DCOM or D-Bomb



Disney Channel Original Movies, are all the rage on the cable station, with epic promotion, marketing, and merchandizing to build up the film for your little ones.  Back in the day, these movies actually did a decent job telling predictable stories, that held some suspense and impressive stunts in a variety of sports and disciplines.  Since the new age of Disney though, these stories have taken a major hit in their quality, resorting to marketing gimmicks and dance numbers to do their lifting and dumping the story down the drain.  After the success of Descendants, the studio that brought the villain prodigy tales to you, brings another movie to the small screen, in hopes of maximizing the ratings again.  Robbie is back with another review on TV movies, so let’s get started, shall we?




The Message:  Disney is taking some bold moves in their political statements, doing little to disguise the messages contained in the movie.  Zombies is a flat-out statement about how wrong racism is, with the entire writing/cinematography set out to show the horrors of prejudice.  The movie shows the various responses to the candor of segregation, and the right and wrong ways to fight all under the prowess of changing things that need to be changed.  In addition, the movie has a strong focus on being yourself, learning to change things that are toxic about yourself, not because someone doesn’t like it. 


The Leads:  Milo Manheim and Meg Donnelly are the stars of the show, getting a majority of the camera time.  Milo has a fresh energy about him, giving the movie that entertaining, fun quality you want in a DCOM.  He manages to transition between silly and serious smoothly, never crossing into the realm of overacting.  In addition to acting, his dance moves, singing, and ability to act like a savage, brain hungry monster are worth noting as well.  Meg on the other hand is the strong, women protagonist that is the trend of Disney at the moment.  While not wielding spears or martial arts that leave extra reeling in pain, Meg’s public speaking and political games are the highlights of her character’s ability.  Like Milo, she has a good balance in her tones and acting style, alongside an impressive facial acting that speaks the emotions and tone of the scene.  She injects energy at the right moments but stands as the symbol of hope/change in this installment.  And in terms of singing, her harmony with the actors is astonishing and quite honestly my favorite voice of the group. 


The Dance Numbers:  The focus of this movie is obviously the musical numbers.  What will most likely be a hot selling item, these numbers capture the energy and spirit of the movie.  Unlike other musicals that focus on adjusting their styles to make a nice blend for the track, Zombies sticks to the major pop meets electronic beat.  While not as dynamic, this allowed for some impressive choreography that brought in some breakdancing, some line dancing, and even more so the cheerleading flips and dynamics.  These numbers work in the theme of the movie and again highlight the singing talents of our stars.




The Story:  While the message is good, the story really took steps down in terms of quality.  For one thing, the story isn’t unique, just a carbon copy of half of their stories, which are often diluted versions of classic movie stories.  But ignoring this, the movie is not fleshed out very well with so many plot holes and stretches having to be taken to even semi-piece the tale together.  The character development is rushed and sloppy, the love story fairly cheap and pathetic (when they aren’t singing), and the impasses are laughable as they resolve with little to no effort.  It’s obvious that the focus was music, because much of this story looked for opportunities to introduce another song number, sacrificing key plot points.


The Other characters:  Not everyone will fall into this dislike, but a large number of the characters are lame to put it as nicely as I can.  These characters are those with extreme flaws/prejudice, who fail to move an ounce during the first 85 minutes and often present their grandiose ways in an overacted direction.  I can’t tell how much of this is due to the direction and writing, but these characters are certainly some of the weaker ones to grace the Disney line up.  Characters like Bucky and his squad in particularly are the worst, in terms of their inconsistency and presentation.  And the parents of the crew/fans are only a couple of paces behind.


The Writing:  This would explain a lot in terms of the other dislikes, but the writing was kind of shoddy in this film for me.  Dialogue is limited in terms of anything unique, with only the anti-segregation lines holding any sustenance to them so you can get some mimicking from your kids started.  Outside of that, I’ve already stated that the writing built everything around the dance numbers, leading to rushed plot lines, rapid character development that is almost nonexistent, and just poor planning in general. 


