Secret Society of Second-Born Royals
Secret Society of Second-Born Royals 2020
As I was browsing through the new content on Disney+ I did find two superhero-esque movies on there that I hadn’t reviewed yet. One of them was Flora & Ulysses and the other was this movie. Both feel very much like Disney Channel Original Movies like a slightly modern update of something along the lines of Up, Up, and Away and for the most part, that’s exactly what this one feels like. While I was watching it, I was reminded of a dozen other movies that played out scenes very much like this one only the other movies did them way better. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this film or its characters, but everything just felt very generic and uninspired. On top of the cliche of making royalty seem like something that’s magical or mystical rather than a simple power grab that in modern times has largely evolved into celebrity figureheads with no real power yet cash in on their heritage.
The film starts off with some cliched narration giving basic exposition, and yet it’s not narration from the main character. Instead, it’s narration from the eventual teacher of the second-born royals. It’s a little on the ridiculous and lazy side of things to have him be the narrator because in the grand scheme of things he’s such a minor character. It would have still not been great, but would have been a bit better if it was the main girl Sam giving the narration. Something along the lines of the Princess Diaries where we get it from her perspective. In fact, we don’t really get a whole lot of her thoughts and feelings, just occasional generalizations. Sam is the stereotypical rebel younger daughter with the perfect soon-to-be-queen older sister. There’s barely any interaction between the two sisters, just a couple scenes where they’re in the same room, but the focus is more about the relationship between Sam and her mother rather than Sam and her sister. Then they all come together in a Disney everybody’s happy scene at the end.
The entire concept for this film is just completely ridiculous. The whole concept of “Royal” bloodlines is so outdated that this would almost make more sense if it took place in more of an alternate reality. In theory, placing this fairy tale concept of magical royalty with the Marvel concept of superheroes seems like a perfect match combining Disney’s Princess and Marvel properties in one movie. But the concept fails as the magical royalty is really out of place in the modern world, and the superhero concept is almost an afterthought despite the majority of the movie being a Kingsman-esque extreme (yet still kid-friendly) training montage.
Everything about this film felt like it was borrowing from some other movie that did it better. Early on, we get an interaction between Sam and the posh second-born princess who eventually becomes invisible that felt very much like Clueless, but instead it focused on her million+ “friends” which was also a slight pet peeve as Facebook has a much smaller limit on “friends” while most every other celebrity social media tracks their “followers”. They also had their Man of Steel moment where Sam got overwhelmed by her own super senses in the middle of a concert. Their main villain was trapped in a very Magneto-esque prison of one, and has telekinesis which isn’t too far off from Magneto’s power just without the metal restriction. The entire concept felt like a more modern retread of Sky High, which was also a Disney movie, they even had one the best friend type end up working with the main villain, and like Zoom: Academy of Superheroes the villain was related to one of the main characters.
But enough about what the movie does wrong, which is try to be like too many other movies. It’s not an awful movie by any means. The characters are all pretty much stereotypes, but they do have decent chemistry with each other. The awkward/shy kid works well with the initially shallow princess. Surprisingly the charmingly roguish kid with the power to compel others to do what he says doesn’t end up being a villain, though the villain does use his power a couple times. Which does bring to mind another villain who copies powers in the TV series Heroes. The relationship between Sam and her mother, who is also a second born royal and the head of the secret society works fairly well, and much better than the relationship between the two sisters. There’s also an entire subplot involving Sam and her non-royal best friend who she has to leave behind during her summer school in this secret society where she can’t tell him what’s going on so he think’s she’s ghosting her. It’s another plot that wasn’t handled in the best way as she was trying to do what was right, but it was completely driving apart their friendship, and when she finally caves and tells him everything, then he simply accepts it and everything’s suddenly hunky-dory.
As an origin story, this film also leaves a bit to be desired. They introduce this over-arching group of second-born royals, yet we only see three members that aren’t the group of five kids. Sam’s mom who can teleport, the teacher who’s basically Multiple Man, and another random princess who can breath underwater and looks somewhat similar to Sam’s mom which was confusing for a brief moment. We don’t even get any real confirmation of the other kids’ older siblings. There’s this dangerous villain on the loose and there’s no other members of this society that come in for back up. It makes the whole thing feel extremely small despite it trying to tell the audience that it’s this giant thing that’s existed for ages. Despite the fact that it doesn’t do anything terribly. There are no massive failures in terms of story, pacing, editing, or even effects, though all of the powers are relatively effects-lite. But it doesn’t do anything particularly well either. It’s just a standard, kid-friendly team of misfits finding their place in life movie with super powers. And it does that job completely adequately, which is about the best thing I can say for it. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.