Hey, friends! I’ve mentioned here on the blog before how much I love Disney Channel Original movies. While being at home, I decided to watch a few DCOMs since I have them right at my finger tips through Disney+. Watching every DCOM ever made was a bit daunting, so I decided to make it fun by watching DCOMs for every letter of my first name. It’ll be something fun to do over the summer, while also knocking out some of the DCOMs that I’ve never seen. First up, letter D!
The first movie I watched was Descendants (2015). Descendants is a movie musical that follows the children of the well-renown Disney villains Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Jafar, and Cruella de Vil. The villains and the children are outcasted to the Isle of the Lost which is surrounded by a magical barrier that prevents them from leaving. All of that changes when the soon to be king, Ben (son of Belle and the Beast), decides to give the new generation a fair chance. As a part of his new proclamation, he invites the villain descendants to Auradon Prep, a school for the children of royalty. True to their villain status, the parents task their children with the act of stealing the wand of the Fairy Godmother so that they can free themselves from the Isle of the Lost once and for all.
Descendants is a movie that premiered on Disney Channel a few years after I’d stopped watching. So there’s no nostalgia attached to the characters or actors for me. However, the movie is directed by High School Musical’s Kenny Ortega, so I did have some expectations going in. I really liked that this story followed the children of Disney villains. It’s a really cool concept, and I found it very different for Disney! It turned their usual “good guys save the world” plot line on its head. However, despite the film being a movie musical, I thought that the singing and dancing was pretty lackluster and not at all memorable. There weren’t aren’t a lot of songs in the movie at all despite its run time of almost two full hours. The songs that were featured were also kind of weirdly integrated into the plot–they disrupted the flow instead of adding to it. If I had to choose a favorite, it would be “If Only” sung by Mal whose played by Dove Cameron. The actress has a great singing voice, and she displayed some great emotion during the song (even it was kind of a weird transition). The CGI and green screen is also a bit distracting. Considering the fact that the movie premiered in 2015, I was so surprised at just how bad the CGI and green screen use was. The entire coronation scene uses green screen and CGI and it was an experience to watch, to say the least.
Though there are four main characters (Mal the daughter of Maleficent, Evie the daughter of the Evil Queen, Jay the son of Jafar, and Carlos the song of Cruella de Vil), it did feel like this was mainly Mal’s movie. Even the other villain parents seem to follow the orders of Maleficent, so maybe that something do with it, or maybe it’s just a writing issue. Mal is the ringleader of the group, and she’s the only one who really sees any sort of character growth. One of the main themes in the film is that Mal wants to prove to her mother that she is evil enough, and we see her struggle with this throughout the entire film. Evie (played by Sofia Carlson), Carlos (played by Cameron Boyce), and Jay (played by Booboo Stewart) do not get nearly enough screen time go through any form of growth. Instead, they’re reduced to caricatures, and really only used to move Mal’s story along. Evie gets a small storyline of her own, but it’s pretty brushed over in the end. I would have loved to see more of Jay and Carlos, and not only for comedic relief. But hey, maybe that’s what the two sequels are for.
The writing of the movie is average and it’s met with the campy acting style that I expected from new-age Disney, but it wasn’t all bad. I think each of the main four gave as good of a performance as they could given the script, so that’s saying something. There’s just something about DCOMs post 2013 that seem extra young to me. Maybe it’s my age, or maybe the writing has just changed a lot since I was an avid Disney Channel viewer. That’s partly what I want to dive into more as I review more DCOMs!
Overall, the film had its highs and its lows throughout, but I did like the final message in the end about how kids can choose a path that’s different from their parents. I may have a critical eye with new-age Disney, but I can totally see why kids today would love this one!
If anything I’ve mentioned makes you curious, I’d give this one a watch. It’s marketed as a movie musical, but I wouldn’t go in with those expectations. If you like movies set at a school with a fun concept, and can look past the questionable use of green screen, then this one might be for you.