Review by Sean Boelman
Like a blend of a Disney princess movie and a superhero flick, Secret Society of Second-Born Royals is exactly the type of action-packed entertainment that Millennials and early Gen Zers would have loved to see when they were growing up. And while its production qualities and world-building were likely more fit for a series than a feature-length film, it’s still an enormously entertaining watch.
The movie follows a teenage princess who discovers that she has superpowers gifted to her by a gene exclusive to second-born children of royal bloodlines as she is recruited into a training program designed to prepare her to protect her kingdom and the world. More than anything, this feels like the first half of an origin story, the training portions being extremely satisfying but the villain seeming like little more than a tease of what is to come.
Of course, given the fact that the film is primarily aimed at pre-teen audiences, one can expect it to be very hyperactive. And it will have no difficulty in keeping the attention of younger viewers, as there is enough low-octane action to keep it entertaining, even if the fight sequences don’t quite take advantage of the unique superpowers.
A good deal of the runtime is spent building the connection between the members of the group, and it works quite well. While the characters are all rather archetypal, they go into building that team dynamic that is what will allow the property to have such longevity (especially since the actors’ aging will be such an obstacle for its franchise potential).
Much like most other Disney Princess movies, this has a great message, encouraging young people to make their own way despite what expectations may be placed on them by their family or the world. And even though Sam may not be the most memorable heroine, the eponymous group works well as a unit, and each character will have their own fans.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee is charming in her leading role, although she carries over some of the delivery from television, which has a very different rhythm. That said, her chemistry with her young co-stars creates a very believable dynamic. And the two adult stars, Elodie Yung and Skylar Astin, are both fun to watch even if their roles don’t give them much of a chance to stand out.
Visually, the film is a bit lacking, but one wouldn’t expect this to have the same budget as a movie produced to be shown in theaters. The CGI is excessive and cheap-looking, and the action sequences are pretty repetitive and unoriginal. That said, the costume design is truly a standout and a mere taste of the potential this has should it be afforded more money.
Secret Society of Second-Born Royals is a fun pre-teen superhero flick that’s better than the average Disney Channel movie. It will certainly leave audiences wanting to see more of these characters and this world, making it one of the more exciting Disney+ offerings yet.
Secret Society of Second-Born Royals streams on Disney+ beginning September 25.