Disney's Descendants

Disney's heavily hyped Descedants movie aired Friday night. While everyone in my family has been on the fence about actually watching it, we ended up spending the day Sunday sitting through the 2-hour movie. Was it worth it? Well...

In case you have been living under a rock, here is the premise of the movie: The fairy tale villains have been shipped off to a desolate island to live out their years. In the meantime, Beauty (Belle) and the Beast have united all of the kingdoms and everyone is living happily ever after. Fast forward to everyone having 16-year old kids. The children of the villains have all grown up as good-for-nothing scamps while the good children have grown up in boarding school. Ben, the son of Belle and the Beast, is about to be crowned king. His first proclamation is to bring four of the villain-kids to Auradon to go to school. After all, they are not their parents.

So. The characters. The four villain-kids are Mal (daughter of Maleficent), Evie (daughter of the Evil Queen), Carlos (son of Cruella deVil), and Jay (son of Jafar). The main good-kids are Ben (son of Beauty and the Beast), Audrey (daughter of Aurora, Sleeping Beauty), Jane (daughter of the Fairy Godmother), and Doug (son of Dopey). There are a few more good-kids hanging around but they aren't particularly important to the plot. 

Maleficent sees this school transfer as an opportunity to get Mal to steal the Fairy Godmother's wand, which will give her tremendous power. Fairy Godmother is the head mistress of the academy so it shouldn't be too difficult, right?

OK. I think we have everything laid out now. First, I'd like to say that the movie wasn't as awful as I thought it was going to be. That said, it isn't particularly good either. There are problems and there are a lot of them.

I'm not sure why they picked these particular villains as the main characters. I understand Maleficent and the Evil Queen. They are usually the first baddies you think of when you think Disney. I'll even give Cruella a pass. But Jafar? Of all of the Disney baddies, they picked Jafar? It wasn't a good choice. 

And while we're talking about the characters, let's address their names. Every single kid is somehow named after their parents. Mal is Maleficent's daughter, Evie is the Evil Queen's daughter, Lonnie is Mulan's daughter...the list goes on and on. While I could understand one or two narcissistic princes/princesses/queens naming their kids directly after them, I can't believe that every single parent would be like "How can I make my baby a direct comparison to myself?" Insert facepalm.

Next up, let's talk plot. Maleficent is the big baddie here. The other three villains simply go along with her. Everyone is afraid of her. Except the other three kids. They are only afraid of their parents, even if those parents haven't actually shown any reason for the kids to be frightened. Everything seems to hinge on the sole fact that they were the villains in their stories. 

Most of the plot is typical Disney fare: the kids are (slightly) shunned by the other kids because they are villian-kids. The villain-kids do "bad" things like stuff their faces with chocolate. The good-parents are shocked when their kids get along with the bad kids. Prince Ben and Mal fall in love. Love conquers all. You know the story.

Then we get to the songs. Man, there were some stinkers in there. Mal and the gang are introduced through a song - "Rotten To The Core." Where none of them really do anything rotten beyond walking on some tables. OK, at the end, Mal does steal a lollipop from a baby but it wasn't particularly difficult nor did it come off as a terrible act. We were just supposed to THINK it was terrible. The best song of the bunch was a remake of "Be Our Guest" that the good-kids sing when their parents come to visitation day. Sigh.

In the end, the movie was just barely tolerable. They should have gotten rid of Carlos (for serious, Cameron Boyce is NOT a good actor. Get rid of him!) and Jay (though Booboo Stewart did a really good job with the crap he was given) for more interesting villains. Mal should have been way more evil in the beginning. I get the evil-turned-good plot device but she wasn't all that evil to begin with. To be honest, the best villian-kid was Evie. She was never in it to BE evil. She just wanted to be beautiful and marry a prince, just like every other kid in the kingdom. Her turmoil was the most honest. The movie's ending suggested a sequel. I hope not. I can't see this getting any better. 

TV review: Cory in the House

Cory in the House is the third live action Disney Channel series, along with The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Hannah Montana, aimed at "tweens." A spin-off of That's So Raven, the show revolves around Cory Baxter (Kyle Massey) moving into the White House when his father, Victor (Rondell Sheridan), gets hired as the personal chef for President Richard Martinez (John D'Aquino). President Martinez has a young daughter named Sophie (Madison Pettis), who is usually the foil for Cory's money-making schemes.

