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‘The Mighty Ducks’ plays the same old game, but that’s the goal

Nobody was really asking for another “The Mighty Ducks” revival, but when stocking the shelves of a streaming service, recognizable titles remain the golden eggs. Enter “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers,” a likable Disney+ series about a modern team of quirky underdogs, with Emilio Estevez reprising his role as an older, considerably grumpier coach.

The original movies don’t exactly quality as “Star Wars”-level intellectual property, but Disney did produce three of them (plus a short-lived TV show), and not incidentally launched an actual hockey team. The resulting series, meanwhile, generally wouldn’t look out of place on the Disney Channel, but like most of the studio’s streaming fare, aims to be a cut above, and generally succeeds at it.

Set in Minnesota, the show begins with 12-year-old Evan (Brady Noon) being rudely cut from his youth hockey team, the Mighty Ducks, much to the consternation of his single mom, Alex (Lauren Graham). Moving up to the 12-14-age bracket, he’s told, is beyond him, which hasn’t cooled his passion for the game.

Good mom that she is, Alex seizes on the idea of launching her own team, but that requires putting together a squad. Evan and his nerdy pal (Maxwell Simkins) go about the task of recruiting, collecting an intriguing collection of misfits, such as a goalie who has developed lightning reflexes playing videogames, although putting that into practice on the ice might be something else again.

They finally find rink space, after some searching, at a facility run by Estevez’s Gordon Bombay, who has fallen on hard times since anyone last saw him, bad enough that there’s a big “No Hockey!” sign on the wall. Indeed, the character seemingly owes as much to Walter Matthau’s curmudgeonly coach in “The Bad News Bears” as it does to the previous “Ducks” flights.

One needn’t be psychic to surmise that Gordon’s reluctance to help Alex with her young charges will thaw, but based on the first three episodes, he’s clearly going to take his time getting there.

Counting original writer Steve Brill among its producers, what elevates this “Mighty Ducks” — and brings it into the 21st century — is its focus on hypercompetitive parents and the pressure that places on kids, such as a former teammate of Evan’s (Swayam Bhatia), who is already fretting about hockey as her ticket to college scholarships.

Clearly, “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” wasn’t eager to change much of anything about a proven and familiar formula. Yet in terms of crafting an entertaining, cheerfully lightweight show around this latest quack attack, the producers have largely achieved their goal.

“The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” premieres March 26 on Disney+.

Article Topic Follows: Entertainment

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