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KIDS ON FILM

'D2' Scores With Good and Bad Sports

March 31, 1994|LYNN SMITH | Lynn Smith is a staff writer for The Times' View section.

In "D2 The Mighty Ducks," an injured NHL hopeful (Emilio Estevez) leads a peewee all-star hockey team to a Junior Olympics, but his stated goal of "having fun" is temporarily derailed by his love of the sponsor's bounty and hatred for the vicious team from Iceland. (Rated PG) Early on in the movie, the team sponsor takes coach Gordon Bombay to a Hollywood cocktail party and observes that nothing is as it appears to be on the surface. Which is also true of the Disney movie they inhabit.

In it, coach Bombay professes to champion having fun and doing your best. Yet winning and flag waving are clearly the point.

The team is a dream of harmony amid ethnic diversity. Yet, they all hate their rivals because they're, well, from Iceland.

The coach doesn't want them to stoop to the level of the violent, unsportsmanlike Icelanders. Yet when the Americans earn time in the penalty box for intentional injury, it seems to be a matter of pride.

These discrepancies did not in the least bother kids who loved this movie (the weekend's highest grosser) and expressed a remarkable tolerance for ambiguity. Some, conditioned to the cliches of sports movies, thought they were getting the standard message. Which was, according to Shahna Shevitz, 12: "It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game, or something like that. Or you tried your hardest, or whatever."

But others understood the movie's real mixed message--winning isn't everything; it's the only thing. And its corollary--when They do the wrong thing, it's wrong, but when We do it, it's OK.

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Ten-year-old Nolan Sainick, a hockey player himself, put it this way: "Good violence is when you're moving someone out of the way, or when they try to fight back when you're trying to get a goal. Bad violence is when they knock you into the wall for no reason."

Even the tattooed "bash brothers," the all star team's teen-age goons, were "bad and everything, but they worked together" for the sake of the team, Shahna said.

Even the two female team members, who didn't get to play much, pushed and shoved their way to victory. "That was good," said Emily Boshneck, 11, a figure skater who also plays hockey. "They were sticking up for themselves."

The audience was teeming with kids, some carrying their skateboards and helmets into the theater, and most of whom seemed to have seen the original "Mighty Ducks" and had their favorites. I heard them yell out to the screen, "Give it to Luis!" when I, who missed the original, was still trying to straighten out the characters.

The original was more upbeat, the girls agreed.

Still, Emily said, "I liked this one better. They matured more. They learned how to work as a team." Moreover, she and her friends decided, this sequel had an original plot as opposed to a "Home Alone" rehash where the hero, Shahna said, was simply "lost again."

"There was more of a story in this one," said Brian Kazarian, 14. "There were more hockey scenes, which was better."

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But Kevin Grant, 15, said: "It was overdone the second time. I play hockey, and I thought it was cheap what they did. It was kind of fake. Like a goalie would move out of the way when a guy made a shot. . . ."

"Corny" was the word Kevin used for the team's final period uniform change from red, white and blue all-star jerseys to their old "Mighty Ducks" jerseys, accompanied by a swelling brass orchestra.

Most of the kids didn't think about any particular Olympic ice skater when coach Bombay was deliberately whacked in the knee by an opponent--twice.

But Brian said: "It's got to the point where violence has got into sports. People like to see that." In the movie, he said, it may have been overdone, "but I liked it."

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