This is how I imagine the conversation between Emilio Estevez and Disney went in order to get him to reprise his role as Gordon Bombay one more time for D3: The Mighty Ducks (1996). Disney: Hey, Emilio, want to make it a trilogy? Emilio: Are you kidding me? Did anyone in your studios watch the second one of these turkeys? Disney: [insert alien computer noises] Kids love hockey! Emilio: Did you hear what I just said? Disney: Kids love hockey! Emilio: [sighs] Okay, but I have some conditions. Disney: Sure! Anything you want! Emilio: First, I want top billing. Second, I want to be on screen as little as possible. Finally, while I am on camera, the only one of those annoying kids I want to interact with is Jackson. Disney: Sure! Now here is your check for eight billion dollars. And thus we barely heard from Emilio Estevez ever again. . . .
Emilio Estevez’s name is the first thing you see when D3: The Mighty Ducks begins. There is some footage of the previous two movies to go with the opening credits. Then you see the same players from the previous films now entering a fancy preparatory high school in Minnesota, all on athletic scholarships. Then we cut to Gordon and Charlie Conway (Joshua Jackson) talking alone, with the old coach telling his favorite player that he is not going to be in charge anymore. Gordon accepts a new job running the United States junior hockey team, and it is an opportunity he feels he must take . . . and it is goodbye Gordon until nearly the end of the film. Charlie is not pleased. His troubles continue when it becomes apparent that the Duck’s previous accomplishments are not being given their due. Their new school, Eden Hall, has the mascot of the Warriors, and him and his teammates playing on the junior varsity hockey team must wear this unfamiliar logo. Their new coach, Ted Orion (Jeffrey Nordling), adds to this perceived slight by taking away Charlie’s captaincy. Coach Orion believes that in order for the Ducks to be truly good, he needs to make more changes. Outside of demoting Charlie, he also replaces long time goalie Greg Goldberg (Shaun Weiss) with his backup, Julie “The Cat” Gaffney (Colombe Jacobsen-Derstine). They are also told to stay away from the snooty varsity team, who are full of privileged upper-classmen who believe the newcomers have no business being in their school. Neither do some of the school board members, who expect them to succeed or be kicked out of the school. Regardless, things seem to go okay until the first game. Despite running up the score through the first two periods, their opponents erase a nine-goal deficit to tie it before the end of the game. Further, when an escalating prank war between the older team and the new one spills over into a brawling pickup game, Coach Orion steps in and orders his team to ditch their old Ducks sweaters. He also makes an ultimatum to them, stating that their old ways have to go or they will be kicked off the team. Charlie, along with Fulton Reed (Elden Henson), quit the team, and apparently the school, for a time, while the others want to stay for the educational opportunities. As happens in all these movies, the magical Norwegian Hans (Joss Ackland) intervenes, this time by dying. His passing finally brings Gordon back into the movie, and he spends some more time with Charlie after the funeral. During this sequence, Gordon explains a bit more about Coach Orion. The long and short of their conversation is that it convinces Charlie to rejoin the team, telling Coach Orion that he will pay more attention to his defense. This is exactly what Coach Orion wants to hear. Unfortunately, the school also takes the opportunity to try to revoke the team’s scholarships. This move prompts Gordon to suddenly be a lawyer again, as he was in the first film, and convince the board to maintain their scholarships with the threat of lawsuits. Rejuvenated, they then make a bet with the varsity team that whoever wins their upcoming official match gets to rename the school mascot. If you have read the reviews of the last two movies, I am assuming you can guess what happens next. Yada-yada-yada, they win and they get to rename the mascot the Ducks.
There is nothing original in D3: The Mighty Ducks, other than them playing in high school and having a different coach. Otherwise, it is more of the same hockey nonsense you see in the previous films. I hate to describe the sport as “nonsense” as I love watching it, but these films do not give it a good name. I suppose we should be thankful that we got the Anaheim Ducks out of these strange movies? Still, this last of the “original trilogy,” if you can call it that, has the sweetest moment in all of them. In talking about Coach Orion with Charlie, Gordon takes the young man early one morning to the school ice rink. There they encounter Coach Orion skating with his young daughter, who is in a wheelchair. Gordon goes on to explain how not long ago, Coach Orion was playing for the Minnesota North Stars in the National Hockey League (NHL), the goal of any young hockey player, Charlie included. Two things, though, led to him giving up his career to coach at Eden Hall. First, his daughter was in an accident that left her paralyzed. Then, the North Stars moved to Dallas, Texas, to become the Dallas Stars. Not wanting uproot his daughter from her friends and treatment, he quit professional hockey so that he can take care of her. What a great testament to the Catholic doctrine on the sanctity of all life. There are many filling pews every Sunday, myself included, who will declare their fidelity to this concept, but rarely do anything about it. Belief is a good start, but how many of us would be ready to give up a lucrative sports career to care for anyone, even our own flesh-and-blood? It is not an easy question to answer, one way or another. Either way, Coach Orion makes the best choice. He decides to give his daughter as good a life as he can give her. If that is not Christ-like love, I do not know what is.
Coach Orion is the best part of any of these movies. It is unfortunate that it is wasted on D3: The Mighty Ducks. Now that I have finished this original trilogy, hopefully I can put it all to rest. Sometimes people ask me why I spoil the movies I review. It is my firm belief that, no matter what I say, they cannot really be spoiled. If what I describe sounds good, you will probably see it anyway. If it is bad, like The Mighty Ducks franchise, then hopefully I have warned you away from them. This last one is no exception.