Descendants Review
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In 2006, choreographer turned director Kenny Ortega helmed Disney Channel’s original movie High School Musical, a lovably silly teen musical that won two Emmys, kicked off a popular franchise, and made Zac Efron a star. Now Ortega returns with more music and teen drama in the fun-filled fairy tale fantasy, Descendants.

Disney Channel’s latest original movie takes place two decades after Belle and her beast (Keegan Connor Tracy and Dan Payne) created the United States of Auradon and banished the kingdom’s villains to the Isle of the Lost. Now, as their teenage son, Ben (Mitchell Hope), prepares to take over the throne, he decides to reach out to the children of four legendary villains, allowing them to attend Auradon’s prestigious prep school. The four teens come with an ulterior motive: to steal the Fairy Godmother’s wand and return it to their parents. And while three of the teens soon get caught up in their new lives, Mal (Dove Cameron), is determined to make her mother, Maleficent (Kristin Chenoweth), proud.

  
 
With its clever mix of familiar characters, classic movie throwbacks, teen melodrama, and campy musical numbers, Descendants is the kind of movie that parents can enjoy (albeit secretly, without ever admitting it to their friends) right along with their kids. Loaded with references to your favorite Disney fairy tales (and even a remixed version of “Be Our Guest”), it takes the villains that you most love to hate and gives them children who struggle with all of the issues that any normal teen faces. As the four outsiders settle into their new school, they deal with crushes and rivalries while trying to find their own identities—whether to be evil like their parents or good like their classmates.

Of course, this isn’t a serious big-screen production. In typical Disney Channel style, it’s over-the-top and campy—and the musical numbers often feel random and out of place. But you can’t help but fall in love with the characters—from moody bad girl Mal and her flamboyantly evil mother to adorable teen prince Ben and the flighty Fairy Godmother. They’re generally charmingly comical versions of your fairy tale favorites. And though the villains tend to be little more than malicious misfits, their children give an otherwise fluffy teen musical plenty of color and character.

If you love classic Disney fairy tales, you’ll appreciate the stories and ideas behind Descendants. It may be a bit too campy for most grown-up viewers, but kids will enjoy the fantasy, the romance, and the drama of Disney Channel’s latest teen musical.


DVD Review:
The DVD release of Descendants isn’t exactly feature-filled, but it does include a few interesting extras, from the blooper reel (in which Kristin Chenoweth plays Maleficent even wackier) to footage of dance rehearsals with Ortega, his cast, and his team of choreographers. There’s also a fun social media-style extra, #Mal, which explores friendships, relationships, and more as Mal checks in with her friends online. Of course, if you’re hoping for loads of sing-alongs and features, you’ll be disappointed by the release—but while the special features menu is rather sparse, it’s still worth a look.

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