I've found that this show isn't as terrible as The Suite Life but it's not as good as Hannah Montana. In most of the episodes that I've seen, Cory thinks up some scheme to make tons of money quickly before he's found out and punished by his father. However, most of the punishments end up as mere slaps on the wrist and do nothing to deter Cory from concocting yet another scheme. Meanwhile, Sophie may be cute but she is extremely spoiled. Nothing will turn me off faster than an obnoxious spoiled child in a series. So while I can sit through the show for a little while, the novelty of the "new kid in the White House" theme wears off quickly.

TV review: The Suite Life of Zack and Cody

The Suite Life of Zack and Cody is another of The Disney Channel's live-action 'tween' series. However, unlike Hannah Montana, this show is terrible. The main characters are Zack (played by Dylan Sprouse) and Cody (played by Cole Sprouse), twin brothers living at the Tipton Hotel with their single lounge-singer mother (played by Kim Rhodes). Rounding out the cast are Brenda Song as London Tipton, Ashley Tisdale as Maddie Fitzpatrick, Phill Lewis as Mr. Moseby and Adrian R'Mante as Esteban.

While I'd normally be cheering for a show with a strong single mother raising twin boys on her own, the mother is anything but strong. She is frequently shown as incompetent as the boys run rampant in the hotel. There are few times that the boys are punished for their behavior. As characters, the boys are annoying in themselves. Zack is the typical geeky yet somewhat effeminate one that always ends up cleaning up after Cody, the typical lazy yet somewhat macho one. In everything they do, Zack goes for the gold despite having to make up for Cody's lack of enthusiasm over anything that requires more energy than changing the channel on the TV.

The supporting characters aren't even interesting. London is the insipid daughter of the hotel. She throws money at whatever she wants but doesn't actually know anything. Literally. Somehow this stupidity is supposed to be funny. It's not. On the other side we have Maddie. She is the brilliant candy stand salesgirl. It almost seems like her entire reason for being on the show is to off-set London's stupidity because whenever London gets herself into a mess, there is Maddie to help her out of it. Meanwhile, Mr. Moseby is trying to keep the hotel running.

I think that The Suite Life may have had some potential at some point. However, they ruined themselves by making half of the characters so unintelligent that it is painful to watch them. Then they put Zack in a stereotypical homosexual role. (C'mon, how many straight men know the songs of Gilbert and Sullivan?) The one redeeming episode I have seen is "Lip Synchin' In The Rain" where the characters' high school is doing High School Musical for the school musical. All of the jokes about Maddie not looking like Sharpay, despite both roles being performed by Ashley Tisdale, are quite funny. However, once again, Maddie has to bail out London. In my opinion, you should just skip this show altogether. Maybe one day The Disney Channel will learn that this isn't a good show for kids to be watching.

TV review: Hannah Montana

Thanks to her friends at school, my daughter has recently started watching Hannah Montana. For those of you without kids, Hannah Montana is a Disney Channel show about a girl that lives a dual life as a pop star and a normal teenager. During the day, she is brown-haired Miley Stewart who goes to school and hangs out with her friends. Fabulous secret powers were revealed to her the day she held aloft her mighty....OK, she doesn't transform into She-Ra. However, with the quick donning of a blonde wig, she does transform into teen pop sensation Hannah Montana. The only people that know her secret are her father/manager, her brother, her bodyguard and her two best friends.

I think most parents have an automatic inclination to dislike any television show that their kid likes. Especially if said kid is in preschool and leftover visions of Teletubbies are dancing in your head. There are some terrible shows in the afternoon/evening blocks on The Disney Channel. (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody? I'm looking right at you.) Hannah Montana isn't so bad. The show's father/daughter pair are played by real life father and daughter Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus. This leaves the door wide open to poke fun of Billy Ray's Achy Breaky days and the show takes full advantage of it. I found myself chuckling when Lily, Miley's best friend on the show, made a joke about Billy Ray's old mullet. Sure, the songs on the show are a bit cheesy but they all have a decent message behind them. Besides, I have to give the show props for giving Miley a wig to use to become Hannah. How many times have we, as an audience, been asked to believe that a pair of glasses or a fake mustache have the ability to make everyone around the main character suddenly think they are a completely different person?

I attempted to figure out when new episodes of the series are aired but came up with nothing. Reruns are shown daily in a variety of time slots. We generally watch it at 7PM. I think new episodes come out on Saturdays, though they also seem to come out on Fridays and Sundays. If you check your local listings for The Disney Channel, you are bound to come up with at least a couple of episodes. Give it a try. I bet you'll be finding yourself humming along to some Hannah songs in no time.