Rotten to the Core - Disney's Descendants

12:45 PM

My first thought when I heard about this movie? Gods, this is gonna be so cheesy. And then, I totally have to watch that, just for the lolz. So, imagine my surprise when I actually watched Disney Channel's Original Movie Descendants and -- I did not like it. I LOVED it. 

Now, I like a lot of things I read, and I like a lot of things I watch, and even though I don't read or watch half as much as I'd like to, it's still quite a lot, so I try to write about books I've read and movies I've seen that mean something, that matter. You're probably thinking I must have gone mad, because wasn't this a Disney review? I must have hit my head or something, right? Well, no. Disney does a lot of things wrong but this time - this time it's a major success. 

If you don't know the plot, you've most likely lived under a rock. (Who am I kidding, if you don't know the plot you probably don't watch Disney Channel. Don't judge.) Twenty years ago, Belle married Prince Adam, a.k.a. The Beast and they decided it would be such a great idea to unite all the kingdoms and name them - I know, so original - The United States of Auradon. All the villains were locked with a magic spell on an isolated island just off the coast of the USA - The Isle of the Lost. Now Ben, Belle and Beast's son, is to be crowned king, and his first deed as such is to invite some of the villains' kids in Auradon High, a fancy school for princes and princesses. Mal - Maleficent's daughter, Evie, Evil Queen's daughter, Carlos, Cruella De Vil's son and Jay, Jafar's son, have to leave the island they have lived on their entire lives. And because their parents are villains (and pretty self-centered, judging by the way they've named their kids), they come up with a nefarious plan: the kids have to steal Fairy Godmother's wand and break the spell and release their parents -- world domination, you get the idea. 

Now, don't get me wrong. This is an extremely corny, typically Disney movie -- and a musical at that. It includes a really cool dubstep-ish song performed by the Kids, called Rotten to the Core, a fantastic piece performed by Mal and her mother (a Broadway actress!! who is an excellent Maleficent by the way), a hip hop remake of Beauty and the Beast's Be Our Guest song and some rather HSMesque songs that are catchy nonetheless. (Including a song in which the future king randomly bursts into a Broadway-like musical piece and the whole school sort of rolls with it).

You're probably really confused by now, wondering why I'm reviewing a possibly shitty Disney musical with a - you can't argue there -  rather badass plot. The answer is simple. While this is a DCOM and things such as cinematography and acting, and other fancy movie-related things I discussed in my Interstellar review, there's still quite a lot to be noted about this particular movie. (I have to note that the teen actors are some really really talented girls and boys and I do hope I'll be seeing them in more quality Disney shows.) So, what sets this movie apart from other cheesy DCOMs (I'm not touching upon the animated movies, I'm only talking about OMs) is that, first of all, we have really really complex and well-motivated characters. (Descendants has a book prequel, The Isle of the Lost, which delves even deeper into the past and characterization of the four kids, and these kind of are something else, good job Disney). Among these are a strong female protagonist who, for a change, saves the male protagonist, and an arguably LGBT character (probably even two, but let's not push it). 

On top of that, we have an extremely diverse cast, meaning that apart from the main cast where we have an Arabic Jay, we also have Mulan's daughter, POC Aurora, mixed-race Audrey (Aurora's kid), and some other side characters. More importantly, we have some really sensitive topics that are touched upon, and some extremely, extremely noteworthy ideas. Remember, this is mainly a children's movie and as such, it is vital that such topics be discussed. One of the main ideas that come across is that you can choose to be happy. Not to be good or bad, but happy. That it is your choice whether what you do makes you happy or not, and I think that is a lesson which we should teach our kids. It completely destroys a rather unpleasant notion - that happiness is something you earn, or are gifted. Instead, Descendants teaches that you don't look for happiness, you don't wait for happiness -- you bring happiness upon yourself. 

Other things the movie preaches are, don't dumb yourself down for guys, and you can be girly and like girly things and still be strong and independent and kick ass, who you are is not predetermined the moment you are born, it is not predetermined by who your parents are. You are whomever you decide to be. It preaches about different types of love, about respect and about how even people who are generally considered good can also be mean and bitchy sometimes. 

However, while these are some really important messages Disney is conveying, I have deliberately been postponing the most important one. This movie - a cheesy Disney musical, let me remind you - seriously deals with the matter of parental abuse. And we are not talking about physical abuse here, but about mental and emotional abuse, and the effect it has on children's mentality and perceptions about the world. This movie depicts parents neglecting their children's wishes and desires, manipulating and exploiting and oppressing children. It shows the way children who have been raised devoid of love and affection look at and understand the world that surrounds them, and how they cope with emotions. It really actually depicts - not only hints at - the damage that has been done to this children who will go to any lengths to receive their parents' love, or at least approval, who are genuinely afraid of their mothers/father and who are inadequate in an environment that requires socializing. 

So yeah, this is a corny Disney movie with cheesy songs and questionable designer choices, but apart from being a fun movie to watch about ten times, featuring catchy songs to sing along to, it is also a really important achievement on Disney's side. I'm not saying this is an Oscar-worthy movie, I'm not even saying that this is a great movie, movie-wise. What I'm saying is, hey, this is an awesome Disney musical which also happens to teach important stuff about life, so it won't really be a waste of time if you watch it. Please do. 

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