Tag Archives: disney+

Secret Society of Second Born Royals: A Review

Secret Society of Second Born Royals directed by Anna Mastro
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This Disney+ film came out in the summer. It was on the list of “To Be Watched” films that finally got scratched off at the end of October. It is similar to most made for TV movies by Disney in that it is full of cheese and weird plot holes.

Sam is a royal princess of Illyria, the second born daughter. Because her older sister is destined for the throne, and all the responsibility that entails, Sam is allowed to do pretty much whatever she wants, which mostly includes playing gigs with her friend, Mike that include a lot of “Down with the Monarchy” content. She is a good kid with a rebellious streak.

And it is revealed (in the trailer) that she has superpowers. Apparently, every second born child of a royal family has them, and they are sent to an elite training summer camp to either hone their skills or have them removed by the end of summer. Some powers are interesting, like controlling bugs (similar to Antman) and others were pretty typical (like invisibility). But all of them pretty much lived up to mediocre expectation when it came to actually using these powers.

Most of the cast was pretty new, though Skylar Astin (from Pitch Perfect) and Greg Bryk (from Bitten) were notable. Their acting was good and carried most of the scenes they were in. All of the emotion, especially in Bryk’s character, seemed limited, stunted. This is a Disney, straight-to-video, film so to speak, but there never seemed enough time to really develop any of the relationships making all of the choices seem stilted and lacking in tension.

And there were so many plot holes. The backstory, the relationship between Inmate 34 and Sam, where exactly all these other royals were from and why they wouldn’t be invited to a royal coronation, and the whole DNA thing towards the end were just a few of the confusing twists the film tried and failed to make. It pulled the viewer out of the movie completely.

The film is cute, but it would have worked better in a shorter TV series format, allowing for more relationship development and at least a little tension. Ignoring all of the blatant plot holes and confusing connections made throughout the film in order to show that teamwork is important and listening to family is cool can make the film a fun viewing on a bored Saturday afternoon. But honestly, there is better content, even just on the Disney+ platform.

There is no profanity in the film. No sexual content, other than making puppy dog eyes between two characters. Violent content mostly included heavily choreographed fights and a lot of CGI, nothing graphic, grotesque, or detailed. It is Disney+ after all.

Mulan: A Review

Mulan directed by Niki Caro
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I don’t usually come out and say this at the beginning, but if you haven’t paid the extra 30 dollars to watch this movie yet, please wait until December when it comes to all Disney+ patrons.

I didn’t see the animated version of this movie, like I had with Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella – both live action movies I really enjoyed. But I knew that it wasn’t going to be a scene by scene remake of that movie, sticking closer to the actual mythology behind Mulan. So, I was excited to see them dig into Chinese culture and history, and they did, sort of.

The beauty of this film is impeccable. The cinematography, sweeping landscapes (at times, more on that later), and costumes are utterly gorgeous. Even some of the martial arts, especially a sword demonstration by Commander Tung, was absolutely spectacular.

The plot didn’t have a lot of depth to it. It really honed in on the fact that this world was very sexist. Women were not much more than marriage negotiations. Being in the army, being different in any way, was basically a death sentence to most women. But it wasn’t developed much beyond the surface level.

Mulan grows up in a family with no sons, and her father dotes on her, recognizes her gifts in Chi (didn’t really quite understand what chi meant in this movie – but it seemed to have something to do with magic, or at least natural athletic skill?). As she grows up into a woman, she is discouraged from exhibiting this Chi. When a decree goes out that one man from each family must fight in this war, Mulan manages to sneak out in order to save her ailing father from certain death.

In the training camp, she flourishes. But she must hide who she really is, which leads to a montage of fighting sequences and her evading group bath time. There was a lot of comments on how much she stank. There was also a conversation about what kind of girls they all like, and it was all pretty much the stereotype about what boys only think about (she has to be pretty, she has to cook well). The whole movie was filled with stereotypes.

About the sets. There were some beautiful, sweeping landscapes in this movie. And then it would switch to a market scene that looks borrowed from the first Descendants film (a made for tv movie by Disney). The effect was a little jarring and took me out of the action. For a movie that originally was set to be seen in theaters as a blockbuster, it felt at times a little low budget.

And there was a lot of the resolution that made no sense (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it). Minds are quickly changed even though all of these people are raised to believe one thing about women. The transformation in characters just didn’t make sense. Outside of Mulan, there seemed to be very little actual character development (like how one character would get from point a to point b). Everything was rushed to move the story along.

Maybe I’m not this movie’s demographic which could be the reason that the movie wasn’t the right fit for me. But for a studio that has access to the worlds of Marvel and Star Wars, I’m just a little disappointed in the story-building in this film. And I’m not even really comparing it to those franchises, but to similar films like the ones I mentioned above (Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast). There was more character depth and backstory in those movies that I felt was missing in this film. Still, with all its problems, I did find it beautiful and definitely a good film to watch on family movie night, just not with the extra 30 dollar price tag.

There is no profanity in this movie. It is Disney. Sexual content mainly consists of one moment where she is bathing in a lake and another male character joins her but nothing is revealed and the man walks away without knowing she is a girl. There is no kissing at all, and only a hint of a romantic interest, but not really. Violent content does include some fighting, but it is all sanitized. There is a moment when they walk through a field of dead soldiers, but it isn’t in the least gory, the men could all be asleep and it would look the same. One character does get shot with an arrow, but again, very sanitized death.