Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Disney Descendants, or "Disney Is Ignoring Its OWN Canon Now!"

Hello People of the Interwebs!

Today, I'll be reviewing the most recent Disney Original TV Movie, Disney's "Descendants"!

Image Credit to IMDb

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!

The story follows the children of the four evilest villains in the Disney canon. There's Carlos, son of Cruella Deville, Jay, son of Jafar, Evie, daughter of the Evil Queen from "Snow White", and Mal, daughter of Maleficent. After living on a secluded island for all of their life, they get invited by the Prince of Auradon (and the son of Beauty and the Beast), Ben, to attend a prep school on the mainland. However, Maleficent tells Mal that she must steal the Fairy Godmother's wand so that they can get their revenge and achieve "WORLD DOMINATION!". Through the process of trying to complete the mission, Mal gives Prince Ben a love potion so that she can be right by the Fairy Godmother during his coronation ceremony.

The other characters also have 'arcs', if you can call them that. Evie learns that she can get a B-minus on a test, Jay learns that he can play on a team, and Carlos learns that he likes dogs. Not particularly invested in those characters, are they?

There are so many problems with the story and characters. So, let's go through them one by one.

The "good" characters live in a suburban-esque kingdom. The "evil" characters live in a ghetto. Not only is this setup terribly offensive, but they add some abhorrent butter on top of this already reprehensible bread by having the "good guys" say that inviting the "evil" kids to their prep school is doing them a favor.

When Mal is speaking to Jane, the Fairy Godmother's daughter, about fixing her physical appearance, she claims that Jane's nose is a problem too big for the kind of magic that she can do. This, while being a ploy for getting the wand, is a terrible scene. For one, this entire scene is saying that if you're awkward, you're ugly. The same message as before, but it sends a very specific message about noses.

The character of Evie is completely terrible. A point has more actual dimensions than her. Sure she has classic Disney character traits and quirks, but those aren't interchangeable with actual character. Even the guy whose arc is "I like dogs now!" has more character than she does.

Then there's a problem with the rooms of the villains at Auradon Prep. The girls get a very frilly and pink room. The boys get a room decked out with video games and sports objects. Either it's a terribly sexist school policy, or just an enormously sexist piece of direction.

There are also a bunch of major plot holes. For one, the villain's kids hatch a plan to steal the wand and escape. Now, they discuss this plan and decide who does what. Carlos's job is to steal the button that opens the magical bridge to the villain's island. However, when it comes time to complete this plan, he doesn't have the button. Why? Probably because the writers needed a plan to be discussed, but knew that the characters wouldn't actually enact the plan.

Also, why do the villains (except for Maleficent) stay on the island after a hole is formed in the barrier. Even though the hole was in the sky, at least two other villains should have been able to escape. Jafar and the Evil Queen can use magic, not just Maleficent.

And, shooting off of that last one, how could Maleficent even USE magic? They expressly tell you at the start of the movie that there's no magic on the Isle of the Lost.

And how doesn't the Fairy Godmother hear Maleficent reminding Mal that she needs to steal the wand when they video chat?

And why are those villains alive? Didn't they die in their respective films? It's a mental overload.

The acting is... mixed. Some are good, and some aren't. I'm just going to mention main characters, since there are so many secondary characters. But I'll mention a few of the more important ones.

Mal is played by Dove Cameron. Her acting is hard to place. I've seen a bit of her acting on the show "Liv & Maddie" on Disney Channel, where she plays a set of twin sisters. There, she's terrible. However, at least comparatively, she's pretty good in this film. Evie is played by Sofia Carson. She's bad. Not really terrible, but most certainly not good. I haven't seen her in much else, so I can't FULLY judge her. Carlos is played by Cameron Boyce, who plays characters on "Jessie" and "A Gamer's Guide to Pretty Much Everything". He's kinda mediocre, and he seems to play the same character in everything. The final of the villainous kids is Jay, played by Booboo Stewart. He's surprisingly good. He's a pretty decent actor, and he does his best with the awful script that he's been given.

The villains. There's really only one performance that can actually be rated, so I'll take care of that one last. The Evil Queen is played by Kathy Najimy, Jafar is played by Maz Jobrani, and Cruella Deville is played by Wendy Raquel Robinson. They are all fine. Absolutely nothing special, but nothing offensive. I do have a problem with the casting, however. The starkest is Robinson. She is African-American. However, Boyce is not. I have no problem with Disney starting to cast non-white actors as main-ish characters. I'm all for it. But, if you plan on casting a white actor as your character, cast his parent accordingly. Alternatively, Disney could consider, I don't know, casting an African-American as their main character?

