Netflix’s ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers’ reunion special is millennial nostalgia done right

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Thirty years later, it’s once again morphin’ time.

“The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers,” with all their cheesy, hacky, primary-colored glory, have returned three decades after they ruled the lives of millennial kids chomping on Dunkaroos after school in the 90s.

The original series, which ran from 1993-1996 in the Fox Kids programming block, spawned a mega franchise of dozens of series, films and more toys and merchandise than even the great Zordon could imagine. The show, based on the Japanese series “Super Sentai,” featured five (later six) “teenagers with attitude” and superpowers fighting increasingly harebrained monsters, from space witch Rita Repulsa to a turtle with a traffic light on its head.

David Yost as the Blue Ranger and Walter Emanuel Jones as the Black Ranger in

David Yost as the Blue Ranger and Walter Emanuel Jones as the Black Ranger in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always.”

Now Netflix has brought them back as 50-somethings with attitude in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always” (now streaming). The reunion film sees two of the original cast members, David Yost (Billy Cranston/Blue Ranger) and Walter Emanuel Jones (Zack Taylor/Black Ranger), tributes to late actors Thuy Trang (Yellow Ranger) and Jason David Frank (Green Ranger, later White Ranger) and a whole lot of silliness.

Unlike the high-gloss box office flop adaptation “Power Rangers” in 2017, “Once & Always” makes no attempt to modernize or mature the franchise. And in a world where “Batman” movies aren’t for kids anymore, that’s a wonderful thing. “Once & Always” is a genuine, earnest and entirely ridiculous hour-long special that captures the heart of what “Power Rangers” is made of such a good show for kids.

Steve Cardenas as the Red Ranger, David Yost as the Blue Ranger and Catherine Sutherland as the Pink Ranger in

Steve Cardenas as the Red Ranger, David Yost as the Blue Ranger and Catherine Sutherland as the Pink Ranger in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Once & Always.”

The special finds us Rangers, now aged considerably up, in peril from Rita Repulsa once again, although now she’s the even more powerful “Robo-Rita” (Barbara Goodson). After two devastating fights in which Rita kills the Yellow Ranger and kidnaps the Pink, Green and Red Rangers (all originally played by actors who did not return or who have died), it’s up to Billy and Zack to take her down. And they get some help from other versions of the Rangers: Steve Cardenas as Red Ranger Rocky DeSantos and Catherine Sutherland as Pink Ranger Kat Hillard. Also along for the ride is Minh (Charlie Kersh), the orphaned teen daughter of the late Yellow Ranger Trini (Trang). “Once & Always” makes do with just a few returning actors thanks to the handy Ranger helmets that once allowed the original series to slice in footage from its Japanese inspiration.

The special hits all the hallmarks of millennial fans will remember from their school days: Angel Grove Gym & Juice Bar, Alpha and of course, the Megazord. There are battles on the moon, a flying car and kitschy martial arts. There is plenty of attitude. The only change is in the age of the Rangers, which is netting to see at first, but hey, their stunt doubles are still doing great work.

Too many reboots, revivals and remakes attempt to take a story made for children and families – from superheroes to dinosaurs to video game characters – and serve a wise adult audience. But that’s simultaneously infantilizing adult audiences and leaving kids out.

The 2017 “Power Rangers” film was a flop because the Rangers have always been too earnest and too uncool to get the glossy Marvel treatment. There is no way to take a show about “teens with attitude” fighting ridiculous monsters with out-of-sync hammy dialogue and make it more “adult.” “Power Rangers” belongs to our inner kids, and “Once and Always” remembers that.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘Power Rangers: Once & Always’ is millennial nostalgia done right

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