“Secret Society of Second-Born Royals” stars Peyton Elizabeth Lee, Skylar Astin, Élodie Yung, Niles Fitch, Ashley Liao, Noah Lomax, Faly Rakotohavana, Isabella Blake-Thomas, Olivia Deeble, and Greg Bryk. Released on Disney+ on September 25, 2020, the film is about a princess who gets recruited into an organization of super-powered second-born royals.
The film is directed by Anna Mastro, who served as an assistant to director McG. Remember those moments when you are scrolling through the list of movies and shows on your streaming service and you find something that’s too outlandish to believe? I just encountered that moment. That’s right, readers, I am reviewing a princess movie, but not just any princess movie. It’s a superhero princess movie. Got your attention, didn’t I? This is probably one of the strangest films that I have ever had the privilege to talk about, mostly because of the fact that it involves a princess with superpowers. Move over, Rapunzel, because there’s a new magical princess in town. All I know about this film is that it is helmed by McG’s protege (surprise, surprise), and it is produced by Disney Channel. Sounds like we’re off to a pretty interesting start. My guess is that it was originally going to be an original movie for the channel, but was later moved to Disney+ to attract a wider audience. It would make sense since I haven’t watched Disney Channel that much now that I have Disney+ on my television. Whatever the real reason was, it definitely looked like something that Disney would develop for one of their television channels. But enough of all of that television talk, let’s see if this latest Disney+ film has enough royalty in its bones to justify its concept.
Set in the land of Illyria, the story follows Sam (Lee), a second-born princess who would rather play music than get the royal treatment. She’s also the younger sister of Eleanor (Liao) who’s preparing to take the throne following the death of their father and uncle. After causing an accident while hanging out with her friend Mike (Lomax), Sam is forced by her mother Catherine (Yung) to attend summer school in order to make up for her mistakes. The summer school that she’s attending actually turned out to be a top secret society lead by Professor James Morrow (Astin), whose goal is to teach other second-born royals to use their given abilities to protect their monarchies. With the help of her new friends, Sam must learn to harness her powers in order to save the world from a ruthless villain (Bryk). The film is obviously a combination of any superhero team movie like “X-Men” and “The Avengers” and a kid-friendly princess movie with a dash of television-movie quality to boost its flavor. So, consider this as a possible substitute for kids who are too young to watch the teen-rated superhero films. As expected, the film has the look and feel of a television movie for the Disney Channel in terms of its budget and the filmmaking quality. In other words, don’t expect it to be a film that offers gorgeous visuals and big set pieces. But does that make it a bad film? Well, in some parts, maybe. I wouldn’t say that it’s as unbearable as “Artemis Fowl”, another film that premiered on Disney+. However, I wouldn’t say that it’s another win for the streaming service either. It’s a somewhat enjoyable film that delivers what we expected from a Disney teen film about a group of royals that have superpowers…and nothing else. There were actually plenty of opportunities for the film to expand beyond its simplistic concept, such as its world-building, but then I realized that, once again, it’s a film that acts like a made-for-television movie, so…screw me for thinking that. Despite showcasing some relatable messages, its plot is very formulaic to a fault and the screenplay by Alex Litvak and Andrew Green is full of cheesy dialogue and average jokes that would make any strict viewer want to have the power to make the film disappear. If you don’t mind any of those nitpick-worthy flaws and just want to watch a bunch of teenage royals save the world from evil, then you should be fine watching this with your kids. The performances from the cast weren’t exactly Oscar-worthy, but they’re fine enough to make the film (and their characters) watchable. Peyton Elizabeth Lee, who is known for her role in Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack”, takes center stage as Sam and for the most part, she did all right. Not perfect, not awful, just somewhere in the middle. Skylar Astin was also quite enjoyable as James Morrow, and Élodie Yung from Netflix’s “Daredevil” was respectable in her role as Catherine. As for the visuals themselves, they range from okay to pretty cheap. They’re not as horribly made as the ones from the other television films, but I can easily tell that they’re not something that I would call “groundbreaking”.
Overall, “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals” isn’t as heroic as it could’ve been, but it has enough tolerable moments to make this wannabe franchise-starter a fine watch for those who are curious. It won’t win everyone over due to its storytelling being formulaic and weak. However, it does provide some little entertainment value thanks to its cast and its messages about teamwork and responsibility. I guess you can say it’s like Disney Channel’s other television film “Kim Possible” back in 2019. It’s not a great television film, but it has some moments that I personally thought was passable.