Release Date: July 31, 2015
Genre: Family, Teen Drama, Adventure
Run Time: 112 min
Director: Kenny Ortega
Cast: Cameron Boyce, Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson, Booboo Stewart, Kristin Chenoweth, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Maz Jobrani, Kathy Najimy
If you grew up in the 90’s, you couldn’t turn on the TV without spotting a Disney Channel Original Movie. These colorful, campy escapades typically featured a lot of music, teen drama, and bizarrely convoluted storylines about leprechauns playing basketball or pop stars from outer space. Since then, Disney’s made-for-TV films have only gotten more madcap and over-the-top. Just ask any parent who’s had to endure High School Musical (which has apparently now been replaced by something called Teen Beach Movie, man I hate getting old). Descendants is the next installment in this long tradition, and judging from the look of things, it’s angling to become Disney’s new musical sensation. But does it have what it takes to move from “descendant” to “heir apparent”?
First, let’s look at the story. After the events of Beauty and the Beast, Belle and the Beast went on to unite all the enchanted kingdoms and became King and Queen of “The United States of Auradon”. As for the villains, they were rounded up and exiled to a dreary place called “The Isle of the Lost”, with a magical barrier put in place to keep them from escaping. Years later, Prince Ben decides to give the children of their sworn enemies a chance to live in Auradon and attend school alongside the progeny of other Disney heroes. In particular, he chooses Carlos (Cameron Boyce), son of Cruella De Vil; Jay (Booboo Stewart), son of Jafar; Evie (Sofia Carson), daughter of the Evil Queen; and Mal (Dove Cameron), daughter of Maleficent as the first paroles.
The four teens must now decide whether they’ll follow in their parent’s footsteps or take the opportunity to change their wicked way. The plot is completely ridiculous but really, that’s always been the fun part of Disney Channel movies. What parents, specifically Christian parents, are bound to care about is the message. In true Disney fashion, Descendants is largely a call for children to be themselves and follow their hearts. A bit of redemption is sprinkled in for good measure, making the overall product a predictable but otherwise harmless piece of light fun.
The acting, for the most part, is pretty decent. The majority of the movie is spent on Mal, with the other three children providing comic relief when necessary. While it would have been nice to see these characters in more depth, their actors make the most of what they’re given, and Dove Cameron proves she’s capable of carrying the brunt of the story. The real star of the show however, is easily Kristin Chenoweth (Rio 2), who is clearly having a ball playing the villainous Maleficent. Chenoweth’s performance is a complete scene-stealer, though a nod of approval should also be given to her fellow co-villains Wendy Raquel Robinson, Maz Jobrani, and Kathy Najimy who play Cruella De Vi, Jafar, and the Evil Queen respectively.
Descendants is a fun, family-friendly event, filled with catchy songs and characters who are worth rooting for. It’s not be the strongest movie Disney has ever put on television, but it still has enough charm to make the experience worthwhile. For Christians, Descendants is a harmless exercises in Disney nostalgia with a bit of modern, teenaged drama thrown in. Any kid who watches will likely hear the same lessons they’ve heard before, but they’re still good lessons, and they’re worth repeating. All in all, it’s the same Disney storytelling we’ve all come to know and appreciate.
- Language/Profanity: Completely clean
- Sex/Romance: Evie describes herself as a flirt. Teenagers date. A few characters trade kisses. Jay likes to flirt with pretty girls. Mal brews a love potion which she later regrets. Mal and Prince Ben go on a date. Prince Ben is seen in swim trunks. A prince flirts with Evie in order to get her to do his homework.
- Magic: This being Disney, more than a few characters use magic. A magical barrier surrounds the Ile of the Lost. Mal casts spells to fix/unfix girls hair. The kids brew a love potion. Evie has a magic mirror. Maleficent transforms into a dragon. The Fairy Godmother gives her signature “Bippity Boppity Boo”.
- Lessons/Morals: Villain children sing a song called “Rotten to the Core”. Jay enjoys stealing things. The children break into a museum and try to steal a magic wand. Lessons about following your heart, forgiveness, and redemption are frequent. The children realize being evil doesn’t make them happy and choose to be good. Evie realizes she’s more than just a pretty face. Carlos and Jay discover teamwork.