Sunday, August 2, 2015

Movie Review: Descendants

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: A trio of actors try to make us care about their characters
Cons: Rest of cast overacts; too many characters to make us care about any of them
The Bottom Line:
Promising premise
Dragged down by weak characters
For boring movie

Never Ascended to the Heights I Expected

I’ve been hearing for months about the new Disney Channel movie Descendants.  I thought it sounded like a lot of fun, and I’ve was really looking forward to its premier last Friday night.  Wow, was it disappointing.

The movie tells the story of Mal (Dove Cameron), Carlos (Cameron Boyce), Jay (Booboo Stewart), and Evie (Sofia Carson), the kids of Maleficent (Kristin Chenoweth), Cruella de Vil (Wendy Raquel Robinson), Jafar (Maz Jobrani), and Evil Queen (Kathy Najimy) respectively.  Because their parents have been banished to the Isle of the Lost, they’ve grown up there and never seen the rest of the kingdom.

However, Prince Ben (Mitchell Hope) is about to take the throne of the united kingdom of Auradon, and he wants to give these kids of villains a chance to prove they can be good.  He’s selected these four as the first batch to come and go to school, sometimes with the kids of the very people their own parents tried to harm.

But Maleficent has a plan of her own.  If these four kids can just get the Fairy Godmother’s (Malanie Paxson) wand, then their parents can escape the island and get their ultimate revenge.  Will the kids be able to get the wand?

Now let’s dispel the idea that I was upset by this film being predictable.  Yes, it went where I expected it to go, but that was fine.  I don’t mind predictable – if I am enjoying the film.  It was the rest that went wrong.

For one thing, there are too many characters.  I mean, look at the list of characters I mentioned above, and that’s just the start.  Each of the descendants have their own sub-plot of character growth, but they aren’t developed enough for us to care.  The only one that comes close is Mal, and that’s because she is really our main character.  They should have axed the other three and just really focused on her.  As it is, I never got to know the characters enough to care about the outcome.

Then there’s the acting.  Mitchell Hope, Dove Cameron, and Kristin Chenoweth were all fine, but the rest of the cast hammed it up.  This is especially true of the adult villains, who didn’t feel like the villains we already love to hate at all.  Now, if you check out my reviews, you’ll quickly see that I can get into cheesy and corny acting and really enjoy it.  Here, it was just painful.

Once Kenny Ortega of High School Musical and Newsies fame was attached to direct, this movie turned into a musical.  The songs weren’t bad, but they didn’t really add much to the film.  If that screen time had been spent on character development, the movie would have been better.

Really, it just comes down to character development.  We don’t know the characters enough to care about the outcome we know is coming, so we are bored waiting for the film to get there.

I had such high hopes for Descendants, but the film just couldn’t meet them.  I won’t be wasting my time on it again in the future.

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