MOVIE REVIEW: Descendants

written by David Steffen

Descendants is a 2015 Disney Channel original live-action musical movie based in the United States of Auradon where each kingdom is based on an iconic Disney movie, but 20 years later.  Twenty years before marked the end of ALL of the Disney movie stories, when the now-united kingdoms all apparently vanquished their biggest villains simultaneously, and locked them away on a magicless prison island to leave Auradon safe.

Prince Ben’s (Mitchell Hope) coronation is near.  He is the son of Belle and Beast, the rulers of the Aurodon, and Ben has decided that his first official proclomation will be that he will start giving the second generation of the island a first chance at a decent life–the villains have had children on the island and those children are likewise confined.  As part of a pilot program, he chooses Mal (Dove Cameron, of Disney Channel’s Liv and Maddie)–the daughter of Maleficent, Evie (Sofia Carson)–the daughter of Evil Queen of Snow White, Carlo (Cameron Boyce, of Disney Channel’s Jesse)–son of Cruella DeVille, and Jay (Booboo Stewart)–son of Jafar.  The reluctant teenagers are invited to become students at Auradon and try to rehabilitate there, and they’re pressured by their parents (especially Maleficent) to accept the invitation in order to find a way while they’re in Auradon to unlock the barrier securing the prison island.  But soon they find that there are things that appeal to each of them about living in Auradon.

This movie is reasonably fun, and has plenty of eye candy for teenagers, whether you like boys or girls.  The songs are decidedly pop, but some of them are quite catchy, especially “Did I Mention”.  The main quartet of actors are very likable–we initially watched it because we like Dove Cameron on Liv and Maddie–while being just rebellious enough to chafe at the standards of Auradon which is sort of a utopian fairy tale world especially with all the villains locked away (and apparently no new villains presenting themselves in that vacuum).  I particularly like Evie and her playful smartass attitude.

It’s… not a premise that holds up under close examination, or… even casual examination.  It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for all of those Disney movies to be coincidental in time while also being geographically located close enough that uniting them makes any kind of sense.  Jafar being present implies one geographical area and time period, while Mulan implies a completely different one, while Cruella DeVille implies much more modern and a different location again.  Maybe you could explain this all away with some kind of unprecedented collision of parallel worlds, but otherwise the premise makes no sense whatsoever.  And the fact that all of these heroes and all of these villains all have kids at the same age, despite the villains and heroes themselves very often not having been the same age–i.e. Maleficent is a fairy, and I always got the impression she was a pretty old one, so why does she have exactly one daughter who happens to be the same age as everyone else’s kids?

Along the same lines, the backstory is pretty muddled.  It makes offhand references to the origin movies of the characters, such as mentioning poison apples or Maleficent not having been invited to Aurora’s christening.  But there are also a lot of details that don’t fit in with the original continuity–particularly the survival of villains who died in the original films.  So it’s not really clear to me how I’m supposed to accept the original movies as their backstory when there is clear evidence that that’s not the case.  I’m sure I’m overthinking it, but that’s what I do.

Bit of a spoiler: This one also depended pretty heavily on one of the main character’s using a love potion, which is an element that’s creepy as hell–maybe it’s understandable since she has been pushed her whole life to be evil, but it did bother me how little a consequence for slipping the soon-to-be-king a magical drug that robbed him of choice had. (note that the song I mentioned as being particularly catchy was an immediate reaction in the plot of the movie to the love potion)

But, anyway, if you like catchy pop musicals that are heavy with Disney camp, but you don’t care too much about backstory and continuity making sense, then you might like this movie!

There is also a sequel released in 2017, and another in production after that.

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David Steffen

David Steffen is an editor, publisher, and writer. If you like what he does you can visit the Support page or buy him a coffee! He is probably best known for being co-founder and administrator of The Submission Grinder, a donation-supported tool to help writers track their submissions and find publishers for their work . David is also the editor-in-chief here at Diabolical Plots. He is also the editor and publisher of The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List series. David also (sometimes) writes fiction, and you can follow on BlueSky for updates on cross-stitch projects and occasionally other things.

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