Entertainment

‘Secret Society of Second-Born Royals’ review: Cheap superhero schlock

Pity the royal sibling?

TV has long taught us that being an ineffectual HRH, from Princess Margaret to Prince Harry, has its drawbacks. You’re trapped in a stuffy, rules-obsessed institution for life, cowering under a media microscope, and you’ll likely never ascend to the top job. Boo-hoo.

All that considered, it’s awfully hard to take whining from someone whose Champagne is taxpayer-funded.

The wretched new Disney+ film “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals” spotlights this rarified, grumpy group of wealthy misfits and turns them into biological superheroes. Just what we needed — hereditary privilege upon hereditary privilege. Whereas watching the homeless orphan of “Shazam!” getting cool powers grabbed your heart, a bunch of rich princes and princesses discovering they are even more special is nauseating.

Even if the movie doesn’t make you lose your lunch, you can’t deny its total absence of logic. The story is set in the fake country of Illyria, which, unlike the ancient European land (the present-day Balkans) it’s named after, looks an awful lot like Toronto. Even dumber, this shiny metropolitan kingdom is an absolute monarchy. There are almost none of those left in the world, save for such human-rights utopias as Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Everyone in posh Illyria speaks in American or British accents, even at the special high school there for all the world’s royal children. We never learn about any of their homelands.

Princess Sam (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) of Illyria has become an anti-monarchist rebel, staging tame protests that are usually broken up by cops. She’s also resentful of her older sister, who is being groomed to be queen. Sam’s latest infraction lands her in summer school.

Peyton Elizabeth Lee, Faly Rakotohavana, Niles Fitch and Olivia Deeble in "Secret Society of Second Born Royals."
Peyton Elizabeth Lee, Faly Rakotohavana, Niles Fitch and Olivia Deeble in “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals”©Disney+/Everett Collection

But on the first day, Sam learns this is no ordinary class, but an organization of royal “spares,” who have all been born with extraordinary abilities. Sam has super senses, Roxana (Olivia Deeble) can become invisible and Matteo (Faly Rakotohavana) controls insects. Their teacher, Professor Morrow (Skylar Astin), can duplicate his body. They’re the Mehx-Men.

For three months, they learn to use their powers — which I assume are the result of millennia of incestuous bloodlines — to stop bad guys. And they get into fights with their besties and enjoy a “we’re having fun!” montage in a park.

Much of the teenybopper tedium could be forgiven because this movie is aimed at younger viewers. But in how many kids movies do you hear the phrase “weapons of mass destruction” uttered, or watch as characters push to create a parliament? The script, in trying to do so much, does hardly anything at all. Anything, that is, but hand us another store-brand hero movie.

Thanks to Marvel, many films are trying to cash in on cape-and-spandex mania right now, but unlike the MCU, they look like crapola. If you’re going to make a superhero movie today, you gotta have a budget. “Secret Society,” perhaps, had Microsoft Paint.

Even Netflix’s knowingly ridiculous “A Christmas Prince” had more production value, wit and charm. If your kid wants to watch a princess film, try “The Princess Diaries.” It has heart, good jokes and a wonderful early-career performance from Anne Hathaway. Julie Andrews, now there’s a superhero!

This Post first appeared on “New York Post”

New York Post

The New York Post is a daily tabloid newspaper in New York City. The Post also operates NYPost.com, the celebrity gossip site PageSix.com and the entertainment site Decider.com.

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