Welcome to Disney Channel’s The Descendants, the show where everything is poorly written fanfiction and the story doesn’t matter. That’s right, the story is like Disney’s 17 straight-to-DVD Tinker Bell movies. They don’t really matter and no one pays attention to them anyway.
Onto the movie! For those who don’t know, The Descendants is a movie Disney Channel has been advertising for a while as a story where all the children of iconic Disney villains go to school with the children of Disney heroes.
Sounds ridiculous? Oh, just you wait Henry Higgins.
By the by, those are some amazing steampunk cosplays. But what is Brother Bear doing in there?
We open on a storybook iPad. Because this is modern and hip, guys, get it? iPads!
The narrator explains that 20 years ago Belle and the Beast got married, and then united (re: conquered) all the kingdoms and was “elected” (see: modern, democracy, good guys!) King of “Auradon.”
Fun tidbit: one of the kingdoms the Beast united was called “Cinderellasburg.” I shit you not. Get used to those kinds of names, friends. They’re not going to get any less ridiculous. And neither will the rest of this movie.
I do not, however, understand where the name “Auradon” comes from. I’ve literally been staring at it for several minutes trying to figure out if it’s a reference or pun that I’ve totally missed on…? The writers seem overly proud of it, so I assume it has some sort of significance. If anyone figures it out, please send me a carrier pigeon. Because it’s been driving me crazy.
Anyway, Benevolent Overlord Beast exiled all the villains and sidekicks, or as our narrator calls them “all the interesting people” (I strongly relate to this girl), and banishes them to their own little Evil Island (Or “Isle of the Lost). And immediately I’m thinking…
♫ He is not ooooone of us. He will never be paaaaart of us ♫
Sorry. Got carried away.
But I’m assuming that the plot of this movie is basically going to be Lion King 2. And if you haven’t watched that movie, just take the plot of Romeo and Juliet and make it even dumber.
Now, if you’re like me, you’re seeing all this modernization and asking “Wait, Disney, does that mean that all the Disney stories happened in modern times? Like, twenty years ago? And did they all happen at the same time so that the kids are all exactly the same age? Did the princesses synch their ovaries? Was there a group birthing party? Is this a different planet? A parallel universe? How do we have iPads from the children of parents who rode horses and lived in medieval castles?”
Well, sit tight, kids, because that answer…is never going to come.
We do learn that this Evil Island has absolutely no wifi. Which, lucky for Kenny Ortega, means plenty of time to learn perfectly choreographed dance breaks.
Unfortunately, they’re not so good at lip synching.
I’m really not sure if the characters are supposed to actually be singing these songs like it’s a musical? If so, someone needs to explain to the director the difference between a musical number and a music video. Because this looks like what happens when you pretend to lip synch to a song that apparently everybody knows but you.
Add it to the list of things to get used to, along with the “Live Evil” palindrome.
These writers were really proud of themselves.
I do have to admit, though. That song is kiiinda my jam. I can’t explain why, but something about it speaks to me…
Meanwhile, King Exposition enters during his son’s tailor fitting (entirely blue and yellow, of course), to inform anyone who might be watching that his son is 16 and therefore about to become king.
Reminder that Beast was “elected” King, only to willingly turn over his brand new kingdom to a teenager whilst he is still perfectly healthy and able to fulfill his duties. Without, it would seem, any due process. If I were a citizen of Auradon, I’d be kinda pissed. Beast is a seriously crappy king.
So anyway, at this point we meet Belle, Beast, and their son Ben.
Yeah. His name is Ben. Because it starts with “B.” Get it!??!?
Now, try hard to ignore the fact that the two on the left look (except for the color of their clothes), sound, and act nothing like the beloved characters who we know and love so dearly — “Well, it was either you or a teapot” Beast tells his wife with a wink while every Disnerd moans in pain — and focus on the fact that their son Ben is possibly the most bland, boring character ever written. Yes, I used two descriptors that mean the exact same thing. That’s because he’s just that boring. Even his blandness has no variation. This is not helped by the fact that he is played by possibly the worst actor I have ever seen on screen.
I know, he’s just a kid, who probably was pushed into acting by his Mama-Rose Stage Mom and/or Dad, and the poor dear is attractive enough to make the little tweens tingle in their special places…but he just cannot act. It’s like if John Malkovich and Tommy Wiseau had a really boring baby and then popcorned him into being the unwilling first reader during lit class.
