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Review: In Disney’s ‘Descendants 2,’ the Kids Are on Their Own


China Anne McClain as Uma, daughter of Ursula the sea witch, in “Descendants 2,” a big-budget follow-up to a 2015 television movie.

David Bukach/Disney Channel

The kids are largely on their own in “Descendants 2,” a sequel to the 2015 television movie about the children of Disney villains. That makes for a dumber film, but the target audience for this colorful tuneful fluff won’t care and may even consider it an improvement.

The movie makes its premiere Friday night on the Disney Channel, ABC and seemingly every other outlet and app in the Disney corporate universe, because, hey, it’s July and the first film did pretty well. The 10-and-under set will no doubt be eager to pick up the story of Mal (Dove Cameron), the daughter of Maleficent, who in the first movie was chosen along with three of her friends to leave the island prison where all things evil have been confined and go to school in Auradon, where the nonwicked live.

The four of course found their inner goodness and settled into Auradonian life, and as “Descendants 2” opens everyone is preparing for a cotillion where Mal will officially become a lady of the court of Ben (Mitchell Hope), the young ruler whose heart she won in the first movie. Mal’s three sidekicks are all back for “2”: Carlos (Cameron Boyce), son of Cruella de Vil; Evie (Sofia Carson), daughter of the Evil Queen; and Jay (Booboo Stewart), son of Jafar.

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Not back is Kristin Chenoweth’s Maleficent, who ended the first movie as a tiny lizard. (Best gag in “Descendants 2”: A sign on a terrarium containing a lizard that reads, “Don’t feed my mom!”) Her absence saps some of the life from the movie, but the void is filled energetically by China Anne McClain, who joins the tale as Uma, daughter of Ursula the sea witch. Ms. McClain gives her character a much-needed sinisterness and also gets the best of the musical numbers.

As for the story, Mal goes into a movielong sulk when she decides that she’s just faking it in the good world and is really evil at the core, something she, and we, can tell because her eyes occasionally turn a vivid, bright green.

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