Blu-ray/DVD, Reviews

Disney’s Descendants, a Cool Teen Musical

DESCENDANTS boxart

 

Taking a few ideas from High School Musical and adding offspring of four of Disney’s evil villains makes Disney Channel a winner with their newest teen/tween adventure Descendants. It’s a well-made film with fine direction, young Disney stars and a whole lot of fun for the whole family. Yep, even dad if he watches with his daughter. Targeted toward females, it makes a perfect film for the sleep over or pajama party crowd. Now on DVD the film has no commercial interruptions and some bonus material that keeps the party going.

It’s been 20 years since the Disney villains have been imprisoned on the Island of the Lost by Beast (Dan Payne). Ben (Mitchell Hope) the teenage son of Beast and Belle (Keegan Connor Tracy) has turned 18 and is about to be crowned the new monarch of United States of Auradon. For his first duty he decides to free four of their most villainous foe’s teenage children and bring them to school at Auradon Prep High School. Here they will learn the difference between good and evil. Those chosen are Mal (Dove Cameron) the daughter of Maleficent (Kristin Chenoweth), Evie (Sofia Carson) the daughter of the Evil Queen (Kathy Nijimy), Carlos (Cameron Boyce) the son of Cruella de Vil (Wendy Raquel Robinson), and Jay (Booboo Stewart) the son of Jafar (Maz Jobrani).

Maleficent (Kristin Chenoweth) her daughter Mal (Dove Cameron)  as Evie (Sofia Carson)  Carlos (Cameron Boyce) and Jay (Booboo Stewart) look on
Maleficent (Kristin Chenoweth) her daughter Mal (Dove Cameron) as Evie (Sofia Carson) Carlos (Cameron Boyce) and Jay (Booboo Stewart) look on

However, Maleficent will not let them go unless they agree to steal the Fairy Godmother’s (Melanie Paxson) magic wand. They agree and the four young villains are transported to Auradon. When they get there, well that’s the adventure part of the story. Director and writer Kenny Ortega (High School Musical) does a very good job of attracting the same audience of tweens and teens with his magnificent musical production. Costumes, sets, choreography, special effects, songs and a generous amount of comedy top his previous Disney productions, making this TV movie the one to see.

Without question for Ortega’s target audience Descendants far outweighs most anything that he’s produced for the Disney Channel. Choreographers and vocal instructors go insane working the dancing and singing by the cast and capable extras far surpassing High School Musical. And the big production dance at the end of the film is so dazzling and energetic it blows you away. A tip of the hat to director Kenny Ortega and choreographer Paul Becker for pulling the teen actors together for some excellent dance routines.

Jay, Mal, Evie and Carlos shed their old clothes for new ones in Descendants
Jay, Mal, Evie and Carlos shed their old clothes for new ones in Descendants

It’s hard to choose a standout performance as the central cast as a whole makes the show work. But, if I were to choose the top female it would be Dove Cameron for her feisty portrayal of Mal the wicked daughter of Maleficent. She rocks the film with her singing, dancing and acting. Noted for her role of Liv on the Disney Channel “Liv & Mattie” she brings a lot of that talent to Descendants. She has the chemistry necessary for young teens everywhere to fall in love with her character and without a doubt captures them with this performance in Descendants.

Topping off the male actors, it’s a tossup between Mitchell Hope as Ben the teenage prince of Auradon and the funny Cameron Boyce as Carlos the son of Cruella de Vil. Here it’s a matter of both being needed to bring the romance and laughter to the show. Boyce really dips deep into his comedy bag and brings some much needed laughter to the production. Boyce is a member of the cast of Disney Channel’s “Jessie” playing Luke Ross the second-oldest of the Ross family who adds the comedy in that show as well. As for Hope, Descendants is his first big production and one he certainly makes memorable. He brings a lot of romance to the film and shows he has a lot of chemistry with Mal.

The cast performs the high energy songs and romantic ballads on the musical sound track that includes: “Rotten to the Core” (Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson, Cameron Boyce and Booboo Stewart), “Evil Like Me” (Kristin Chenoweth and Dove Cameron), “If Only” (Dove Cameron), “Set It Off” (Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson, Cameron Boyce, Booboo Stewart, Mitchell Hope, Sarah Jeffrey and Jeff Lewis), “Good Is the New Bad” (Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson and China Anne McClain), “Did I Mention” (Jeff Lewis, Mitchell Hope), “Night Is Young” (China Anne McClain) and more.

BONUS FEATURES:

” Backstage Dance Rehearsals” One of the better extras you get to see the cast rehearsing their dance routines. What a nice treat.
“Bloopers” a fun look at the cast cutting up during shooting.
“#Mal” get a sneak peek at Mal’s story as seen through social media.
And a quick sneak peek at the new animated “Descendants Wicked World” coming this fall.

Descendants has been rated G for everyone. It’s the best film yet from Director Kenny Ortega and a must have for tweens and teens video library. And according to Mal (Dove Cameron) “You didn’t think it was the end of the story did you?”. Be looking for a sequel, after all High School Musical had a couple of good ones.

FINAL ANALYSIS: An energetic and fun filled surprise from Disney. (A)

Specifications and additional video information:
Cast: Kristin Chenoweth, Dove Cameron, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Cameron Boyce, Maz Jobrani, Booboo Stewart, Kathy Nijimy, Sofia Carson, Mitchell Hope, Melanie Paxson, Brenna D’Amico, Sarah Jeffery, Zachary Gibson, Jedidiah Goodacre, and Dianne Doan 
Director and writer: Kenny Ortega  
MPAA Rating: G
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, TV
Running Time: 1 hr. 52 min.
Video Release Date: July 31, 2015
Language: English (also changeable to Spanish & French)
Reviewed Format: DVD
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Number of Discs: 1 Disc and an exclusive bracelet enclosed
Distributed by: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

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Film Editor John Delia has been on all sides of the movie business from publications to film making. He has worked as a film critic with ACED Magazine for more than 11 years and earned a Bachelors degree in communications from the University of Florida. John is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association. Follow John on Twitter @staragent1 or send John a message at jdelia@acedmagazine.com