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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Descendants is a highly anticipated Disney movie that's packed with familiar faces like Dove Cameron, Cameron Boyce, and Booboo Stewart. It blends the continuing story of many fairy tale favorites -- and favorite villains -- as it follows new relationships forged between their teenage kids. The main characters wrestle with pressures of good and evil, and their parents nudge them toward unsavory behavior like trickery, lying, and stealing. On the other hand, the teens are influenced in positive ways by people who are patient, caring, and forgiving. Much of the story follows a blossoming romance between two teens, and they share a couple of kisses. Young kids might need some reassurance during a tense scene in which a character turns into a massive dragon. The movie's soundtrack is bound to win some fans as well, so be prepared for your kids to want to buy it.
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What's the story?
DESCENDANTS is set in the serene kingdom of Auradon, where fairy tale figures and their families live harmoniously under the reign of Belle (Keegan Connor Tracy) and the Beast (Dan Payne), thanks to the longtime exile of their enemies on the distant Isle of the Lost. As the royal couple's son, Prince Ben (Mitchell Hope), prepares to assume the throne, he decrees that the offspring of notorious villains Maleficent (Kristin Chenoweth), the Evil Queen (Kathy Najimy), Jafar (Maz Jobrani), and Cruella de Vil (Wendy Raquel Robinson) be permitted to leave the island and come to Auradon to attend school with the descendants of their parents' sworn enemies. Predictably, not everyone is enthused about the arrival of the self-proclaimed "rotten" teens -- Mal (Dove Cameron), Evie (Sofia Carson), Jay (Booboo Stewart), and Carlos (Cameron Boyce) -- but no one suspects that their true intention is to steal the Fairy Godmother's (Melanie Paxson) wand and turn it over to Mal's domineering mom, Maleficent. But as time goes on and the teens acclimate to Auradon, they begin to question their parents' influence and wonder whether they're really evil at all.
Is it any good?
This much-anticipated fairy tale add-on isn't perfect, but it's highly entertaining in the kind of young-love, flash-mob, song-and-dance manner that tends to thrill the youngsters. Kids won't notice or care about such trivial plot inconsistencies as every classic character existing in the same time and place AND having kids at exactly the same time, for instance (really, what are the chances?), but parents might grit their teeth over some the rewrites. On the other hand, some aspects are welcome changes, namely some racial diversity that's a pleasant surprise.
Descendants is decent family fare, and with the exception of one tense scene, it's a fine pick for just about any age. Kids will love the creative play on classic characters, the unlikely relationship between Ben and Mal, and the handful of musical numbers that can feel a little cheesy to the older set. (Except for a reprisal of "Be Our Guest," that is. It's golden.) For adults, though, there's much joy to be found in Chenoweth's electrifying performance as the scheming Maleficent, and her constant bickering with Najimy's Evil Queen makes for many hilarious scenes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the choices the characters in Descendants make. To what degree does their parents' influence affect Mal and her friends? Is it OK that they wind up making their own decision? Would you feel differently if they defied their parents to become evil instead of good?
Does the music help this movie? Was it ever a distraction from the plot? If it didn't add to the story, what was the purpose of it?
Kids: What made you want to watch Descendants? Were any of your favorite actors or actresses in the cast? Do you find your watching habits influenced by the ads you see on TV?
- On DVD or streaming: July 31, 2015
- Cast: Dove Cameron, Cameron Boyce, Kristin Chenoweth
- Director: Kenny Ortega
- Studio: Disney Channel Original Movies
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters, Fairy Tales, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Character Strengths: Integrity, Teamwork
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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