They're Not Bad. They're Just Born That Way.
Descendants is Disney Channel's next original movie and is directed by High School Musical's Kenny Ortega. The film stars Dove Cameron (Live and Maddie), Booboo Stewart (X-Men, Twilight), Sofia Carson, Mitchell Hope and Kristin Chenoweth (Glee, The Boy Next Door). "A present-day idyllic kingdom where the benevolent teenage son of King Adam and Queen Belle offers a chance of redemption for the trouble making offspring of Disney's classic villains: Cruella De Vil (Carlos), Maleficent (Mal), the Evil Queen (Evie) and Jafar (Jay)". Where will Descendants rank among other Disney Channel Movies - will it be the next High School Musical or another one to descend?
I don't usually review TV movies but this one caught my attention as it includes two of my favourite things - Disney fairytales and High School Musical esque songs. Descendants should be a film that is right up my street - it probably would be, if it had a higher budget and wasn't a TV movie. Descendants is magical but is also quite cheap looking due to the low production value.
I think this is the most original and interesting idea to come out of a Disney Channel original movie for a long time - it doesn't take place in the real world and it builds on the success of live action fairytales as well as Once Upon a Time - a smart move from Disney. But will audiences connect with it? To be honest, at the start, I doubted whether I would be able to sit through the whole thing as the King's crown was clearly made of plastic and just didn't feel genuine. However, I held out hope because the Descendants hadn't been introduced yet. They were introduced with a song number which was quite catchy and enjoyable - I think the musical element retained some of the films magic when it nearly disappeared. Don't be hopeful about Maleficent's dragon - it is a complete let down - definitely from a TV movie. The production value was also lowered by costume choices such as the outfits of Maleficent and the Evil Queen - they looked like someone on a low budget for Halloween - a very poor effort.
I did quite like the story for the film and I found it predictable at times but generally quite enjoyable. The film still had the charm of older Disney Channel movies such as HSM despite being 10 years older. I liked how today's trends were incorporated into the film such as the use of technology. For instance, the villains are banished to an island where they are isolated with no magic or.....WIFI! If this film had been greenlit for the big screen and had a higher budget, I think the story would be strong enough for it. The film kind of reminds me of older movies like A Cinderella Story, Mean Girls, High School Musical, She's the Man etc - if only it was released 10 years earlier and it would have definitely become a craze. I predict a sequel is already planned as the end quote from the lead character suggests so....I don't know where they could go next unless they have another bunch of villains they could explore.
The songs are generally very good in the film - all of them have catchy elements. My favourite song was probably the first one that introduces the Descendants. However, I also really liked the rendition of 'Be Our Guest'. Even though this doesn't really count, my favourite song on the whole soundtrack has to be Believe by Shawn Mendes which could go on to be successful in the music industry.
My thoughts on the acting are mixed. Ok, these are child actors who don't really have much experience so they are bound to be wooden at times. Dove Cameron and Sofia Carson were probably my favourite characters - even though they were both villains, I found them really likeable - Carson probably takes the edge. However, letting the team down for the girls was Kristin Chenoweth who was no Angelina Jolie. I think she tried to make the character of Maleficent too crazy - a type of personality that would probably suit Cruella De Vil more. I also didn't believe that Chenoweth was evil which is kind of the point when Maleficent is dubbed as the scariest one. The actress who played the Evil Queen was very funny! For the boys, I thought that all 3 younger actors did a good job - I think Mitchell Hope is only a little short of becoming the Troy of today's generation.
Descendants is probably a better example of a TV movie - however, it would have benefited a lot from a bigger budget. The storyline is magical and charming but is let down by the low production value which is shown very clearly in costume choices. The acting is solid even though Chenoweth is clearly miscast as Maleficent. Descendants is no High School Musical but it is definitely a solid entry on to Ortega's resume. Descendants like its tagline isn't bad, its just born in the TV movie market and can't help that.