The Disney Studio, the house launched by Mickey and Donald, should be the last place to resort to flogging a dead duck. But there’s no other way to judge “D3: The Mighty Ducks.”
After the first installment of the series, the 1992 hit “The Mighty Ducks” that was a bare-faced rip-off of “The Bad News Bears,” the feeble premise for pre-teen comedy cried out for lame duck status. But, in a way possible only in these days of multi-tentacled conglomeration, Disney bought a franchise in the National Hockey League that was improbably christened the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Does the team promote the movies or is it the other way around?
Whatever the answer, it owes more to considerations of marketing than movie-making - always separated by a very blurred line when the Disney hypemeisters are around. A series that has gone from bad to worse bottoms out on the ice in “D3.” The justification for the movie - it would be stretching things to call it an idea - is that the kids who started out in pee-wee hockey are growing up. Unfortunately, the screenwriters can’t make the same claim.
While the pee-wee Ducks brought some charm to the ice, charisma hasn’t survived into adolescence. And their films have strayed into the kind of contrived silliness that deserves a game misconduct. Mostly this involves setting up the Ducks with a nasty crew of opponents who serve as sitting ducks for come-uppance.
In “D2,” it was a squad of Nordic thugs from - of all places - Iceland.
In “D3,” it’s the snooty varsity squad at Eden Hall, the kind of private school where parents who ask the cost of tuition can’t afford it. What are the ducks, who are from the wrong side of the tracks - or is it the blue line? - doing at Eden Hall?
Good question. It says here that rich private schools are so intent on athletic success that they hand out athletic scholarships for the junior varsity. It is more rewarding trying to puzzle that one out than watching the insane time-spinning of “D3.”
The varsity are preppie louts who get theirs in various Duck retaliations that include freezing hockey uniforms into brittle ice and inventive uses of horse manure.
The latter charitably describes the script, which has a weak stab at making the Ducks heed some of life’s lessons at the hands of a new and demanding coach (Jeffrey Nordling).
Emilio Estevez, who played the coach in the first two films, makes a subordinate and nominal appearance here. You can’t blame him for having the sense to want to duck out.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “D3: The Mighty Ducks” Locations: Lincoln Heights, Newport, Showboat cinemas Credits: Directed by Robert Lieberman, starring Jeffrey Nordling, Joshua Jackson, Joss Ackland Running time: 1:04 Rating: PG