On Book Club Thursday, I told you all about my reading of The Isle of the Lost. Friday, we watched the movie Descendants on Disney Channel. Spoilers follow.
I’m glad that I read the book. It seemed like the movie jumped immediately into the story, and having that background was very helpful. There were several things about the character’s backgrounds that weren’t mentioned in the movie but gave a deeper reading. For instance, if you had only seen the movie, you may have laughed off the initial interaction shown between Carlos and Cruella, but from reading the book we see just how abusive she is to him. It makes the moment when he stands up to her (and the moment at the end when he mentions how mad their parents will be) even more powerful.
For a musical, it wasn’t very…musical. There were only a few songs in the movie, and while they were good, catchy songs, they didn’t do anything for the plot. They showed good characterization, but some of them seemed redundant rather than moving things forward. But all of the actors have great voices and the lyrics are thoughtful and either beautiful or amusing depending on the moment. And the only unoriginal song is a hip hop mix of “Be Our Guest” which left THIS Beauty and the Beast fan flailing.
Besides just singing, the actors could definitely act. Possibly the most impressive, in hindsight, was Mitchell Hope. He plays the son of Belle and Beast and has a definite “good guy/prince charming” coloring to him. And yet, his acting choices are subtle and revealing. About halfway through the movie, he is put under a love spell by Mal. His infatuation then is over the top and dramatic. At the end of the date and moving forward, it seems to be more toned down and more sincere. By the end of the movie, it is revealed that the change occurred when the spell actually wore off, though this was unknown both to Mal and to the audience.
As for the actual story: It’s mostly predictable as well as having a ton of plot holes in regards to just getting to the start of the movie. And yet, it’s really great too. It will make you laugh, it will make you cheer as the villains’ kids learn to be good, and it will break your heart in ways you didn’t imagine. Also, there is a pretty great twist at the end that I did not see coming. I love that so much focus is put on Evie being talented and intelligent because her whole life her mother has wanted her to be beautiful and she’s learning that’s not all there is in life. In fact, all of the kids discover they have certain traits they didn’t realize they had and they are stronger and wiser because of it. Even Audrey learns to be a little bit empathetic and give the villain kids a chance.
All of that being said, there were a few things I did not like. They probably should have made a bigger deal about the fact that Mal practically roofied Ben, but it’s a Disney show so sex isn’t a thing meaning sex crimes also can’t be a thing. They still just called Belle’s husband King Beast! He had a name before he was cursed into being a Beast guys! And there still isn’t an identity for the camerawoman in the School of Secrets videos. (I did DVR the Sunday showing that is supposed to reveal “seven secrets,” so maybe it will come out then. I’ll watch it as soon as I’m home from Pittsburgh.) Oh, and, at the end, Mal totally should’ve turned into a dragon for a massive showdown against her mother, especially after it was such a big deal in the book that she had some dragon in her.
So yes. I will be watching the movie again. I have already purchased the soundtrack. And it’s cheesy and predictable and occasionally unbelievable, but you know what? It’s also magical and heartfelt and beautiful. Because it’s Disney. What were you expecting?