Then, there's one side character to mention. Doug. Doug, son of Dopey, is played by Zachary Gibson. He is great. He takes a character with very few dimensions, and gives him depth. At the very least, his facial acting is particularly good. The subtle shifts in facial expression as his scenes play makes me willing to forgive his cliche, ahem, I mean character, of the "Nerd in Love with Fashionista".

Then there's Prince Ben. Oh, dear old Ben. He is played by a Zac Efron clone. Specifically Disney Clone #T3RR18L3, Mitchell Hope. His acting is the worst I have ever seen. The only scenes that he's ever good in are the ones where he has to play "awkward". But even that seems to be a stretch for him! Most of the delivery of his dialogue is uninterested, boring, and unconvincing. You can only call him an actor in profession. He's just another piece of chiseled out arm candy for tween girls to put on their walls.

The final actor of note plays Maleficent. Let's just see who this acto- no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no. Why, Kristen? Why?!?!?! Maleficent is played by sigh Kristen Chenoweth. Did she have to pay for a car accident? Did she need a little extra cash for a present for a family member? Down payment on a penthouse in the Upper East Side of NYC? Nevertheless, she's here. And she is SO MUCH FUN! Every time that she's on screen, she's so much fun to watch. Every scene. Every moment. And you want to know why? It's because she's having so much fun. When an actor is enjoying a performance, then that feeling transfers to a certain degree. Is the performance good? No. Is it fun? Abso-friggen-lutely.

As with every Disney film, there are songs. Mostly unnecessary. Most have people talking to a beat, or as they seem to think it's called, "Rap". There's the opening song, there's the finale, there's the song sung by a sports team. Most are forgettable, but some are catchy. However, there is one song that stands above the rest. And that would be "Evil Like Me", sung by Kristen Chenoweth. It's a stupid song, definitely. The lyrics are terrible, the tune is pretty unimaginative, and the idea of the song is basically that it's the Evil version of "Popular" from Wicked. However, Chenoweth, as usual, gives an astounding vocal performance. Her voice is amazing. But other than that, none of the other voices or songs stand out.

What's a Disney song without a dance routine to go along? I'll tell you. It's just as pointless. But with Kenny Ortega as choreographer, you can be assured that the dances will be, at the very least, interesting. And they are. The choreography is fun and strong, and allows actors who aren't trained at dancing look like they can dance. So, kudos to you, Mr. Ortega. Not only that, but the main actors, that being the four descendants, are all pretty good in the group dance sequences.

Now we come to the effects.The effects are terrible. The green screening is terrible. The CGI is the worst I've ever seen. But, worst of all, is the Freeze effect. During the climax of the film, Maleficent freezes the attendees at Prince Ben's coronation. When she does, all of the actors just freeze in place. No special effects. The actors just stay still. And most of them can't. They move, they shift. Even main actors! Beast is swaying constantly. The only word to use, other than terrible, is pathetic. With Disney's net worth being $74.9 BILLION (as of 2012), you would expect that they could afford CG and other special effects that at least College Student Film would consider using.

This film is terrible. The only redeeming qualities consist of one or two good actors, a fun song, and an interesting concept. There is no effort put into the production of this film. The effects are weak. The acting is weak. The characters are weak. And, worst of all, the story is weak. It is a really fun film to make fun of though!

You may be asking: "Hey, why is he going so hard at a movie aimed towards Tweens? Doesn't he realize that it's meant to be a kids film?" Well, my answer to you is this. Just because a film is aimed towards kids doesn't mean that the writers shouldn't bother with writing good story and/or character. You know, back when I was a kid, the Disney Channel movies that came out were so much better. High School Musical, Camp Rock. Those films were quality, fun, and did not fall prey to Disney's normal cliches and stereotypes.

Wait! No! Ignore tha-

Just great.

Well, for the next few reviews, I'll be reviewing several films, namely High School Musical, High School Musical 2, High School Musical 3, and Camp Rock, (maybe Camp Rock 2? It's not nostalgic for me).

This is the Teenage Critic, signing off!

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