The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers Review: Finding Joy by Flipping the Familiar

Nostalgia can be a powerful thing, and Disney has been aiming to harness that might as a cornerstone of its streaming service, Disney+. The streamer launched with a new take on High School Musical, with plans to update nearly all of its popular properties of the past. Turner & Hooch, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Doogie Howser, Willow, and numerous other properties are being revisited and repackaged for Disney+. Despite Disney's deep roots in the world of nostalgia, the hit-or-miss quality of most reboots out there has many wondering if the House of Mouse will be able to do right by these classic properties while also creating something new and different. The streamer's newest series, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, should help put those worries to bed.

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers takes a page out of the Cobra Kai and Saved by the Bell playbooks, continuing its beloved franchise while also reinventing it for a whole new generation. The series takes place in modern-day and shows a very different Ducks team than most Mighty Ducks fans will remember. Over the last 30 years, the Ducks have become a pee-wee hockey powerhouse, now filled with bullies instead of underdogs.

Young Evan (Brady Noon) has long been the weakest link on the new Ducks team, and Game Changers begins with him getting cut from the squad he loves so much. Alex (Lauren Graham), Evan's Mom, is rightly fed up with the idea of kids' sports not being fun, so she starts a new team for Evan and the rest of his other friends. Enter the great Coach Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez), who now owns a rundown ice hockey rink and vultures leftover cake from kids' birthday parties. He provides them with a place to practice, and tries his best to stay far away from the game that clearly broke his heart at some point in the last three decades.

The intersection of these two stories is the key to making The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers work as well as it does. Alex, Evan, and kids on the team are genuinely likable, relatable new characters. From a kid glued to his video games in the basement to a young boy with big podcasting dreams, these are underdogs in a new era. Graham's Alex is the kind of caring, down-to-earth mom that everyone wants to have. When other parents are hiring private nutritionists and college counselors for their 12-year-olds, she's trying to make sure her kid is enjoying his time in middle school.

Bombay, meanwhile, seems to be in a pretty miserable place. This isn't the coach you remember from the movies. Something has happened to him over the years and it's what gives Game Changers the boost it needs to get out of the shadow of the films. The new characters provide the classic stories you watch Mighty Ducks to see, while the one character that actually connects to the original movie is being taken in a totally different direction. This is how you reboot a property like Mighty Ducks, and creator Steven Brill does it extremely well.

There may be some complaints from fans of the movies that Game Changers is for kids. Do you remember who those movies were for? Of course, the new Mighty Ducks TV show on the family-friendly Disney streaming service is made for younger audiences in mind. That was never in question. But there is a lot in this series for adults to enjoy, and potentially learn from.

Gordon's story is one of regret and missed opportunity. He's a man who has held grudges as he's gotten older and it's legitimately affecting him. When you see that happen to a guy you spend your childhood years admiring, it makes you feel things. Alex's journey as a parent in today's world of entirely-too-early college prep is an underdog story in and of itself, one that a lot of adults will be able to relate to.

Just like the films that came before it, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is an exercise in the familiar and heartwarming. It's not trying to break any new ground or win prestige awards. It's a simple, fun, underdog story, and a dang good one at that.

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Rating: 4 out of 5

The first episode of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is now available on Disney+.