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Movie Review

So the good guy’s a bad guy and the bad guys are good guys? It certainly seems so.

When Mal, the daughter of the Sleeping Beauty witch Maleficent, and her pals (fellow villains’ kids—VKs for short—Carlos, Jay, and Evie) left their home on the Isle of the Lost a few years ago, they never expected to change their wicked ways. However, they soon discovered that their choices, not their parents’ choices, define who they are and who they want to become, and all four kids left evil behind for good.

Now, Mal and her friends (including Mal’s new fiancé, King Ben) are back on the Isle of the Lost to share their dream with the villainous children remaining, who are kept there via a magical barrier. But just as they’re leaving through the magical doorway with four new VKs, Hades, lord of the underworld, attempts to escape through it. Mal manages to keep him at bay, but the effort greatly weakens her.

As the reformed child of a villain, knowing the difference between right and wrong can be difficult at times. But when it’s the choice between two things that aren’t necessarily good or bad, what’s a girl to do? That’s exactly the decision that Mal now has to make. She can continue to rescue kids from the Isle of the Lost at the risk of letting out more baddies or she can close the barrier forever and keep the people of the fairytale (and mostly villain-free) land of Auradon safe.

But can she keep it safe? Because there’s another threat afoot.

Jealousy has gotten the better of Audrey, daughter of Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip and former girlfriend of Ben. After Ben and Mal announce their engagement, she decides to become the “Queen of Mean” by stealing Maleficent’s powerful, magical scepter and using it to place Auradon’s citizens under a sleeping curse. Just like Mal’s mom did back in the day.

In her weakened state, Mal doesn’t stand a chance against Audrey. But conveniently, the only thing powerful enough to stop Audrey is the Ember of Hades. So, she’ll have to team up with her nemesis, Uma (daughter of Ursula), to get the Ember from Hades, then find Audrey and stop her.

Positive Elements

Much like its predecessors, Descendants 3 focuses on overcoming prejudices and giving people second chances. Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay are the products of this. They’ve used their success in Auradon to help kids on the Isle of the Lost—providing food, setting up safe houses, and psyching them up for “VK Day,” where they’ll choose to leave the Isle for a new life.

Uma, Harry (the son of Captain Hook), and Gill (the son of Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston) ask Mal and her friends for a second chance—though maybe not in so many words. They want what the others have: a safe place to live, enough food to eat and friends who care about them. But mostly, they want the opportunity to turn their lives around and make a difference for the other kids on the Isle. Granted, Uma manipulates Mal into allowing this by taking the Ember of Hades, but after proving their mettle in battle, Uma gives it back.

Mal and Ben learn what it means to be leaders, which sometimes mean giving up on a dream in order to fulfill a duty.

When Mal misleads others (albeit for what she considers an honorable reason), she regrets her dishonestly almost immediately: “A stack of lies is not a firm foundation.” She takes responsibility for her actions and corrects them by going up against Audrey alone and later by apologizing to her friends and the other VKs.

[Spoiler warning] Audrey self-narrates her descent into darkness, explaining that she followed all the rules and still got taken advantage of. It’s finally her turn to get what she wants and she’s not playing fair anymore. She’ll take whatever she desires by force. After being defeated by Mal, she wakes up realizing that although she felt justified, she was still wrong. She apologizes to everyone.

Spiritual Content

A story that features so many magically inclined Disney heroes and villains of old is definitely going to feature that same magic on screen. That being said, much like the previous Descendants movies, the citizens of Auradon are generally hesitant to use magic, and citizens of the Isle of the Lost are unable to use magic on the island.

The biggest spiritual hiccup of Descendants 3 is Hades’ insistence that he is a “god.” He also admits to stealing souls. This is not much different from what we see in Hercules, but like other Descendants bad guys, he is given a second chance and seems eager to redeem himself. He even saves a girl from death by using the power of his Ember to revive her.

Audrey sings a song with the lyrics, “There’s a devil on my shoulder where the angels used to be.” Audrey’s magical and nefarious deeds are only possible through the scepter of Maleficent. She uses it to put people to sleep and to turn them to stone. She turns a character into an “old hag” and another into a vicious beast. She also uses it as a scrying glass of sorts to spy on Mal. A character manages to escape Audrey’s curse by hiding in a lake that washes away all enchantments. She then uses the lake water to turn the beast back into a human.

Mal turns into a dragon twice to fend off villains. She also enchants motorbikes to fly over water. Uma turns into a cecaelia (a human-octopus hybrid). Celia, daughter of The Princess and the Frog’s Dr. Facilier, is a fortune-teller on the Isle of the Lost and uses tarot cards. Her father also runs a “Voodoo Arcade.”

Sexual Content

After her boyfriend is put to sleep by the sleeping curse, Evie spends an entire song debating whether or not true love’s kiss will work since they haven’t actually used the “l-word” (love) yet, and she’s not sure if he feels the same. The song ends with Evie kissing him on the lips. Mal and Ben kiss after she accepts his marriage proposal.

