Review: Disney+ revives that 1990s feeling and Emilio Estevez in charming ‘Mighty Ducks’ reboot

Emilio Estevez in the 2021 Disney+ series, "The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers."

The 1980s have provided so many TV series reboots, sequels and DayGlo leg warmer nostalgia that multiple generations are convinced the Reagan years were actually fun.

Now it’s the ’90s’ turn. Following in the footsteps of successful streaming revivals like “Fuller House” and “Cobra Kai,” Disney+’s “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” advances the film trilogy about a ragtag hockey team of middle school misfits with a 10-episode run that premieres Friday. Millennials hoping to relive their childhood can expect plenty of Easter Eggs, arranged perhaps in a Flying V formation and delivered with a “Quack!” chant.

As a stand-alone TV series, “Game Changers” is serviceable at one end, lightly entertaining at the other. But as a TV sequel tethered to a beloved film franchise, it’s a sweet, goofy and warm ode to a pop-culture touchstone, at least in the first three episodes available for review.

William Zabka’s Johnny Lawrence never left the San Fernando Valley circa 1984. And Netflix’s “Karate Kid” sequel plays with that disconnect brilliantly.

Jan. 1, 2021

'D2: The Mighty Ducks'
Emilio Estevez in “D2: The Mighty Ducks,” the 1994 sequel to 1992’s “The Mighty Ducks.”
(Walt Disney Pictures)

Set in present-day Minnesota, the tables have turned and former misfits the Mighty Ducks are now at the top of their youth league. Unfortunately, they’ve also embraced the win-at-all-costs ethos of their former tormentors, the Hawks. The Ducks are bullies, driven by overly competitive parents and a hard-nosed coach who detests losers. Twelve-year-old Evan Morrow (Brady Noonis) loves hockey but is hardly a wonder on the ice, so when he’s cut from the team and told “don’t bother” by the coach, his mom Alex (Lauren Graham) is incensed by this injustice.

“Shouldn’t kids be allowed to play a sport for fun?!” she yells at the coach and snobby parents, a tirade that of course goes viral when it’s posted online.

The single mom embarks on a mission to create a team fueled by their love of the sport, attracting outcasts, nerds, klutzes and girls. She and her son assemble a lineup of oddballs that includes a video game addict, an amateur sports podcaster and requisite nerds. All they need is a competent coach ...

Enter Emilio Estevez’s Gordon Bombay. The former lawyer-turned-hockey-coach has fallen on hard times. He now runs the dilapidated ice rink that is the only place Alex, Evan and their fledgling team can afford to practice. The bitter Bombay subsists on leftover birthday cake from kiddie parties while he hates on hockey, kids and showering, apparently. But guess what? His inner underdog is triggered by the team’s pluck and he steps in as their leader. They name the new team the “Don’t Bothers.” Inspiring can-do moments ensue.

Some jigsaw puzzle--3,600 pieces with a combined weight of three tons and no final picture.

May 24, 2001

Lauren Graham in the Disney+ series "The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers"
Lauren Graham in the Disney+ series “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers”

Developed by Steven Brill, writer and director from the original “Ducks” film franchise, and Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa, “Game Changers” rewards those who stick in there with a reunion of sorts by Episode 6. It will reportedly feature characters from all three films such as Fulton (Elden Henson), Averman (Matt Doherty), Adam Banks (Vinny La Russo), Connie (Marguerite Moreau), Guy (Garret Henson) and Kenny Wu (Justin Wong).

The little team that could is a timeless tale, and though Netflix‘s “Cobra Kai” does a better job at breathing new life into a decades-old story, “Game Changers” is a smooth skate for those already invested in its world of misfits on ice.

‘The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers’

Where: Disney+

When: Any time

Rated: TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children)