D3: The Mighty Ducks

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: D3: The Mighty Ducks

Where You Can Stream It: HBO Max now and Disney+ starting on September 4

The Pitch: After winning the pee-wee hockey championships and the Junior Goodwill Games, it’s time for The Mighty Ducks to grow up. The team has been awarded junior varsity hockey scholarships to Eden Hall Academy, a prestigious prep school that was previously attended by Coach Gordon Bombay. But this time, Coach Bombay isn’t leading the ducks on the hockey rink. Instead, the Ducks have to get used to Coach Ted Orion, a former NHL player who has no patience for the little tricks the team used to pull, while also contending with the contempt and taunts of the varsity hockey team.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: The Mighty Ducks is one of those beloved sports franchises that children of the 1990s adore. D2: The Mighty Ducks ups the ante by taking the team to the global level and having them face off with the best young hockey players the world has to offer, while also adding some players who aren’t from District 5 in Minnesota. The movies have all the cliched lessons you’d expect from these kind of family friendly sports dramas, and while D3: The Mighty Ducks has those too, what makes the sequel stand out is the coming-of-age narrative that finds the characters growing up along with the fans who have been with them since the beginning.

As a kid, I used to hate Coach Orion. I empathized with Charlie Conway when he told his new coach, “You’re the rookie here. We’ve all been together for four years.” Sure, it was clear that Conway was a little too cocky for his own good, especially when it came to choosing only to concentrate on offense instead of also putting up a good defense. But Orion seemed like a guy who didn’t respect the legacy of The Mighty Ducks that came before. As an adult, it’s clear to see that this movie is about the team coming to terms with the fact that they’re not kids anymore. Not only will their usual antics like “The Flying V” fail on the ice now, but they can’t keep riding on their previous accolades, and they need to learn to adapt at the curveballs (or knucklepucks) that life throws at them. Even the lack of skill seen from goalie Greg Goldberg is finally addressed.

Obviously, none of this is groundbreaking. But this is the first movie that really forces The Mighty Ducks to evolve as characters, not just hockey players. Though the first two movies saw the team grow on the ice, learning lessons about teamwork and whatnot, most of the character development fell upon Emilio Estevez as Gordon Bombay. With their coach taking a backseat and only appearing in a few key scenes, the weight of character development falls upon Charlie Conway and the rest of the team. Sure, there are still goofy antics, but this movie has more bubbling under the surface of the ice, even if the overall pond isn’t that deep.

I’m not sure that I can definitively say that D3: The Mighty Ducks is the best in the series, especially since much of the dramatic weight relies upon the movies that came before it, including the last minute surprise of Bash Brother Dean Portman showing up in the middle of the final game to claim his Eden Hall scholarship. But I think it’s the most mature movie out of the entire franchise and it really lets the Ducks take flight in a way they haven’t before. If you haven’t watched it recently, it might be worth revisiting.

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