‘The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers’ review: a clever and intelligent revival


It doesn’t take long for “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” to gently recognize and reject its roots. Opening up to a college hockey tryout with all the pomp and flashy circumstances of a prime-time NHL game, the new Disney Plus series from Steve Brill, Cathy Yuspa and Josh Goldsmith makes it clear that the Ducks 2021s are nothing like the rambling underdogs of 1992 Almost 30 years later, the Minnesota youth team has become exactly the kind of hyper-competitive juggernaut they once defiantly opposed. The kids are ruthless, the coach even worse, and the stands are full of parents dreaming of a direct line to posh colleges. Adding insult to injury, everyone seems to remember the ducks of old as an adorable misstep. “Can you believe they used to charlatan? ”one mocking child asks another, oblivious to the anguished offscreen cries of all of the former Disney kids tuning in as adults to watch their beloved ducks take to the ice cream.

Watching the Mighty Ducks dominate as cruel bullies is as immediately shocking as it is, ultimately and somewhat frustrating, a clever way to turn the franchise upside down. Becoming the best of the best, as the team did in the 1994 sequel “D2”, comes at a price. When playing for fun suddenly isn’t good enough, what happens to kids who aren’t good enough to play?

At this point, in a pop culture landscape dominated by reboots, covers, sequels, and prequels, it’s fair to be skeptical of something like “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers”. New series expands the “Mighty Ducks” cinematic universe into a TV show featuring and for a whole new generation of potential Disney fans, whose parents grew up with the Ducks and bittersweet hockey coach Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez). Still in the early stages of releasing original shows, Disney Plus is full of similar nostalgic takes, from the updated “The Muppet Show” “Muppets Now”, to an all-new “The Right Stuff”, to the ancillary series. “Finding Nemo” “Dory’s Reef Camera. Then there’s“ High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, ”in which the characters present their own take on the popular Disney Channel musical. Even the unscripted shows fit together. the not, with something like Marvel’s “Legends” offering a more in-depth look at a franchise that’s gotten a million in-depth looks, and another like “Encore!” examining the impact of Disney musicals (and theater) in high school) on the adults who loved them as children.

But there’s a very simple reason why Disney is leaning so hard on revising their already successful IP: They are extremely good at it. Even the live-action remakes – arguably the worst version of Disney’s “Let’s Try Again!” instinct – have undoubtedly been resounding successes. People love Disney, and Disney, in turn, loves people who love Disney. So while it would have been too easy to revisit “The Mighty Ducks” by bringing in the grumpy Bombay d’Estevez to train the Ducks again, it’s immediately more interesting for the show to blow up what the Ducks mean by making them the enemy.

There is, of course, always a disjointed group of underrated kids who come together to do something on their own in “Game Changers” – although in this case, as in something like “High School Musical. : The Musical: The Series “or even Peacock’s very intelligent revival” Saved by the Bell “, they are also self-aware enough to present themselves as such. “We’re the good guys,” insists Evan (Brady Noon), a determined 12-year-old who is forming a new team after the Ducks bluntly let him go. “The good guys always win in the end, otherwise we learn a lesson about ourselves. Either way, it’s a W.

What makes a ‘W’ is the central question at the heart of ‘Game Changers’. For the more intimidating new take on the Ducks, champions of state for years, the only way to win is to dominate completely. When this results in Evan being kicked out for the crime of being too small, his outraged mother Alex (a play Lauren Graham) begs his fellow parents to remember that their children are children who should be more interested in playing than having children. university advisers on mandate. . When she receives an unsympathetic response, she decides to help her son and fellow hockey enthusiast Nick (stage thief Maxwell Simkins) assemble his new team in the hopes that they can have some fun with it. The only problem is to lose – and to lose wrong – is actually not very fun at all.

The obvious solution is to bring in Bombay, who left the competitive world of hockey to run his old friend’s barely functioning Ice Palace and steal leftover leaf cakes at children’s birthday parties. But at least in its first three episodes, “Game Changers” held out to that pull for longer than expected, keeping it largely out of the action with reluctant interest. On the one hand, it only delays the inevitable; on the other hand, it gives the show a chance to become its own creature without clinging too much to the past. While “Game Changers” might be of interest to parents with residual Bombay feelings, it really is for their kids. Graham’s gung ho Alex is a charming adult presenter, but it’s Evan, Nick, and classmates like introverted gamer Koob (Luke Islam) and star Duck Sofi (Swayam Bhatia) leading the action. Kids are a little too smart like most kids on screen, but thanks to the great play of the child actors who play them, they’re still recognizable.

And that’s as it should be, really. Every once in a while, a beloved childhood property resets itself to connect with its stars as jaded adults (see: “Saved By The Bell”, “Cobra Kai”). Other times it’s just a depressing retread (see: “BH90210”). By subverting the premise of its source material and keeping Bombay in the mix but not in the center, “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” makes crisp and timely updates to the timeless history of the “good guys” underdogs who just want to have fun, but aren’t about to complain if they can stick to the “bad guys” with a win or two. That spirit, more than the logo or team heritage, is the true path of the Ducks.

“The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” premieres Friday, March 26 on Disney Plus.

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