When Evan (Brady Noon) is cut from the famous Mighty Ducks because he’s too small for the prestigious 12-14 age bracket, his mom Alex (television’s favorite single mom Lauren Graham) has a meltdown over the absurdity of the youth sports world where twelve-year-olds have college counselors and sports psychologists. She and Evan decide to start their own team, the “Don’t Bothers,” where kids can play for fun.
Despite a few early struggles and bullying from the rest of the Ducks, Evan quickly assembles a team of misfits with little athletic ability, all wanting to just be kids and play a sport they love.
With days left to register the team and nowhere to practice, Alex comes across the Ice Palace, a worn down children’s party destination run by none other than a grumpy, bitter Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez). He refuses at first to let the team practice at the rink, claiming he hates hockey and kids, but Alex convinces him, beginning an entertaining relationship of playful bickering and possible romance between the characters.
“Game Changers” strays from “The Mighty Ducks” of the ‘90s because the original team of loveable losers is now the bad guy, but the modern take keeps the same spirit of camaraderie and believing in the underdog. There are cheeky references to the movies, like when Alex asks Gordon if he’s ever heard of the Mighty Ducks or when the kids rave about the inventor of the Flying V.
Fans of the original movies will love Estevez’s triumphant return as the legendary Gordon Bombay, and new viewers will enjoy his character’s off-beat sarcasm. Instead of being just another single mom, Lauren Graham’s heartfelt and hilarious performance singlehandedly makes the show worthy of the beloved “Mighty Ducks” title.
The uber-talented kids easily hold their own next to their A-list co-stars. Brady Noon was the perfect choice to lead a new generation of Mighty Ducks: He has the comedic chops to carry the sitcom, but he still lets Evan be a wholeheartedly real kid. Maxwell Simkins steals every scene as the adorable sports podcaster and Mighty Duck-wannabe Nick, and Swayam Bhatia is definitely one of the breakout stars as the overwhelmed Sofi, who wants to join the new team but is afraid of disappointing her parents.
Even with their limited screen time, we’re already rooting for the rest of the unique, loveable “Don’t Bothers” by the end of the pilot. Taegen Burns shines as Maya, a popular girl struggling to fit in. Lauren, the school outcast who dresses like a warrior princess, is somehow still relatable thanks to Bella Higginbotham’s portrayal, and De’Jon Watts is impressive as daredevil skater Sam. Joining the team also are pro-video gamer Koob (talented newcomer Luke Islam) and Logan, the new kid who has all the hockey gear and none of the skills (played by Kiefer O’Reilly with impeccable comedic timing). The show wouldn’t work without the incredible cast.
Hidden behind the nostalgia and witty comedy is a commentary on the insane pressure kids — and people in general — are under today to fit in; to be perfect and to have their lives completely figured out. The show opts for an honest, instead of condescending, portrayal of the issues kids deal with, but it never strays from the light-hearted, comfortable atmosphere.
While it centers on a group of preteens, the show’s message applies to everyone. In the days where burnout and win-at-all-costs attitudes dominate, “Game Changers” glorifies teamwork and reminds us that some things are just meant to be fun, which is exactly what the show is.
Writers Steven Brill, Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa know how to cater to viewers of all ages, welcoming a new generation of fans without forgetting about the old. There’s something in it for everyone to enjoy. Even though problems are solved a little too easily and conflict is a bit lacking, it’s still more than just a cheesy kid’s show or a hasty reboot.
“The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” probably won’t be winning any Emmys this year, but the new series isn’t about winning. Its best moments so far don’t come from scoring goals or winning games. Instead, it leads with genuineness and heart, and the comedy works because of its relatability. It’s sweet and simple — something we could all really use right now.