First look Disney+ UK TV review: The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers
Ivan Radford | On 02, Apr 2021
New episodes of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers arrive on Disney+ on Fridays.
“If you can’t be great at hockey, don’t bother.” That’s one of The Mighty Ducks to wannabe player Evan (Brady Noon) in The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, a Disney+ series set after the events of the hit movie franchise. If it sounds like a lot has changed since the underdog hockey films charmed a generation of kids, you’re not wrong. If it also sounds a lot like Cobra Kai, YouTube and now Netflix’s series set decades after the Karate Kid franchise, well, you’re not wrong there either
Shouldn’t kids be able to play sports for fun? That’s the timeless message at the heart of the show, which sees Evan and his overbearing mother (Lauren Graham) start their own rival hockey team – “The Don’t Bothers” – to show that success isn’t the only thing that matters. It’s a heartwarming and worthy moral to a story. The thing missing from Game Changer’s game, though, is some characters and drama to explore it.
Cobra Kai, while not flawless, roots its success in an exploration of how one’s worldview can change as you grow up, pitting its two adult antagonists against each other in a duel of toxic masculinity. Game Changers, on the other hand, plays much simpler – and, as a result, is a more forgettable jaunt around the rink.
Noon is a likeable hero, while Graham’s mum is a wonderfully performed study of pent-up frustrations in the face of single parenthood and work stresses. She rails against the absurdities of the modern youth sports landscape, in which parents hire nutritionists and psychologists to live out their own competitive streaks vicariously through their kids. But the team that the pair assemble plays strictly by the book, from a sedentary video gamer and an enthusiastic podcaster to a geeky girl with anger to vent and a popular girl who secretly doesn’t want to conform. Oh, and the good-looking boy who’s just moved in from Canada.
The most interesting aspect, then, is the return of Emilio Estevez as coach Gordon Bombay, who now runs an ice rink with a crabby, antisocial air and an apparent dislike of all things hockey. If that sounds like the starting point for his character in the first Mighty Ducks film, you wouldn’t be wide of the mark, and it’s that feeling of skating round in circles that makes this return to the Ducks an underwhelming ride. If Bombay’s journey can find some complexity and surprises over the series’ 10 episodes, Disney+ might yet score a winner. After three episodes, this is a winning underdog sports story – but The Mighty Ducks has already given us that. The world has changed, but the game is the same.
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is available on Disney+, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.