Chances are if you're reading this, you probably watched 'The Mighty Ducks' and the follow-up sequel when you were naught but a wean.
You probably watched Joshua Jackson or that guy who was in 'Daredevil' flying around a rink and thought it looked like the coolest thing ever. Of course, the closest you would probably get to that was a pair of roller skates and trying to do a V formation on tarmac road before falling over and ripping your knees open.
Well, it's almost thirty years later - yes, the first movie was released in 1992 - and this time around, 'The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers' flies onto Disney+ on a wave of charming nostalgia and with a lot of heart. The dynamic is changed this time around, as the Mighty Ducks are now an all-star team made up of over-achieving bully types and helicopter parents. Trying and failing to get her son onto said team, Lauren Graham opts instead to form her own team - aptly titled 'The Don't Bothers' - made up of a colourful assortment of also-rans and misfits.
While struggling to find a place for said hockey team, she stumbles on The Ice Palace which - wouldn't you know it - just so happens to be owned and operated by none other than Emilio Estevez, reprising his role as Gordon Bombay. Of course, Bombay is now decidedly middle-aged, grumpy and disheveled, and not at all interested in having anything to do with ice hockey. That is, of course, until Lauren Graham and her team of scrappy underdogs begin to thaw him out.
If all of this seems like it's rote and familiar, it is. Of the three episodes we saw, it has all of the same beats as the original, except with pop culture references updated to our time and the commentators at the ice-hockey matches now replaced with a podcast hosted by kids. After that, it's the same story - misfit kids just trying their best, being adorably witty, learning lessons, having fun, and learning that winning isn't everything.
Lauren Graham really is leading the charge, providing an arsenal of one-liners and comebacks and mixing up her can-do energy with Emilio Estevez's downbeat demeanor. Estevez, bless him, is acting in another movie/TV series altogether, playing it far too deeply and seriously for something so frothy. Of course, that may change across the rest of the season, but of what's been made available to press so far, it's quite jarring. Coach Bombay, it would seem, has a lot of demons he hasn't yet dealt with over the years.
Is a child-friendly TV spin-off series the place to do that? Maybe not. The child actors are just the right side of precocious and a few of the jokes might fly high and far over the heads of little ones, but so what? If your kids just so happens to be watching this with you, great, but this is actually good enough to be enjoyed with or without them.
It does speak to where Disney is heading with 'Game Changers', in that twenty years ago, this would have made a fine, mid-sized budget movie that would have come out over a bank holiday or when schools were off, ran for the guts of maybe ninety-odd minutes, and been perfectly enjoyable fodder for a lazy Saturday in a cinema. Instead, it's been carved up into a total of six, thirty-odd minute episodes. That doesn't mean that it's run out of story though, and each episode does leave you wanting to know what happens next. The writing is strong enough to sustain it, and the cast are all game - no pun intended.
It's by no means a groundbreaking series, and chances are you can probably guess how it's all going to go down, but again, who cares when it's this entertaining? Sure, it's skating by - again, no pun intended - on its charm and nostalgia, but you'll be enjoying it too much to notice.