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‘The Mighty Ducks’ (PG)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 02, 1992

There's such a paucity of movies for preteen audiences, Walt Disney's "The Mighty Ducks" will attract the young and under-entertained by sheer default -- not to mention TV advertising.

Those not yet wise to formulaic pablum are likely to enjoy this ice hockey kiddie ensemble comedy. But their older escorts might want to bring a novel and a flashlight, or a Walkman or portable television with earphones. They'll need something to get through this alive.

In Minnesota, Emilio Estevez is nursing a traumatic incident from his hockey-playing childhood. As an oft-repeated, fuzzy-focus flashback shows, he blows the chance to score the winning goal in a pee-wee league state final. "If you miss this shot," says nasty coach Lane Smith just before that crucial play, "you're not just letting me down, you're letting the team down."

Now a bratty trial lawyer, grown-up Estevez doesn't get the true meaning of justice. He cheats, he finds loopholes, he gloats when he wins. When he's busted for drunk driving, Estevez's boss works out a deal with the local judge. The lawyer will take a leave of absence and perform community service. The task involves coaching an ice hockey team of young misfits.

At first, Estevez treats the children (a "tough" bunch of lower-middle-class, mostly white kids) and his new job with contempt. But when Estevez's charges take a drubbing from his old team (still led by coach Smith), the die is cast. Redubbing the team the Ducks, Estevez leads his pint-sized archetypes (a fat kid, a silent kid, a nice kid, a wiseacre kid, a figure-skating princess, a tough kid, etc.) on a redemptive, team-love mission. It will obviously come down to the final matchup, in which the Ducks take on the nasty Hawks, Estevez faces his old coach and composer David Newman unleashes some of the most insipid background music ever recorded. That road to victory is going to be long and arduous -- and not just for the Ducks.

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