But anyway, Beast teases his son about how he can’t possibly be ready to be King. He’s “far too young.” Beast himself didn’t make a good decision until he was 42, to which Belle interjects “Uh, you decided to marry me at 28.”
Couple things here.
1) I would presume, as first ruler of this kingdom, that you established the “son becomes king at 16” rule. Which, if you think it’s a terrible idea — which it obviously is — you can revoke that law. Why did you make it in the first place? “Eh, he’s 16, if I can trust him to drive, I can trust him with the complicated and delicate process of governing my newly united kingdom.”
2) This movie seems to half-heartedly go by canon rules. Beast’s spell was broken before his 21st birthday. So Belle and Beast dated and/or lived in sin for minimum seven years before they got hitched? Talk about commitment issues.
3) Why is the Beast such a pompous dick?
But more importantly:
4) How come his crown doesn’t fit?
And why is it made of plastic? Are they that tight on money? Don’t they have a fairy godmother for these things? He looks like he just showed up to a murder mystery party with the prize he found in a cracker jack box.
But instead of answering those questions, we learn that Ben, for no apparent reason, has decided he wants all the super villains’ children to go to school with him.
Seriously, we never learn any backstory or motivation that leads to this happening. It just happens because plot. “Uh, I looked out the window and thought, dude. Bummer about that exile without wifi thing. So I hopped onto fanfiction.net and it was like BAM. INSPIRATION. What if all the villain’s kids interacted with all the hero’s kids? Amirite?”
Ben said he wants to help the “kids who need it most.” So this is some sort of at-risk teens program? How does he know which kids need it most, has he been spying on them? Watching all the movies and making lists? Either way, little creepy.
Anyway, after we get past that awkwardness and then the aforementioned mess of an autotune that was also the most entertaining part of the movie, we meet Maleficent. The most badass, iconic, demented, chilling villain ever created in animation history.
So, naturally, she is played by…
Makes perfect sense.
Unfortunately, no one told her about the modern Disney-Bound style costumes. Because she goes all out. It’s like when Elle showed up to the Harvard Party in a playboy bunny outfit in Legally Blonde. And I mean that as a compliment.
Kristen Chenoweth, magnificent human that she is, seems to know how ridiculous and nonsensical this whole thing is, so she just does whatever the hell she wants.
Seriously, her first scene involves her taking her daughter’s lollipop (which was taken from a small child NOT A BABY THERE’S A DIFFERENCE), spitting on it, placing it in her armpit, making a face like she pooped her pants, and then telling Mal it’s “the deets” that make a truly evil person.
Maleficent informs her daughter, Mal – the names just keep getting cleverer and cleverer – that they all have to transfer to Arendelle — I mean Auradon Prep. They’re all bummed out…for some reason. I mean, at least they’ll finally get wifi? But they’re really only going so that they can steal the Fairy Godmother’s wand, and then dominate the kingdom and engulf the world in evil and yada ya.
At this point we’re introduced to our main characters and their corresponding parent — singular, because apparently in this universe, villains asexually self-replicate or something. Maybe it was a mini-me esque cloning process that went awry.
Might explain the names.
Anyway, we have our main character, Mal, whose other parent seems to be Jennifer Lawrence. Not just because she’s a bit of a doppleganger, but because she is way too talented for this movie. She’s actually a very entertaining actress. The chick pulls off some ridiculous things in a startlingly convincing and underplayed manner. We can only pray she will move on in the future to a much better movie. Like Zenon 4 (it could happen!).
We also have Jafar’s son, Jay…guess they were out of ideas on that name. His other parent seems to be that werewolf guy from Twilight. Or a hipster traffic controller.
Jafar has been teaching his son how to steal…which was definitely never Jafar’s thing. Aladdin stole. Jafar manipulated people and hypnotized them with his magic snake. I would make a sexual joke here, but I’m pretty sure that would put me in jail for pedophilia. So I’ll just leave it as it is.
The Evil Queen, played by one of the Sanderson Sisters — who is no doubt wondering what happened to the quality of Disney Channel movies, and why they didn’t take advantage of one of the greatest Disney villains of all time —
— has a daughter named Evie.
