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'Ducks' Is Mighty Entertaining

October 08, 1992|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who frequently contributes to The Times Orange County Edition. This column appears weekly in O.C. Live! and

In Walt Disney Pictures' "The Mighty Ducks," hotshot attorney Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) pulls a community service sentence for drunken driving. His task: to salvage a pee-wee hockey team from some junior misfits. Rated PG (for language).

My 8-year-old nephew has a great face: broad, freckled, changeable as the wind. But for parts of this movie, he treated me to an expression I'd never seen before, revealing the kind of rapt attention that grade-school teachers must fantasize about.

When the Big Game scenes filled the screen (which was often), he hunkered down in his seat, breathing in short shallow bursts and resting his chin on double-crossed fingers. The popcorn went untouched. He was a man absorbed.

Contrasted with some of his contemporaries, my nephew has an advantage, because he knows a thing or two about hockey. His mom's from the East Coast, and his family has trooped off to professional games. In fact, he was so pumped up by the movie's shoosh-and-whack stuff that, two minutes after it was over, he was explaining the finer points of the game to a perplexed counter girl at the mall cookie store.

His immediate post-movie assessment: "Cool. And exciting."

The ride home (or maybe the massive chocolate chip cookie consumed en route) fueled deeper thoughts. You know, heavy stuff--such as winning and losing and the courage it takes to do them gracefully.

Between whacks at a beach ball with a makeshift hockey stick and bites of cookie No. 3, he expanded on his ideas.

Coach Bombay seemed pretty intense about winning, no matter what it takes, I said. Was that OK?

"It doesn't matter if you win or lose," he counseled. "You still shouldn't fight and you shouldn't cheat." And, he added, it really wasn't fair that the coach lost his job, even if he was kind of mean in the beginning.

Heady thoughts for one so young. How does he know so much about fair play?

Eyes roll heavenward, heavy sigh. "Aunt Cori, I play baseball."

Oh, yeah. Chastised, I moved onto more familiar, adult turf. So, what about the concept? When Bombay showed up, the Ducks were a pretty mixed bag, gender-and talent-wise. The goalie was lousy, and the rest of them were nothing to write home about. Did he really believe they could be whipped into shape, let alone have a shot at the big time?

"Oh, sure. Besides, the girls were pretty good."

Smooth as ice, this kid.

Between hockey scenes and locker room pep talks, "The Mighty Ducks" also has a couple of mushy moments between Bombay and a player's eligible but feisty mom, which the youngster dismissed as "no big deal," and some goofball ones, mostly involving dog droppings and broken eggs.

He judged the latter scenes "funny stupid," but they afforded a few giggles for the two preschoolers with us. Unfortunately, they didn't quite get the rest of the film. Halfway through it, one squirmed around in her seat and said: "This is funny. But when are we going to see the big ducks?"

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