The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (Ultrasonic’s Thoughts)

Revival series of any classic franchises can always be a double-edged sword. Either the series fizzles out quicker than one can blink or it sort of stumbles through a season or two before the higher-ups pull the plug on it.

However, the series Cobra Kai changed that equation. With how the producers did it – and still doing as of this post – the show managed to move the Karate Kid story forward in new ways while adding depth to legacy characters as well as introducing audiences to new ones.

So then came the question as what will be the next Cobra Kai, and Disney seems to have answered that question to some extents with their take on one of their classic franchises, this being The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers.

But of course, with that comes another question: Can the producers pull it off?

Answer: Yes.

Much like with Cobra Kai, Game Changers flips the script a bit with how the Mighty Ducks are no longer the underdog team they once were, but they have become a powerhouse franchise. Unfortunately this also means that the franchise has become no different than any other corporate team and have lost what made them special, and have adopted the mentality of winning at all costs. And this is where we get introduced to our new Charlie Conway-type character in Evan.

Cut from the team due to poor skill, Evan’s mom Alex is no doubt upset with this, but what really surprises and angers her more is the fact that both the team’s coach and higher-ups, even the parents themselves-care more about winning the game and not taking any sense of simple joy with playing the sport.

Taking the coach’s words “Don’t bother” in regards to improving, Alex decides to make perhaps the boldest move she has ever made and decides with the help from her son to create a team of their own, and so Evan begins the task of trying to recruit other kids into the team, kids like himself who who are outcasts and just want to have some fun playing. At first there is no success. And on top of that, there is no place for them to practice, but then an old ice skating rink is found by Alex, and who should be there running the place but the legend himself, Gordon Bombay!

THE MIGHTY DUCKS – “Episode 101” – (ABC/Liane Hentscher) EMILIO ESTEVEZ as Bombay”

Now when we last saw Bombay he had left the third film on a high note, moving on with his life with a lighter heart, but here it’s a whole different thing with Bombay having reverted back to who he was in the first Mighty Ducks film-jaded, and wanting nothing to do with hockey in general, and it isn’t until a few episodes in that we find out why.

For the moment, Bombay is not interested in helping Alex and her son with creating a new team, but grudgingly agrees to rent out the rink to them, and as Evan begins recruiting new members into “The Don’t Bothers” Bombay begins to come around, and in the process Alex starts to learn to stand up for herself at her job, which has been a source of stress for her.

Naturally the Don’t Bothers are terrible as a team, but between Alex and Bombay they start to come into their own, which does bring its own set of complexities-Alex letting the success get to her head at one point, The Ducks’ coach trying to lure Evan back in-but in the end the team pulls it together, which culminates in a pretty epic showdown at the tournament finals.

As to what happens-well, you’ll have to watch the show to see for yourself, but let’s just say that much like the Rocky movies, working hard as well as finding the joy in what you are doing can be more rewarding than just simply winning a trophy.

Lauren Graham does a fantastic job as Alex, which is no surprise given that she had already played a maternal character in Lorelei from the classic “Gilmore Girls” TV show. Here in Game Changers she is no different. Her performance conveys a mom who is frustrated by what she sees in kid’s sports and decides to take matters into her own hands in hopes of making things right for her son and hopefully for other kids.

And of course, Emilio Estevez himself returns to his most well-known role and with a few twists that, while it would seem contrived ends up working well, given where Bombay now is in the beginning of the series and how he gets his groove back to help as an assistant to Alex and a mentor to the rest of the team.

The actors who play the kids do a pretty good job themselves. And what I like is that each of the characters are distinct without being caricatures, and as such they bring something to the table that, when it’s put together makes the Don’t Bothers the true successors to what the Mighty Ducks once were, and could still be.

Speaking of which, this kind of series would not be complete without cameos from the past, and fortunately for us there was quite a few in the form of Fulton, Averman, Connie, Guy, Ken Wu, who also via a funny montage left quite an impact to the Don’t Bothers, no doubt teaching them a few things that will no doubt stand them in good stead.

In all, this is a series that is definitely worth watching. It helps continue the Mighty Ducks story and adds a new chapter while also reflecting the attitude that is prevalent in kids’ sports these days-where the concern seems to be only on winning and not also finding the simple joy and fun that comes from playing the sport itself, which is what Alex and her son Evan are trying to drive home.

I don’t know if there will be a second season as of this post, but I’m glad that Disney did take a chance and do this. The fact that they had creator Steve Brill on board shows this movie was going to have quality behind it and it wasn’t going to be a cash grab for nostalgia.

Thanks to Disney, Steve Brill and Emilio Estevez to coming together and helping to bring back the franchise but in a new way that still respects what came before.

And if possible, here’s to a Season 2!