THE DESCENDANTS: In Which Not Particularly Naughty Kids = Very Nice Ratings for Disney
When it comes to fairytales, do you prefer your heroes to be adorable and perpetually perky, your conflicts easily resolved, and your villains just like your heroes, only slightly sassier and with edgier hairstyles? If so, you will feel right at home with The Descendants, Disney’s modern day fairytale answer to those of you who feel that Once Upon a Time is much too “dark and risqué” with its characters (gasp) kissing, engaging in very vaguely implied (but never shown) intercourse, committing petty crimes, and almost always inevitably acting like a$$holes to one another.
This past weekend, the Disney original movie The Descendants cast its spell (see what I did there?) on nearly 7 million viewers when it premiered . . . and nearly 11 million viewers after its first four days on the airwaves, putting it right on par with that OTHER Disney Original Movie you might remember your teenybopping pals going nutso for back in the day.
So many balls, so little time . . .
What’s more, critics and fans seem to have really enjoyed the movie. You might even say their love for it is . . . wait for it . . . RIDICULOUS!
(Of course, not in an offensive way . . . in a nice way, because being told someone loves you, against their better judgment, even though they truly believe the notion that anyone could possibly have romantic feelings for you is certifiably insane, not to mention a little bit disgusting, is sweet and not at all insulting, right?)
(Love means never having to say “I straddled the ass of a grown man dressed as a donkey in front of a field of teenagers to impress you . . .”)
This is all fine and good, if you’ve actually seen the movie. But if you haven’t, either because you don’t have the Disney Channel or because the thought of watching two hours of a movie that boasts a “hip hop homage” to Beauty and the Beast’s song sung by dancing silverware “Be Our Guest” gives you cavities . . .
. . . you may start to feel a bit ostracized by your friends and family in the weeks to come. You may wonder why they are all suddenly contemplating dying their hair purple . . .
Purple is the new ombre.
. . . why their recent internet searches reflect phrases like “recipe for love potion cookies” . . . “devil horn hats on sale” . . .
. . . and “Jarlos Slash Fanfiction” . . .
. . . why all their ringtones have changed to “Rotten to the Core” . . .
. . . and why they are all sudden spending all their free time debating whether lead character Mal’s flash of glowing green eyes in the final seconds of the film means she’s truly evil, possessed by her mother Maleficent, or just rocking some kickass new color contacts . . .
If that’s the case, please allow me to help you find your way back into the good graces of your social circle. What follows is a brief summary of Disney’s The Descendants, the best movie about the surprisingly (some might say disappointingly) innocent offspring of some of fairytales’ most malevolent villains . . . and Cruella De Vil, who, let’s face it, is not so much malevolent as mildly obnoxious and rich, two adjectives that tend to be mutually inclusive.
Once upon a time, there was a place called Isle of the Lost, where all of the villains from fairytales you’ve read were banished and then subsequently, inexplicably, reproduced and had children, all at exactly the same time.
Isle of the Lost kind of reminds me a bit of a cross between the East Village and Chinatown in NYC, which is why it is not at all surprising that all of the villains’ now-teenage children look like total hipsters.
Let’s see, there’s Mal, daughter of Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. She’s the most evil of her gang of misfits, which puts her at 3 out of 10 on the evilness scale. This makes sense, as her mother is the only true villain in the movie who actually manages to be a bit intimidating and doesn’t behave like a bumbling moron who isn’t capable of using Skype . . .
There’s Evie, daughter of the Evil Queen from Snow White, who uses a magic mirror to . . . help her with her math homework?
Next up is Jay, son of Jafar from Aladdin, except he doesn’t mind control, mastermind, or manipulate like his dad. Instead he’s a petty thief, an athlete, and a romantic, like his dad’s nemesis . . . a.k.a. The Good Guy.
Last but certainly least, there’s Carlos, son of Cruella de Vil. He’s short . . . and doesn’t like dogs . . . but then starts to enjoy the company of a dog. And that’s pretty much his entire character arc, unless you count all the flirty looks he keeps giving Jay. (You think we don’t notice, Disney show, but we totally notice.)
