Disney’s Descendants pulled in almost 7 million viewers on its Friday night premiere on July 31st—a record for 2015 and a record for The Disney Channel. Social media posts about the made for TV movie were also in abundance, and the sales for DVD copies and other Descendants merchandise were reported as skyrocketing after the film’s successful and popular premiere. There’s no denying that Descendants got some amazing ratings and has been a commercial success for Disney—but was the film good, bad, or somewhere in between? Let’s take a closer look at what worked, what didn’t worked, and what was just plain confusing about Disney’s Descendants.
The most heavily criticized aspect of Descendants is the underdeveloped character development and underdeveloped character relationships. Aside from the four children of the villains, none of the characters seemed to develop any personality traits related to their parents. For example, Lonnie, the daughter of Mulan and Shang, is a generic giddy girl who asks if she can join in making cookies or doing hair—aside from her somewhat Chinese looking ensembles, there is no connection between her and her parents. Compare this to the villain characters, who all have some sort of character traits related to their parents—such as Evie’s obsession with looks and mirrors, or Carlos’ fear of dogs.
The character relationships were also poorly developed. One of the film’s main plots is Mal developing feelings for Prince Ben, but the two characters barely have any interacting besides Ben asking her how she likes school or inviting her to ask questions; in fact, other characters (such as Evie and Doug, or even Ben and Carlos) had more meaningful interaction than Mal and Ben ever did before she put him under a spell.
What Made Us Say: “Huh?”
There were a few elements of the film that many viewers thought needed some explanation—such as why not a single character pointed out that it was the children of the so-called “good guys” who acted the cruelest towards other people, and not the children of the villains. This could have been a very interesting element to explore, especially since the film carried the message that children are not their parents and make their own choices; but instead of pointing out that Audrey, the daughter of Aurora and Philip, was not acting like the kind and generous people her parents were touted to be, her selfish and mean behavior was simply accepted.
When the film was good, it was solidly good. The music in the film is, for the most part, catchy and well-written. More notably, all of the actors did very well, particularly during the more dramatic scenes in the final act. The costume and production design was significantly above the quality for other Disney Channel movies, even at times looking on par with a traditional Disney live action film.
Overall, Descendants has many flaws—but is still an entertaining Disney Channel TV film that will likely have a future as a franchise for the Disney company.