Almost 30 years after Gordon Bombay got busted for a DUI, the Mighty Ducks are back. But this time, they’re the bad guys.
“The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers,” which premiered Friday on Disney+, has given the up-and-comers decades of practice since the original movies, and in that time, they’ve become a powerhouse junior hockey team. Success, though, has changed the team and, led by Dylan Playfair (“Letterkenny”), they’ve become bullies, throwing away anyone who doesn’t rise to the occasion.
When “Game Changers” opens, that suddenly includes Evan Morrow (Brady Noon), an undersized 12-year-old who can’t quite keep up. So instead, his mom (Lauren Graham) starts a new team and begins to build what the Mighty Ducks once were.
The Don’t Bothers, she calls them, the exact same directions given to Evan by his former coach.
“The Don’t Bothers are going to be pushed down but they’re going to get back up,” Noon, the 15-year-old New Jersey native, told the Daily News.
Slowly, the Morrows begin piecing together their own island of misfit toys: a skateboarder, a gamer, a Canadian, the local podcaster next door.
“It doesn’t matter if you get knocked down over and over and over again,” 14-year-old Maxwell Simkins, who plays Evan’s best friend, told The News. “You have to look for the positive and say to yourself, ‘Well, if I get up and take two steps, every step I take back, I at least made a step.’ You have to look for the small things that matter.”
But they still need a coach. That’s when the local ice rink owner comes in.
Gordon Bombay, a little older, a lot grumpier, has thrown hockey out of his life. It deserted him and thus he deserted it. He’s bitter because he didn’t make it.
Reluctantly, he comes back to hockey, because the Don’t Bothers need a coach and because Emilio Estevez hasn’t had an acting credit since 2018.
“The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” fits neatly into a list of second-generation series, where characters have grown up, left and come back, or never left at all, and returned to what remains.
“Girl Meets World, “Cobra Kai and “Fuller House” took that literally, making their classic characters into the parents of teens who are now going through the same problems we watched and went through – in our younger days. Soleil Moon Frye is a single mom of three in the “Punky Brewster” reboot and ABC is working on a sequel to “thirtysomething” about the ’80s characters’ children, with planned appearances from Ken Olin, Mel Harris, Timothy Busfield and Patty Wettig.
It’s an easy nostalgia pull for original viewers with enough new content for strangers.
“Game Changers” will try that too: Children of the ’90s will fall back in love with Gordon Bombay, but enough of the plot is new that their children can slide right in without missing a beat.
“As the decades go, the focus shifts,” Graham told The News. “In the sports I played, I don’t remember parents even coming except to pick you up at the end. The trends are different. This is a clever place to start a new iteration. You thought the ’90s were tough? Look at what we’ve become.”
Graham, best known for “Gilmore Girls,” said the scripts she first read felt like the Disney movies she grew up with.
“Rather than it being a reboot, it’s a where-are-they-now,” she told The News. “There’s a quality to it that is classic. When I sat down with the showrunners, they said we want this to feel like it could be now, it could be then.”
And like every classic sports movie, the message is simple.
“The whole idea is going and reaching for your goals and never giving up,” 13-year-old actress Sway Bhatia, who plays Sofi Hudson-Batra, told The News. “Something that’s highlighted in the show ... is that the teammates come out of their shells and start doing what they love. I think that’s super empowering for young people watching our show.”