On the Good Guy side of the world, known as Auradon, Ben, the son of Beauty and the Beast from . . . well . . . Beauty in the Beast, obviously, is about to be crowned king at the ripe old age of 16, because his parents have become “elderly,” a.k.a. “over 30 and on a Disney show.” Ben’s first order of business: invite Mal, Evie, Jay and Carlos to Auradon to attend school with the kids of fairytale heroes, a.k.a. The Boring People.
Maleficent sees this as the perfect opportunity to use magic to bridge the divide between the lands and allow her and her stupid villain friends to commute from the Isle of the Lost into Auradon, which I, for the life of me, can’t understand, because Isle of the Lost looks like an awesome, super fun place to live, and Auradon looks . . . like the kind of place that would really wreak havoc on my allergies.
So, Maleficent tasks the “evil” kids with stealing the fairy godmother’s wand from where it rests in the King’s castle and using it to help their parents leave the Isles of the Lost, come to Auradon, and kill everyone call the people who live there some really unflattering names.
The problem, for Maleficent at least, is that within minutes of arriving in Auradon, all the “evil” kids develop Stockholm syndrome, fall in love with the heroes, become massively popular, and decide that being “good,” rich, and boring is way more fun than being “evil,” poor, and exciting. (Hint: It’s just the rich part.)
Evie ditches her crush on Cinderella’s son (Chad The Asshat), falls for Dopey’s son (Kid With Glasses Which Are Meant to Be Shorthand for Intelligence), and starts studying for tests without the help of her mirror.
Jay becomes a jock and joins the Sport-That’s-Almost-But-Not-Quite-Quidditch-Due-to-Copyright-Reasons Team.
Carlos befriends a dog . . . but he’s a really nice dog, one that never eats your shoes, bites the mailman, or poops on your carpet . . . and then sits down and slides across the floor to spread the poo over everything.
With all her allies lost to the Light Side, it’s up to Mal to carry out her mom’s plan. Upon realizing that the wand Maleficent is seeking will be at Ben’s coronation and that if she’s seated next to him during said coronation, the wand will be just a stone’s throw away for the taking, Mal drugs Ben by giving him Love Spell Cookies. It’s the only definitely
date rapey villain-esque thing any of the titular descendants do throughout the entire hour, which, by default, makes it pretty awesome.
But then, Ben unwittingly undoes the spell by conveniently jumping into an Un-Love Spell Lake or something, so that Ben and Mal can fall in love FOR REALS!
This whole loving to unloving to loving again process takes about five minutes, roughly the time of a commercial break. (This particular romantic relationship is brought to you by Chips Ahoy!)
Now that Mal’s thimbleful of inner evil has been successfully eradicated, it is time for her to save the day! At the coronation, Mal does, eventually, get hold of the Fairy Godmother’s wand. However, instead of using it to bring all your favorite hipster villains and their asexually reproduced kids to Auradon (YAY!), she uses it to monologue about the benefits of being “good” . . . but only when you are naturally beautiful and dating the hottest and richest boy in school. Otherwise . . . meh!
She also turns her own mother from a dragon into a super cute pocket lizard, because, why not?
Auradon is saved! It can now live boringly after ever! Everyone is so excited! So, of course, they have to dance . . . or else they will fall asleep!
“Yeah, whatever, joke is on you, suckers. I’m still a 3 out of 10 on the evil scale, and I’m totally going to murder you all in a not-at-all-bloody, family-friendly fashion . . . possibly by turning you all into super cute pocket lizards” monologues Mal to the camera, as her eyes glow green and her head starts spinning around on her neck like she’s The Exorcist.
Just kidding, of course . . . but wouldn’t it have been totally awesome if that Exorcist thing actually happened on a Disney movie?
Oh, well. There’s always hope that it will happen in the sequel, folks. And there will most DEFINITELY be a sequel.
That’s it. That was The Descendants, a surprisingly good movie that could have stood to be just a wee bit more BAD . . .
Now, you can feel free to lie and tell your friends you actually saw it. Your secret is safe with us!