Throughout the film, couples embrace each other tightly after being reunited or surviving near-death experiences. A man hits a tambourine on his bottom during a dance sequence. Audrey flirts with Ben, offering to end the sleeping curse if he’ll marry her instead of Mal. Harry flirts with several girls throughout the film, calling one “ravishing” and attempting to kiss another.

Violent Content

Hades uses magic to knock down Jay, Carlos and Ben. Audrey uses a fire poker to smash the glass box containing a Queen’s crown. Enchanted suits of armor engage in a bloodless sword fight with the heroes. During this encounter, we hear the line, “Cut ‘em up like confetti.” A character is turned into a beast and he destroys his castle and attacks his friends. Carlos realizes that the beast is injured and manages to calm it down by pulling a large, bloody splinter out of its hand. Audrey throws a glass bowl at Chad’s head, which misses but shatters behind him on the wall. She also uses magic to throw him into a closet and lock the door. A character loses consciousness and almost dies after a magical battle.

Crude or Profane Language

“Oh my gosh” is said a handful of times. Fairy Godmother exclaims “Bippity Boppity!” in frustration. Name-calling (from the main antagonist) includes “suckers” and “brat.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

None.

Other Negative Elements

Mal is angry with her father for abandoning her as a baby: “For 16 years I had nothing!” Admittedly, he tries to explain that he didn’t have a problem with her, just her mother, but she rebuts that at least her mom didn’t abandon her. He makes a myriad of other excuses, including that he didn’t want to make her soft, but she accurately accuses him of just being selfish. At the end of the exchange, it’s clear that he wants to make up for being a bad dad, but she remains angry with him until the end of the movie when he saves a girl from death.

Many of the villain parents seem emotionally disconnected from their children, concerned more with material success than good character. Several of the new VKs have trouble dropping their old habits, primarily taking things that don’t belong to them, but this is promptly corrected by the original VKs. Graffiti covers the walls and alleyways of the Isle of the Lost.

Conclusion

Descendants 3 was difficult to watch this weekend considering that Cameron Boyce, who played Carlos in all three movies, died just a few weeks earlier. The Disney Channel paid tribute to Boyce by dedicating the telecast of Descendants 3 to his memory. “For Cameron, who made very moment count,” was displayed on the screen just before the film began. Disney also cancelled their red carpet premiere of Descendants 3 in July and donated the money for the event to the Thirst Project, a philanthropic organization that Boyce was deeply committed to. At the end of the movie, they showed a montage of Boyce’s audition tapes, blooper reels, and special moments from his shows. It was a touching tribute to a young man who died far too soon.

The fact that Descendants 3—a movie all about how the choices we make define us—seems like a sadly appropriate venue for Boyce’s talents. He was determined to use his celebrity to help people. “There is a long line of difference makers in my family,” he once said. “I am following in the footsteps of some really strong men and women who’ve showed me what it means to give back.”

We are all capable of good or bad. Descendants 3 explores this theme, and the lesson holds true in life. While the movie itself doesn’t go here, as Christians we know that we are all susceptible to sin, but we are all also redeemed by a Savior. It comes down to the choices that we make. We can choose to follow Jesus, or we can choose not to. In the movie, Mal and the other VKs are all considered “rotten to the core,” but they choose to be good. In the first two films, this choice was limited to the children of the Isle of the Lost, but after Audrey’s power trip, they realize that the “good” people of Auradon are just as susceptible to evil with the right set of circumstances. And aren’t we the same way?

Although Descendants 3 is keen on redemption through personal growth rather than through a personal Savior, it still holds many good moral values that can be discussed within families. It’s OK to protect the ones you love, but it’s not OK to say you’re protecting them when you’re really just being selfish. Stealing, even if it’s from the bad guys, is still wrong. As Mal said, “You can’t live in fear because it doesn’t protect you from anything.” And most importantly, you can’t take over the world just because you feel cheated out of a crown.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Author

Cast

Dove Cameron as Mal; Cameron Boyce as Carlos; Booboo Stewart as Jay; Sofia Carson as Evie; Cheyenne Jackson as Hades; Mitchell Hope as Ben; Sarah Jeffery as Audrey; China Anne McClain as Uma; Thomas Doherty as Harry Hook; Dylan Playfair as Gil; Brenna D’Amico as Jane; Jedidiah Goodacre as Chad Charming; Anna Cathcart as Dizzy Tremaine; Jadah Marie as Celia; Zachary Gibson as Doug; Keegan Connor Tracy as Belle; Melanie Paxson as Fairy Godmother; Dan Payne as Beast; Luke Roessler as Squirmy; Christian Convery as Squeaky; Jamal Sims as Dr. Facilier; Bobby Moynihan as the voice of Dude

Director

Kenny Ortega ( )

Distributor

Disney Channel

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

August 2, 2019

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Emily Baker

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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