I swear I’m not doing that thing where I change characters’ names for jokes. These are their actual names. And get used to them, because they’re going to be saying them a lot in this movie. Like, unnecessarily so.
Evie has the best Disney Bounds I’ve ever seen in my life. Bitch always looks fabulous.
And then we have Cruella DeVille’s son, the only villain I actually despise. Disney realized that they a) needed a little diversity and b) a child’s obsession with killing dogs might not fly so well with their audience (what they were thinking when they did it in 1961, I will never know. Makes me afraid of Generation X). So they named Cruella’s son Carlos and made him…terrified of dogs. Which…sure? That makes sense.
Cruella also has a weird squeaky toy of some sort that she wears around her neck and calls “baby.” I really don’t want to think too hard about what it’s supposed to be. I don’t think the writers do, either.
Anyway, we arrive at the prep school for princes and princesses…so I guess it’s Eton?
We meet Audrey, Aurora’s daughter and your resident Basic Mean Girl.
We’re supposed to think her other parent is Prince Phillip, but we know it’s really Gretchen Weiners.
Audrey introduces herself as Ben’s girlfriend and a princess, but then reminds Evie that she’s no longer royal, but neither are you bitch because now everyone’s ruled by King Furry and you’re just a common schlob like the rest of us.
We meet Rivendell’s Headmistress, The Fairy Godmother, who has the most accurate cosplay in the movie, and also has a “little thing about curfews.” That actually made me laugh.
Ben gives a grand tour to the nefarious newbies, while the movie tries to create some sort of romantic chemistry between Mal and Ben, so she can be the Kovu to his Kiara, but I’m just reminded of the time I had to get my mother to act in a middle school film project. Or when Carrie Underwood decided to have an acting career. Jay and Carlos, on the other hand, totally succeed in sexual chemistry, unfortunately it’s unintended.
We meet Doug, son of one of Snow White’s seven dwarfs. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you which one. Seriously, how are all these kids the same age? And who’s his mother, Snow White? Well, he’s surprisingly tall, so I’m actually gonna guess it’s Madam Maxime.
He sees Evie and lets out an orgasmic “Heigh-ho!” Which should ruin your Disnic childhood innocence more than any of my Dirty Disneys.
Their required classes are “History of Pirates” (I’d totally take that class), “Remedial Goodness,” and “Safety Rules for the Internet,” which actually makes sense for kids who have never had wifi. Can you imagine them finding Tumblr for the first time?
They find their Slytherin Common Rooms, where Jay has stolen a lot of items, plays video games, and acts like a generic meathead, which makes me think his father might actually be Aladdin, not Jafar. Proving Aladdin’s actually the villain of his story. Seriously writers, Jafar was evil, but also suave and smart. Did you not watch the original movies? Why is Jay so dumb? Who was his mother, a potato?
Evie uses her magic mirror to locate the magic wand, and has as much trouble with the zoom function as everyone does using Google Earth. See? Villains really are just like us.
Speaking of, Carlos learns how to use a computer remarkably fast for a kid who’s ostensibly never had wifi. I guess in Disney Channel movies all scrawny teenage boys have innate technology skills.
They go on a pretty pointless sting to steal the wand from some museum, which leads to an even more pointless musical number where Mal techno-sings about her existential angst and mother issues…before Kristen Chenoweth cuts in and starts Chenowing the scenery. But that was really for the best.
By the by, this scene takes place in a museum exhibit full of wax figures of the villains. Or their shedded exoskeletons. There’s really no logic in this world, so it’s entirely possible. But can you imagine if the New York Public Library casually had a room filled with startlingly realistic replications of Hitler, Stalin, and Osama Bin Ladin? Seems pretty effed up.
Well, I guess we do have Andrew Jackson on our money…
But back to Disney.
Anyway, despite the-most-powerful-object-in-the-world’s stunning lack of security, the incompetency of mildly villainous teenagers is surprisingly more inadequate than the incompetency of the good guys. So the alarm sounds before the mean-teens can steal the wand, but the good guys are still incompetent enough that they escape with very little effort.
Which leads to the quintessential commercial-break-quip “Way to go, Jay, now we have to go to school tomorrow!”
And on that note, since this review is already novel length, I’ll also take a break and pick this up next time.
I’m personally enjoying the hell out of myself. Aren’t you excited for more!?
See you then.