Cheap Production:  I know TV movies don’t have the biggest budget, but seeing as Disney is essentially the money maker of the world, they could have done better than this.  Zombie’s stunts are not the greatest in terms of special effects, with many props looking snazzy, but very cheap. Sure, the light shows and setting look decent, but they can’t mask another big dislike, they couldn’t find another team/different uniforms to switch them into.  You pay attention, you see that the football teams and cheerleaders are all the same.  It’s not the fact that unique teams are key to a movie, it’s the laziness that the movie had when they have the means to go all out.  In addition, beating the same team over and over, means again a lack of developing story/tension.


Lazy on Soundtrack:  You just heard me say I like the soundtrack, so why on Earth am I putting this as a dislike. Simple, because half the track is unique and the other half are just reprisals that often pale to the first mix.  Descendants, Teen Beach Movie, and even High School Musical do a nice job with keeping their tracks different, unique, and with as few remixes as possible.  Zombies failed on this level, cheating the fans out of unique mixes just to cut some costs.  Why Disney didn’t fun this DCOM more so, I don’t know, but it didn’t impress me in these regards.  At least the numbers didn’t have those annoying, lazy lyrics like some tracks have had though… right.





            Zombies, in my opinion, was a massively overhyped movie that promised a lot more than it delivered.  I’ll admit it was fun at times, energetic, and a great medium for promoting anti-segregation (always a plus) and that the acting and dance numbers did their jobs.  However, this installment makes me fear tor the future of DCOMs if all they focus on is the music and the merchandizing that will follow.  This team cut a lot of corners, shucking originality, deeper development, and meaningful dialogue and comparing it to other DCOMS that remain hidden in their vaults, it’s sad.  I’m hoping they will utilize the star actors and the supporting zombies in future projects, but the company needs to get their act together if they plan to keep their DCOMS from further plunging down into crappy depths. 


My scores:

Musical/Romance: 5.0

Movie Overall:  3.0


Descending Further Into Quality

Descendants 2


Robbie K here with a little change up.  Instead of hitting the silver screen with this review, I analyze the latest Disney Channel Original Movie (DCOM) to premier tonight.  Our film focus tonight, the sequel to Disney’s latest merchandise extravaganza Descendants.  If you don’t know what this series is about, it focuses on the offspring of the Disney villains and their quest to find themselves amidst a plethora of chaotic assignments.  Like many DCOMs, legendary director Kenny Ortega returns to bring you music and kid-friendly drama that keeps breathing life into Disney Channel.  Tonight, the sequel is back to keep the momentum going and try to retain some quality back to the cable network.




Villain Kids:  In most movies, the story is only as good as the antagonists to fight and in this case Uma (China Anne McClain) is an improvement over last movie’s band of baddies.  Descendants one tried to reinstate the classic baddies, with subpar casting and actors who semi looked the part. The direction of the movie though put the kids in the forefront and the villains in the back, resulting in rather boring/cheesy performances.  With the kids being the focus, the new villain of Uma gets the focus and development needed, and her malicious planning are nice qualities.  Her second in command Harry Hook (Thomas Doherty) is the enforcer who has some mad skills to bring to the table and actually does something to up the ante in a rather calm series.  With kids at the focus, the doors open wide for more adventure at hand.


The Message:  DCOM movies are all about teaching a lesson, and Descendants 2 keeps that time honored magic alive.  Where Descendants was all about not being your parents and marking your own path, the sequel focuses on finding yourself as the main theme.  A good lesson we can all use a refresher on that only loses a little power by the preachy delivery.  Of course, there are other minor plots to help teach a few more subjects on friendship, courage, confidence, and knowing when a rule needs to have a new spin. All good messages for young ones to get bombarded with, and an applause at Disney doing it right.


The Story:  The first movie did a nice job introducing all the relationships of the world while embedding it in plots of doing villains’ bidding, but also battling yourself when morals conflict. Yet the story was very simple and lacked the kick that it needed to be fully entertaining.  Descendants 2 was a step up, building on those relationships and using them to tell a new story that involved exploring more of the isle.  The added “suspense” was again a step in the right direction, and the increased urgency only brought more suspense to the mix. 


The Songs:  By far my favorite component was the soundtrack.  After seeing Descendants a thousand times over the last two years, I made my list and found only a couple of songs I found timeless.  In this installment, the five out of six tracks will most likely be coming to my Ipod.  The dance numbers were much better for me and they fit very well into the theme of the movie instead of just being jammed in at random intervals ( see Evil Like Me and Ridiculous).  The new soundtrack has edge and really kicks up the beat.  Nice improvements guys.

