The father of High School Musical has outdone himself. Quick overview of the deets:
His new flick is about the children of famous Disney royalty and villains. The main villainous offspring are Jay, son of Jafar and a thief, for some reason, Evie, daughter of the Evil Queen and raised to be a Real Housewife, Mal, daughter of Maleficent (WHO IS PLAYED BY KRISTIN CHENOWETH), and Carlos, son of Cruella, whose only characteristic is being afraid of dogs. That one is interesting. So four kids from the island of banished villains get to go to the mainland, called Auradon, where they have things like peanut butter and video games.Those don’t exist on the island of evil. However, none of the girls in the Mainland like their own hair. Good hair seems to be the one winning thing about Evil Island. So essentially the film is about how Prince Ben, aka mini Zac Efron, invites the evil four to Auradon where they try to take over the world.
What The Film Really Does Right
The diversity in the casting is baller. Cruella and the mother of Aurora are both played by black women, which is great. There’s no reason that they can’t be, especially in a timeline where Mulan’s daughter can hang with Cruella’s son. Descendants also propels some pretty good life lessons: classism is bad, never play dumb for a boy, don’t judge a book by its cover, inner beauty is more important than outer (important, because in this film insecurity kills), and, of course, if your parents are total dicklights that doesn’t mean you have to be too. And the biggest win for the film is definitely Kristin Chenoweth’s Maleficent. Literally, everything she does is flawless. She also sings the best, and only non-dubstep, song from the film. “Evil Like Me.” Swoon. Dead.
So, non-surprisingly, the villains were horrible parents. But for some reason, reviewers everywhere called bullshit on all of them being single parents. Really, reviewers? Were you not listening? Because that was totally explained. In one of my favorite lines from the film, Mal quoth, “We don’t really have dating on the island, it’s more like gang activity.” SEE?!? These children are the product of mass, villainous orgies! The island is like Ancient Rome, debauchery for all! And only one of the kids has a dad as their visible parent, so this is a pretty solid explanation. Jafar probably came back once Jay was born and called dibs on his heir, like he did on the Sultan’s crown. And Jasmine. And the lamp. And kind of everything. That dude is always returning and dibbing, isn’t he?
Standout Shmacting Moment
Chad, my man, you have got it goin’ on. The elastic facial expressions and noodly body language in your scene with Evie under the bleachers (eyebrow, eyebrow) are so slapstick and dramatic, I died. I bow down to Chad, the perpetual buttmunch and sure to be antagonist of the following films. Just watch it. Applaud. He is definitely one of the most talented kids in this flick.
Things That People Did In This Film That Are Technically Not Ok But Weren’t That Upsetting
- Doug “stalking” Evie on her first day. I don’t think I’d classify it as stalking, him following her for a half hour then asking her on a date, but apparently the pair do and they’re ok with that. Evie actually asks if he is stalking her and he casually confirms. It’s fine, they’re probs already dating.
- Mal drugging Ben into being her boyfriend. Not only does the dude know that she has drugged him and TOTALLY brush it off, like she had borrowed his favorite Sharpie without asking or taken a bite of his pizza while he was in the bathroom, he goes so far as to rationalize that this daughter of a villain would only drug him because of her intense crush on him. That is how into himself he is. Or how naive. One of the two. Or two of the two, honestly. He’s cool with it regardless, so long as he’s got that arm candy with the purple hair that everyone seems to want.
- Putting the lives of every person in the entire world in the hands of a sixteen year old boy. Fortunately, by the end of the film you really don’t see how the crown remained on Beast’s head to begin with. The dude has no sense, anger issues, and GOD those glasses only accentuated his dumbness. Belle, on the other hand, was the most boring, brittle trophy wife of all time. Did we see her smarts in action? Nope, they probably disintegrated from too much contact with The Hairy One.
- “Dicklights” - We are pretty sure, from context, that they said daylights. HOWEVER, our entire viewing party of five heard “dicklights.” So it’s dicklights now. Cool? Cool.
- “She’s a dog expert! A dog yeller-er!” - Carlos on his mama. This is a line that I would actually write, very clever and fun. My friend Ben would call it a “Kaylaism.” You know, if I wrote it.
- “Bitter, party of one! Bitter, party of one!” - Evil Queen to Maleficent. So quippy, so funny.
- “We don’t really date on the island. It’s more like gang activity.” - HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS. Thank you, goddess, for these gifts. No explanation necessary.
Couples I’m Calling Right Now
Obviously, Ben and Mal are going to remain in love. After all, they have that Happily Ever After Love. The kind that develops within days of knowing each other and then never fades. Evie and Doug, also equally obvious. Ready for me to start reaching? You want to know the ONE reason that Audrey had to end the film being uncharacteristically nice? So that she and Jay can start a torrid, PG romance. Oh yeah. It all began with “Hey bay bay” and a snub, but we saw you two dancing together in the finale. We know what that means. Carlos and Jane, daughter of the OFG (Original Fairy Godmother), are pretty much destined to be together. The pair are so equally non-threatening, they’ll probably skirt around their feelings till the end of the third movie. Because yes, I’ve heard rumors that this thing is already contracted for two more films AND a TV show. Who will Chad date? Well, Maleficent showed that she is super pent up and also willing to swing young. Yeah, KC, we saw you grope that teen werewolf. We don’t judge though. Those arms are ridiculous.
Finally, Perhaps Most Important, The “What, what, WHAT are you doing?!?!?”s
- Maleficent and the lollipop: So Mal takes candy from a baby and her mom is so proud. Cute. Then mom takes the lollipop, which has been in the baby’s mouth, spits on it, rubs it in her armpit, then gives it back to the kid. My question is HOW THE HELL did the lollipop not stick under her arm? That is how hard candy works! Come on, dudes.
- Carlos and the dog-phobia: Really? REALLY? Besides Carlos’s never-explained ability to hack computers after growing up on an island with zero technology, this is his only defining trait. Until he has a pet dog. Then he also has a pet dog. At least he’s sweet, right?
- The random “Rotten to the Core” hook: How many times does that hook play for no discernable reason? Like, the kids don’t even sing it after the opening number. They just walk or facial expression dramatically while the audio syncs in. Why?
- Ben’s roaring: Ben, son of Beast, punctuates exciting moments by roaring. Really roaring. He also shakes his hair like a dog when it’s wet, because, you know, Beast blood. (...sigh)
- Beast’s glasses: Beast in this film is a crappy character anyways but those glasses? They look downright RIDICULOUS. Old school formal garb with thick, black, plastic readers. Really?
- Mal and the strawberries: I’m sorry, but I have seen kids eat things that they love. The look is in no way sensual. Mal eating strawberries? It’s a downright “I’ll have what she’s having” moment.
- Audrey being cool at the end: This girl was not ok the ENTIRE movie, but now she’s friendly. Why? Because romance must brew.
- None of the periphery kids singing: Not only do all but two of the songs sound identical, but only Maleficent, Mal, and Ben really get to sing. No one else has their own song. Mal and Ben were the least interesting characters, so this really wasn’t a good call by the writing team. Except for Maleficent. She should sing much more.
- Insta-love but NO KISSING: Falling in love within three days is much sillier in a live-action film. The fact that they don’t kiss by the end is pretty ridiculous. Honestly, I think she loves those strawberries more than she loves him. At least they had a 5-way fist bump to the power of good. Right?
In conclusion, this movie was addictive and campy and silly and kind of wonderful. There’s certainly something for viewers of all ages! I will be watching the next one, no doubt, and probably re-watch numero uno at least twice in the year that it takes to come out with the sequel. Hopefully next time around we will get to see Aladdin. Please, goddess. Please.