By Ellen Robertson (Irvine, California, USA)
It goes without saying that Disney is excellent at producing television shows and movies capitalizing on the entertainment market for children all the way to young adults. Recently we are seeing a shift in the target demographic for Disney. They are breaking out of cheese teeny movies and shows and are beginning to produce movies and shows that challenge the audience to think more and deeper into the issues within society and humanity. Now, the first Descendants movie was good but this sequel? It was far beyond exceptional. The choreography was entertaining and enthralling, the set and costume designs and production were of high caliber and the acting toped it all off. We all know from the first movie the amazing job the original cast did in portraying the children of villain children without being villainous.
Carlos son of Cruella Deville played by Cameron Boyce (Disney’s Jessie), Jay son of Jefar played by Booboo Stewart (X-Men), Mal daughter of Maleficent played by Dove Cameron (Disney’s Liv and Maddie), and Evie daughter of the evil queen played by Sofia Carson (Adventures in Babysitting) were great as always alongside their other costars Brenna D’Amico and Mitchell Hope who played Jane and king Ben. These children were the product of some of the most notorious villains in this universe, but were nothing like them. This contrast of morality added depth to the characters seeing their actions founded on how they were raised; contrasting to the people they could easily be outside of that environment.
With that being said something I believe one thing that was underrated in the new Descendants 2 film was the superb acting performance by the new villain children China Anne McClain (Black Lightening) played Uma daughter of Ursula and Thomas Doherty (DisneyUK’s The Lodge) played Harry son of Captain Hook. I could rave about China Ann McClain for days; her singing voice was phenomenal bringing a more urban contemporary twist to the sound track of the Descendants 2 movie. Her dancing skills were on point, she really brought a performance in this movie that, I for one did not know she was capable of doing. She showed the world her expertise in the field of music and visual arts and that she was more than just Disney star actress but a force to be reckoned with. Another thing that China Ann McClain brought to this movie that elevated the caliber of the movie and added a level of sophistication to the Disney franchise otherwise absent was her acting skills as a true villain child.
The viewers really got a look into Uma, McClain exhibited those traits she inherited from her mother, and the infamous jealousy that Ursula was driven by, ran in the veins of Uma in the movie. China really gave us a glimpse of what Ursula might have been like as a child. She was conniving, self-centered, extraordinarily smart, and even had the captivating voice. While any actor can be amazing at being emotional, selfless, hopeful, and pure; I believe it takes amazing actor/actress to truly make the audience believe their character is evil or has evil motives. To portray those nasty parts of our humanity, the parts most prefer not to acknowledge and to portray it in such a strong way is what really makes great actors/actresses and I truly believe that China did this. Hats off to her she killed that performance and will probably see great things in the future for her career.
To go off of that Thomas Doherty’s character harry that played off of China’s character did even better of a job of depicting those nasty human traits, a true miscreant. Doherty’s character harry had that spark of insanity that his father Hook was infamous for. This was so underrated to me because this acting was precedent for someone of his skill and acting experience. Harry was chilling insane hats off to the writers and producers for even the smallest of details to his costume, choreography, and especially the hook. The hook is one of the small idiosyncrasies of the character that really brought out that insanity. The hook is completely unnecessary, Harry has both his hands and it isn’t portrayed in way where he needs he Harry simply carries his hook because he wants to. While Doherty didn’t have many lines he dominated each one he had, truly embodying the insanity to his character. The best parts that truly showed his acting skills was he nailed that spark of crazy look down to his eyes and never broke that character once. He was sly and charismatic in a way that would make ones skin crawl if you were to run into him on the street. I look forward to seeing more of Doherty’s acting in his upcoming movie High Strung: Free Dance and The Lodge.
This sequel to the Descendants franchise really showed the potential of all these young actors and actresses and also the Disney entertainment company. While others might have underestimated them, the actors, dancers, producers, writers, makeup artists, and crew really showed the movie industry they can play with the big dogs. Hats off to this movie it truly was a great experience.