Valentine’s Film Challenge 1: DESCENDANTS (2015)

Hey folks! I know I’ve fallen behind on my movie-watching…working up the motivation to do this sort of thing is sometimes rough. But, here I am- and before I get to my review, I just wanted to extend a big thank you. Why? Well, the last post (Alan Rickman’s tribute) not only earned me new followers, but also broke my record for daily Likes. So I need to extend my gratitude to those who shared in my grief for Rickman (it was very comforting) and say to the new followers: “Bienvenue!”

Okay, onto business. Sora, I don’t think we’re in Fantasyland anymore.

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“Riku, is that a Heartless?!”                                        “No, Sora, but I think our Gummi Ship crashed.”

I knew I was in for it when the “storybook” opened up on the tale of the Descendants, and it was actually an iPad. Lord help us all; this is AU gone awry.

I’d already heard some of the music in this DCOM (Disney Channel Original Movie) before, and while it is earworm-inducing, it’s also really badly written. Take this lyric from the opening number: “They say I’m trouble, they say I’m bad, they say I’m evil and that makes me glad.” Why not replace “bad” with “vile” and “glad” with “smile?” It makes for a much wittier rhyme and makes more sense, too.

Now before everyone goes all, “This is a kids’ movie! It’s not supposed to be a work of art!” Let me make something clear: I know this. I understand that Descendants isn’t trying to be a brilliant piece of cinema. But if you’re going to spinoff your own characters and plots, at least try to keep some consistency! That, perhaps, was my biggest issue with this film. Children have grown up with the classics; Cinderella, Aurora, and even the villains have become like treasured friends. Why dissolve the already-wonderful ideas they have about these characters by disregarding what made them wonderful?

Case in point: Jafar’s son in the story, Jay, is a thief. Wait, what? ALADDIN was the thief. Jafar was a smooth-talking political mastermind who would never stoop to such street rat behavior. Point two: How does the Fairy Godmother have offspring the same age as Cinderella? She was an old woman in the original movie…unless fairies age in reverse? Anyway, point three: Said son, Chad, turns out (SPOILER ALERT) to be a complete tool. In what universe does the kindest princess raise kiddos like that? Oh wait- in this one. See what I mean? No respect.

As for the nitty-gritty of film review, we’ll start with the cast. Kristin Chenoweth plays Maleficent, which is…interesting, to say the least. Dove Cameron is her daughter, Mal, who I think is also quite talented. It’s just a shame that this pair took roles that don’t suit their ability to the fullest. Sofia Carson (as the Evil Queen’s kid) and Brenna D’Amico (the Fairy Godmother’s aforementioned sweetheart) also give appealing performances. In case you were wondering: yes, all the boys (plus the girl playing Sleeping Beauty’s dreadful daughter) are mediocre actors.

The plot of Descendants has a lot of holes, but it’s a good premise. Sadly, I can’t help but think Mattel, the creators of Ever After High dolls, would have a decent lawsuit if they dared sue the Disney Channel over it. Because that doll franchise has a virtually identical concept. And way better fashions than the ones worn by the actors in this film. Seriously, the Evil Queen’s garb looks like a Halloween disaster.

All in all, weak characterization, irritating attempts to be “modern,” and production design overkill undermine what could’ve been a truly good work. Descendants isn’t a complete loss, but I’d recommend encouraging children to think of their own ideas for twisted fairytales. Creativity is NEVER “rotten to the core.”

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