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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Descendants 3 is the third and final movie in Disney's popular Descendants trilogy, continuing the story of four villains' kids acclimating to the picture-perfect existence in the kingdom of Auradon. The movie presumes viewers' familiarity with the characters and relationships from the first two films, so you may be a little lost if this is the first of the three you watch. A love affair continues between two main characters, and there are a few kisses on-screen. Another teen's jealousy makes her use magic to try to sway the affections of her crush, and the citizens pay the price when they're put under her spell. On the other hand, characters who appear to be villainous surprise with actions that are anything but, which has a positive influence on others and helps to change the way the two kingdoms relate. Expect some choreographed fighting (a swordfight that's set to a song-and-dance number, for instance) and a few scenes in which characters' safety is in question briefly (a villain shoots laser beams at teens and knocks them down; a princess uses magic to injure her enemy), but nothing lasts for long. What stand out in this story are messages about tolerance, second chances, forgiveness, and accepting both the good and the bad in people.
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What's the story?
In DESCENDANTS 3, things are going well in Auradon. Ben (Mitchell Hope) and Mal (Dove Cameron) are on their way to living their happily ever after, and the successful integration of the original quartet of villains' kids -- Mal, Evie (Sofia Carson), Carlos (Cameron Boyce in his final performance), and Jay (Booboo Stewart) -- into the peaceful kingdom has inspired future king Ben to give the OK to invite another group of VKs from the Isle of the Lost. But a snafu in the plan exposes Auradon's vulnerability to scheming villains like Hades (Cheyenne Jackson), who nearly makes his escape, leading Mal to consider closing the barrier between the two places permanently. Meanwhile, Ben and Mal's happiness spells misery for jealous Audrey (Sarah Jeffery), who takes extreme measures to reclaim the prince for herself. As tensions build in Auradon, Mal turns to an unlikely accomplice for help in preserving peace there and perhaps taking a new stance on the Isle's banishment.
Is it any good?
This finale to the popular Descendants franchise is a must-see for fans who were left with a cliffhanger of sorts at the end of the second movie. Here future queen Mal faces what she sees as a black-or-white dilemma: Preserve the safety and peaceful existence in her new home or embrace her loyalty to her Isle roots. The conundrum puts her in a difficult place with both sets of friends and causes her to question her priorities, but it's her willingness to listen to other points of view, reframe her thinking, and extend forgiveness and faith in others that's the lasting message from the movie.
Descendants 3 adds some new faces to the talented ensemble cast, in particular Jackson's energizing and amusing performance as Hades. China Anne McClain returns with a vengeance as Mal's nemesis, Uma, contributing heavily to the story's direction and its impactful themes of respect and counter-stereotyping. And what Descendants story would be complete without show-stopping song-and-dance numbers? Certainly not this one, and they won't disappoint its young fans. If ultimately the role of the final installment in a trilogy is to tie up loose ends and lay out a satisfactory path for the characters' future, then Descendants 3 can call itself a success.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how well Descendants 3 wraps up the trilogy. Are there any unresolved storylines or plot points that didn't get addressed to your satisfaction? Do you like the ending? Would you like to see how Auradon and the Isle of the Lost change after these events?
In what ways does this story and its characters celebrate counter-stereotypes? Whose actions surprise you because of presumptions you've already made about them and their motives? Is it true that we all have a little bit of bad and good in us? How does that play out in this movie?
Is Mal a good leader? What about Ben? What lessons do they learn about tolerance and empathy as this story plays out? Who helps teach them these things? Is it difficult to change your beliefs when you're faced with truths that challenge them?
- In theaters: August 2, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: August 6, 2019
- Cast: Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson, Cameron Boyce
- Director: Kenny Ortega
- Studio: Walt Disney Television
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Book Characters, Fairy Tales, Great Girl Role Models, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Empathy
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: September 21, 2020
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