Though each bit of news about The Descendants that has come out has been more ridiculous than the last, The Descendants is actually a super fun romp for Disney fans.
The Descendants follows the children of four well-known Disney villains (Cruella, the Evil Queen, Jafar, and Maleficent). After all the Disney heroes got their Happily Ever Afters, they banished all of the villains and minions from Auradon, their kingdom, and onto The Isle of the Lost, an island devoid of magic or any means of escape.
In the weeks leading up to his coronation, Belle and now-King Adam’s son decides that, for his first act as ruler, he wants to grant clemency to the villains’ children. So, four teens are chosen to enroll at Auradon Prep to see if they have the potential for goodness. The villains’ kids then have to decide whether they really want to be bad like their parents or forge their own paths and save the kingdom.
‘The Descendants’ review
To be honest, it’s a little surprising how fun The Descendants is given how wary we were about the marketing. It’s difficult to ignore the Disney Channel Original Movies that we all grew up with (like Zenon, Brink, and even High School Musical) when trying to judge the new wave of DCOMs, like The Descendants. However, The Descendants really makes a name for itself and easily carves its rightful place along the more enjoyable DCOMs.
As you might expect, The Descendants has its fair share of cheesy moments, but they’re cheesy in the best way possible. In fact, the only real cringe-worthy moments occur when there’s a musical number of some sort. Although Kenny Ortega, the movie’s director, did High School Musical, the musical numbers in this movie aren’t nearly that great.
As one of the musical numbers literally spells out for viewers, all of the musical numbers in The Descendants are “R-I-D-I-C-U-L-O-U-S,” but in the worst way. This movie would have been much better served without them. They don’t add much to the plot or the tone of the film and are pretty painful to sit through. In lieu of the musical numbers, more insight into the main characters would have been better.
That being said, the character growth in The Descendants is pretty well done, especially for the two ladies, Mal and Evie. They grow in really natural ways that don’t feel forced or too quick. Evie’s evolution is especially interesting because the direction of her character surprised us. It’s the teens’ character progressions that really make the film interesting to watch.
Though the villains’ teens are obviously the stars of the movie, The Descendants‘ supporting cast of characters is just as entertaining. From the “real life fairy tale” depictions of Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother to this DCOM’s version of Belle (who’s actually played by the same actress who’s the Blue Fairy in Once Upon a Time), the adults are kind of like tentpole characters. They define the boundaries of the world and the customs.
However, it’s the good guys’ kids (namely Dopey’s son and the Fairy Godmother’s daughter) who really steal the show and open up the world. After all, Belle and Adam’s son is the catalyst for this movie as he literally opens up Auradon to strangers. It’s the new generation of characters that really adds to the fairy tales we know and love.
The only characters who don’t make much of an impression in this movie are the four main villains themselves. They get small bits here and there, but their characters rely too much on their reputations instead of actually demonstrating how menacing and villainous they can be. In fact, Jafar is barely in the movie at all! It’s a shame that the villains had to take a complete backseat in this movie, especially since Kristin Chenoweth and Kathy Najimy are such fantastic actresses.
The four main actors definitely give the best performances of the movie. They really play with grey areas between “good” and “bad” in the limited time they’re given on screen. The Descendants‘ stand out MVP, though, is definitely Dove Cameron. She’s relatable and plays the character with such vulnerability that she comes across as incredibly endearing despite her spiky personality traits. If there was any doubt as to Dove Cameron being Disney’s next “It” girl, it’s gone now.
Another great aspect about this movie is its use of color, especially in the characters’ wardrobe. Heroes and villains alike have brightly-colored outfits, which we thought were strange until we saw the movie. They’re innovative and directly tied to the characters’ growth. It’s interesting to watch how the characters’ outfits evolve as their personalities change. Without the unusual and colorful costumes, this movie just wouldn’t be the same.
Even though The Descendants may drive home the messages “you can be whoever you want to be” and “good is far greater than evil” to the point of total excess repetition and cheesiness, it’s still fun to watch and get invested in.
Would The Descendants work as anything other than a Disney Channel Original Movie? Probably not, but that’s okay. It’s a fun addition to the DCOM library and one that we expect to watch again in the future (in addition to the inevitable sequel that we all know is coming).