Look, I’m a 26-year-old woman. The Descendants franchise was never intended for me. Still, even though I found them merely cute, I saw why kids enjoyed them so much. Their quality is akin to the Disney Channel musicals I grew up with. The only reason I watched the second one was because of the hype. I watched the third one to finish out the series (and because I saw a certain scene on YouTube and knew I needed to, but we’ll get to that later). I really wasn’t expecting much.
I’m not going to sit here and say Descendants 3 is a cinematic masterpiece or anything like that. But I really enjoyed it. And I think that’s due to two things: the themes and Audrey. Honestly, I think this may be one of the best Disney Channel movies to date.
Thematically, this film tackles duty, working together, and redemption. The characters seem to be aged up, at least enough to have their own houses and get engaged. This allows for a more nuanced and less juvenile exploration of these themes.
Mal is forced to make a difficult decision, in order to protect Auradon. Both sides are argued quite well, if you ask me. Is it morally okay to close the border around the Isle of the Lost? This leads to questions of whether villains can be redeemed. Is it fair that some get second chances and others don’t? How do you decide who to forgive? It’s a fascinating moral dilemma and best encapsulates the overarching good vs. evil theme of the franchise.
The film also uses one of my favorite tropes: nemeses forced to work together against a common enemy. And those nemeses eventually become friends. This also leads into the themes of redemption and good vs. evil because it recontextualizes Uma’s character and her past with Mal.
Okay, now it’s time to talk about the Audrey in the room. I love Audrey. I probably shouldn’t, but I’m always a sucker for a pretty lady with dark intentions. In fact, it was the “Queen of Mean” scene that I saw on YouTube that truly prompted me to watch this movie. There is nothing hotter than a villain transformation.
And, honestly, I like that her reasoning for turning to the dark side is because she just kind of snaps. She feels like her life has been taken from her, she’s feeling pressure from her grandmother, and she can’t stand it anymore. Her turn as the big bad isn’t quite as insidious or interesting as Maleficent’s or Uma’s, but it feels damn good to watch. A little part of me was sad that there was no way she would win— it is a Disney movie, after all.
“But, Ren,” you may be thinking. “This is a musical! What about the music?” I’m glad you asked. I’ve always found the music in this franchise to be passable, but the only song I’ve ever listened to of my own accord was “Evil Like Me.” No longer. For some reason, this soundtrack really clicks with me. Especially “Queen of Mean.” I guess what I’m saying is I love villain songs.
Honestly, I’m glad I enjoyed this movie because I had to spend real, actual money on it. And it wasn’t available to rent. I own this movie now. Thank god it’s worth watching again.
Descendants 3 was fun to watch and even made me a little emotional. Sure, some problems are solved a little too easily. But it’s a Disney Channel movie. I can suspend my disbelief a little more to allow for that. All in all, this was a good flick and I’m glad I watched it. I may not be descended from a fairy tale character, but I know a happy ending when I see one.