My niece forced me to review these, but they were fine.
My sister-in-law forwarded one of the cutest videos ever of my young niece singing a song I had never heard before, complete with some attempted choreography. I was told that the song was from one of the Descendants movies on Disney+. Unfortunately, this somehow snowballed into my niece being told that she could ask me to watch all three of these movies and review them. I tried to say no, but then she used the term “reader request.” I was stuck. Fortunately, they were surprisingly decent movies with increasingly good musical numbers. They’re not going to go down in history as the pinnacle of cinema, but they’re pretty fun movies that pay off more if you’re a big fan of Disney’s classic films.
The premise of Descendants is that there is a country called Auradon ruled by Belle and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast (Keegan Connor Tracy and Dan Payne). As part of setting up their perfect kingdom, they banished all of the villains to the “Isle of the Lost” which is behind a barrier that eliminates magic. Belle’s and Beast’s son, Ben (Mitchell Hope), decides to offer a chance to come to Auradon to the children of the villains. It starts with Carlos de Vil, Jay the son of Jafar, Evie the daughter of the Evil Queen, and Maleficent’s daughter Mal (Cameron Boyce, Booboo Stewart, Sofia Carson, Dove Cameron), then eventually includes other children like Gaston’s son Gil, Ursula’s daughter Uma, Harry Hook, Dizzy Tremaine, Celia Facilier, and Smee’s boys Squeaky and Squirmy (Dylan Playfair, China Anne McClain, Thomas Doherty, Anna Cathcart, Jadah Marie, Christian Convery, and Luke Roessler). They basically attend high school with the children of the heroes, like Sleeping Beauty’s daughter Audrey, Dopey’s son Doug, Mulan’s daughter Lonnie, Fairy Godmother’s daughter Jane, and Cinderella’s son Chad (Sarah Jeffery, Zachary Gibson, Dianne Doan, Brenna D’Amico, Jedidiah Goodacre). Naturally, there are a lot of villain schemes that try to play out as the bad guys try to escape their prison and a lot of kids switch sides. There are songs and a happy ending for everyone that isn’t evil.
The idea behind these movies is actually pretty solid. It’s basically directly challenging the notion that you’re born good or evil and are rewarded accordingly by wealth, a thing which was so common among America’s founders that we are still dealing with it. Of course, most people nowadays recognize that most people are driven to bad acts by bad situations and the movies are about the adoption of this new ideology. It’s basically a generational story of how societal complexity forces the move away from people just being “good” and “evil.” The films point out that while most of the kids of the villains might start off with bad tendencies, that stems in part from the fact that they grew up in a poor area populated entirely by people who are literally condemned by society as irreparably evil by their nature. While many of their parents continue to be villains, most of the kids, when put in an area that rewards their hard work, grants them independence, and doesn’t say that they’re inherently evil, actually start to become better people. On the other hand, many of the heroes’ kids are a bit dickish because A) they’re rich and entitled and B) they’re literally told that they’re heroes and good people because their parents were. This plays out really well in the third movie. The songs are great and, honestly, they get better as the films go on. While the stories and conflicts get a little repetitive as they go on, the movies still have some fun moments.
Overall, there are much better films, but these would be cute to watch with your kids, particularly since they have a message that will always apply more to the next generation than the current one.