with his class-clown act. The first movie did have a figure skater on the team, but they didn’t do enough with it. All of those characters were retained for the sequel, while the generic chaff was jettisoned. This movie then adds a Latino player who was very fast but couldn’t stop, a cowboy who was very talented but prone to showboating, a new figure skater who better implemented that aspect into his game, a street-wise kid from LA, and Julie, whose only oddity was that she was a woman. That might explain why she didn’t get much to do. By having more strongly defined characteristics, the movie was able to do more to have fun with them instead of just being generically sarcastic like the original. It made the film feel more purposeful and kept the momentum higher.

All in all, D2: The Mighty Ducks holds up significantly better than the original. And they spend enough time talking about the relevant parts of the first movie that you can watch this one solo without missing much. The beginning, where Charlie gets the Ducks back together, doesn’t work as well if you don’t know who any of them are, but it could be worse. Just in case you’re wondering, I will not be reviewing D3 here. I know better than to subject myself to that one.