Acting:  One thing I must give props to though, is the acting.  Descendants cast is super talented and each brings a dynamic energy to the movie that really sparks magic into the DCOM world.  Dove Cameron steals the show with her fantastic ability to direct a character and mold it into a believable performance.  She also brings singing and dancing to the mix that mirrors the emotions present in her character. Cameron Boyce as Carlos has the energy and moves to impress, even more this time with the dance numbers.  Sofia Carson is brains, beauty, and passion with focus on her singing coming out in this movie.  Sofia’s dramatic air somehow brings the group together and keeps the extreme personalities grounded.  Booboo Stewart as Jay has more lines in this movie, and brings that action packed, stunt oriented edge the movie continues to need.  Just maximize his talents more please.  Finally Mitchell Hope does a nice job as King Ben, reprising his well to the full effect and refining it to meet the needs of the scene.  The cast’s chemistry is impressive and Ortega’s guidance keeps things strong, selling the relationships that this movie depends on.  



Dropped plot elements: If you haven’t followed the animated shorts and accompanying books, then this won’t affect you.  However, the super fanbase will note other characters missing from Auradon’s halls.  Many characters are absent in this film, and even those from the first film have been reduced to back burner secondary appearances with little involvement in the main plot.  Audrey, Jane, even Doug are not nearly as involved, most likely to give the newbies more screen time.  Unfortunately…

New elements lacking:  Outside of Uma and maybe Harry, many of the new characters are also reduced to smaller roles than I anticipated.  Newcomers Dizzy (Anna Cathcart) and Gil (Dylan Playfair) have been the highlights of the recent advertising campaign, but sadly don’t do much in this film.  In addition, many of the dramatic buildups, foreshadowing, and magic are actually played less than I originally thought.  Guess dancing and sword fighting are more important than complete plots.  One warning I have for future installments is to not grow so big to drop other characters, or face the threat of devouring yourself by inconsistencies.

Rushed Plot:  Descendants holds a lot of potential to be an epic tale, and that first book by De La Cruz was an epic introduction filled with that potential.  The movies unfortunately have lost that balance and go for the rather rushed conclusions that make many DCOMs lacking.  Number 2 did not improve on this element, but worsened as they tried to shove too many plots into the short run-time.  Much of the conflict is dropped quickly, the tasks and trials are rapidly completed, and new elements are haphazardly dropped without any buildup or heat.  I know they are shooting for time constraints, but with something this big… you can take your time and go a little longer.  Younger audiences won’t care about this, but older ones like me would appreciate a little more dramatic play ups.  In addition, don’t set up potential plots and drop them like a bad habit (see Chad Charming subplot).  That incomplete presentation is a little disappointing with legendary directors in the mix.


Anticlimatic ending:  I know, this is a movie geared for younger generations, we can’t have too violent of a fight.  The sword fight did a decent job of bringing the appropriate action especially the tangle between Harry and Jay (Booboo Stewart).  However, another struggle at the end showed off some semi-decent computer work in a very…bland manner.  I can’t reveal much more, but an epic tangle could have come in that wasn’t so…abruptly stopped.  Kids watch lion King, Aladdin, and Incredibles, they can handle more than G rated punches.  Add some “fire” to the mix, or throw in some close calls to mix things up and actually bring fear to the mix.


The Verdict:


Overall, Descendants 2 stepped its game up on many levels with their villains, story, and songs.  Yet it still succumbs to the modern spin on DCOMs to go for musical gimmicks and diluted themes that while entertaining are not the only sustenance of the film.  Descendants 2 story has room for improvement in regards to integrating its characters more, and could take a lesson from the books in regards to adding some suspense to the film.  Still, it is one of the better DCOMs I have seen in a long time, and certainly the more impressive sequel to grace the small screen.  With a little more work and some other feedback from you fans… Descendants 3 (which I feel will come) can be even more exciting. 


My scores:


Family/Musical/Adventure/Fantasy: 8.0

Movie Overall:  6.0