(In French, On TV, January 2019) Sports movie are often intensely formulaic, and The Mighty Ducks is even more formulaic than most. It being a hockey movie is almost irrelevant to the hackneyed underdogs plot that it follows without deviation, assembling a team of misfits to take on much better teams. Emilio Estevez slums it up by taking on the usual coach role of those movies, overcoming some personal trauma by working with troubled kids. It’s a bog-standard sports movie and perhaps that helps explain its enduring popularity. Estevez is not bad, the tone of the film is carefully pitched to impressionable young teenagers (who are guaranteed to remember it fondly as adults) and hockey helps the action move faster than baseball. You can compare and contrast the beige amiability of The Mighty Ducks to spikier fare such as The Bad News Bears for an instruction on how bland corporate products are extruded. It almost inevitably led to the naming of Disney’s own hockey team, furthering cementing the film’s legacy right before the two sequels and animated TV series. For adults, though, The Mighty Ducks is an umpteenth take on an overly familiar formula. It’s watchable, but almost immediately forgettable.
(In French, On Cable TV, January 2019) Here’s a hypothetical situation to test your skills at being a Hollywood producer. It’s not a hard one. Here you have a pair of actors starring in your movie as stakeout cops: Emilio Estevez (aged 25) and Richard Dreyfus (aged 40). You also have the rather sexy Madeline Stowe (aged 29) playing a woman who’s being watched by our heroes. Naturally, there’s going to be a romance—that’s a given, not to be put in doubt. The question is this: Would you rather pair up Stowe with Estevez (four years her junior) or with Dreyfus (eleven years her elder)? Take your time. Don’t cheat. There’s only one answer. But of course, this is Hollywood and at the time Dreyfus was the biggest actor, so naturally we have a May-July romance going on. So it goes in an industry controlled by older men. Bad casting aside, Stakeout is merely a decent film. Veteran director John Badham’s attempt to combine comedy and action thrills is intermittently successful, although the film is more effective in its action moments that the often-juvenile comedy. The soundtrack is very eighties, but then so is much of the film as a buddy cop movie. There are a number of ethical issues raised by Stakeout’s romance (the word “stalking” is never mentioned, although it should be), but like most police movies of the time it’s far more interested in designating its heroes as beyond reproach than actually exploring those issues. Stakeout remains an entertaining film, but it does have a number of issues that may cause more discomfort than fun.
(On Cable TV, January 2019) Not being much of a western fan, it was probably inevitable that I wouldn’t care much about Young Guns. Clearly made with the intention of bringing sexy back to the western genre, it does have the good sense of casting the Brat Pack of photogenic young actors for a nice little shoot’em up. Even today, who wouldn’t be tempted to have a look at young Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen and Dermot Mulroney in the same horses-and-guns movie? Alas, the movie around those actors isn’t quite up to the promise—for all of the then-trendy soundtrack, this retelling of the Lincoln County War and Billy the Kid’s life does feel perfunctory. I suppose that here’s a cultural element at play here—Being Canadian, I have little use for outlaw legends along the lines of Billy the Kid, and so that aspect has nearly no grip on my particular imagination. While stylish, Young Guns definitely shows its age and late-1980s pedigree—thirty years later, it looks flashy, dated and a bit ridiculous with its overcoats and lengthy slow-motion moments. I don’t quite dislike the result, but neither do I care for it much—although I suspect that the deliberately accumulated sex appeal of half a dozen guys is wasted on me.