You'll often see a lot of mud slung towards the Disney live-action output of the 1970s, and for good reason. Several of the family flicks from this era are absolutely moronic. It's as if the Disney programmers were temporarily hypnotized into believing that Stupid = Good Family Fun! And 1971's The Million Dollar Duck is assuredly one of the studio's very worst.
Frequent Disney goofball Dean Jones plays a financially strapped science professor who can't seem to make ends meet. His kid wants a puppy, his wife is a dizzy ditzball, and his boss has ordered him to get rid of a particularly stupid duck. (For the life of me I cannot ascertain the importance of a duck who knows who to push colored buttons, but hey, this duck failed at it.) So good ol' Professor Dooley brings the duck home, and his gee-whiz goofball of a son quickly falls in love with him.
But guess what happens? (If you're already familiar with the title of the movie, you know where this is headed.) The duck starts dropping golden eggs all over the place! Whoa! So now the professor has to contend with golden eggs, shifty lawyer friends, a sneaky next-door neighbor, an amazingly obtuse wife, and (eventually) the U.S. Treasury Department. Bored yet? Try sitting through this thing.
The Million Dollar Duck could be dismissed as simple family-flick tripe were it not for a few glaring lowlights that indicate the flick's ineptness. First of all, Sandy Duncan (who received a Golden Globe nomination for her work here) is asked to play a housewife who's easily as stupid as a stone. Throughout the entire flick she's about two steps up from mental retardation. And this stuff is played for laughs! I understand that the early 70s were a bit different in regards to women's rights and their portrayal in the media, but sheesh. You just want to reach through the screen and slap this ninny.
But the main problem (among several) is that The Million Dollar Duck is simply not funny. At all. In any way. Oh sure you might think it sounds amusing to hear about Dean Jones and Tony Roberts getting down on all fours and chasing a bunch of ducks through the mud, but I found it more humiliating than anything. And when the movie ends in a big, broad chase scene (as did many Disney flicks from this era) you're not as much excited by the action as you are relieved that the movie's finally wheezing to a close.
I've been known to give lots of flimsy family flicks a break from time to time, but I'll go on record here: The Million Dollar Duck is easily one of the Disney studio's very worst live-action family comedies. Ever. And considering this is the same studio that created The Barefoot Executive, The Boatniks, and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes -- well, I rest my case.
Video: So the movie stinks on ice, right? So why not release the thing in a garish Pan & Scan Fullscreen transfer? This way, the (maybe) 15 people who actually do enjoy the movie will be forced to watch it in bloated form. Again I say sheesh. Is it too much to ask that a movie be released in its original aspect ratio -- regardless of quality and/or reputation? Well, apparently so. Get with it, Disney; if it's "good enough" for a DVD release, just do the damn thing right.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Nothing spectacular, but, if hearing the movie is something you actually want to do, it does the job.
Extras: Nope. Unless you consider a forced promo for other Disney DVDs an "extra," this one's as bare-bones as they come.
Although they'd eventually get things moving in a positive direction a few years later, The Million Dollar Duck is a clear and annoying reminder of how many mindless movies the Disnay company churned out in the 1960s and 70s. The Million Dollar Duck is broad, obvious, and entirely bereft of actual laughs ... and surely that's not what Uncle Walt would have wanted.