Released in October of 1992, The Mighty Ducks was a sleeper hit and Disney’s throwback to movies like The Bad News Bears series of the 1970s. Building an evening larger audience on VHS The Mighty Ducks spanned into a trilogy, animated TV series, NHL hockey franchise and was the catalyst for an early 90s movement of kids sports movies including The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, Little Giants, The Big Green and many others. In fact, where the first movie started the early 90s kids sports wave the last film in the series released in October of 1996 seemed to bring the genre to a relative close with its diminished box office returns and a shift in mid-90s theatrical tastes.
Looking back at these movies about kids playing sports, was the common thread of the underdog narrative where unique friendships formed that spoke to the awkwardness and challenges of adolescence. With the kids typically finding victory in sport and life, their true sense of self ultimately comes from having the freedom to be who they are and having someone who valued who they were. Although littered with cinematic cliches, these films do address the need to be responsive, kind and understand the uniqueness in one another’s story. In fact, as COVID has reminded us that community is pressingly important, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers now streaming on Disney + arrives as a tale for our times.
In this continuation, audiences find that the Mighty Ducks are now a hockey dynasty and far from their Gordon Bombay days of the 1990s. Coached by “Coach T,” (Dlyan Playfair) who shows little care for the emotional well-being of players and is solely driven by victory, this new era of Ducks is one that displaces underdogs rather than embracing them. With Evan (Brady Noon) being cut from the team and not fitting in within the obscure and parent driven world of Pee-Wee hockey, his mom Alex (Lauren Graham) not only takes a stand and fights for her son’s right to play but also pulls the curtain on parents’ obsessive behaviour and living vicariously through their kids. Ultimately, she wants her son to play hockey but recognizes the need for him to be a kid.
Graham, a pure joy to see yet again on the small screen, is in her Gilmore Girls mom mode where her zest for life comes from her own position as an underdog herself. A single mom, she convinces Evan to form his own team and soon enough a 90s type rang-tang group of misfits come together to form what she calls the “No Bothers,” alluding to Coach T telling her son not to bother with hockey.
As Evan navigates the hardships of feeling ostracized from this former team the Mighty Ducks, he finds solace and courage in a new group of school and hockey friends that all want a chance to play and be who they are. Like the Ducks of the old, this new group epitomizes the classic underdog sport story with all the sensibilities of 2021 kids.
Similar to Cobra Kai, another continuation of a classic film trilogy, this new generation does cross paths with canon characters, primarily Gordon Bombay himself. Intelligently played by Emilio Estevez, Bombay’s “bitter old man” is a great contrast to Graham’s optimistic mom. As a friendship slowly begins to form, Bombay looks to become a team and life mentor as the owner of the Ice Palace, which the No Bothers call their hockey home. Cranky and a shadow of his former self, this Gordon Bombay brings an extra layer to this new series.
With the Game Changers off to a warm-hearted start, here’s giving Disney koddos for honouring the original movie franchise while finding new life in 22 minutes of streaming story.
A perfect mix of nostalgia and relevance, The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers makes for perfect at home family viewing – full of life lessons about friendships, childhood and the need to be kind.