What happens when you mix together elements of popular Disney-produced programs like “The Descendants”, “Lab Rats”, “Princess Protection Program” and “Andi Mack” and sprinkle them with a healthy dose of “Kim Possible”? You get “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals”, a new 90-minute live-action film that starts streaming exclusively on Disney+ on September 25.
Set in the fictional, but realistically modern-day, kingdom of Illyria, the film introduces viewers to a cast of diverse royal teenagers, each with an older sibling who will one day ascend to the throne of their respective kingdoms. Unbeknownst to them, each of these “second-borns” possesses a “super power” giving them entree into the Secret Society that will hone their skills while training them to protect their countries from behind the scenes.
Fans of Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack” will recognize Peyton Elizabeth Lee in the pivotal role of Princess Sam. A rather typical rebellious teen, Sam rejects the idea of royalty and, along with her “commoner” friend Mike, would rather play in a band than fulfill her regal duties. What Sam doesn’t know is that her days of being the second-best spare heir are soon to be over. As Sam’s sister prepares for her coronation as queen, Sam suddenly finds herself sentenced to a term of dreaded summer school. There she encounters a small group of mismatched classmates who turn out to be similar non-heirs with secret abilities that make them all candidates for the Secret Society.
Operating under the cover story of “summer school,” the young royals embark on a rigorous training program that employs a variety of cool cutting-edge technologies. As they learn, the teenage students not only develop their “powers”, but also grow to realize the importance of teamwork and of putting the needs of others before their own. Their new skills are tested sooner than they expect, however, as they are suddenly faced with the challenge of the mysterious and menacing “Inmate 34” who breaks out of prison with the apparent mission of destroying Illyria.
Besides Lee, familiar faces in the cast include Niles Fitch (teenage Randall on the NBC series “This is Us”) as Prince Tuma and Skylar Astin (Jesse from the “Pitch Perfect” films) as the young royals’ teacher. Rounding out the ensemble are: Olivia Deeble (“Home and Away”) as Roxana; Faly Rakotohavana (“Raven’s Home”) as Matteo; Isabella Blake Thomas (“Once Upon A Time”) as January; Elodie Yung (“Daredevil”) as Queen Catherine; Ashley Liao (“Always Be My Maybe”) as soon-to-be-queen Eleanor; Noah Lomax (“Trial By Fire”) as Mike; and Greg Bryk (“Handmaid’s Tale”) as the evil Inmate 34.
Based on an original story by Alex Litvak, Andrew Green and Austin Winsberg, Secret Society of Second-Born Royals is filled with plenty of action, daring stunts and cool special effects. Under the direction of Anna Mastro, who also worked on Marvel’s “Runaways,” the young cast interacts well and shares an easy camaraderie during the film’s light and quasi-romantic moments, yet they are clearly up to the challenge of tackling the more serious undercurrents. It’s fun to watch them develop into the behind-the-scenes leaders they will become, which leaves the viewer wondering whether a series might be spun off from the movie?
All in all, “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals” is a fast-paced film with just the right mix of thrills, adventure and humor that will certainly please its target demographic of young teens. And Mom and Dad will probably enjoy it as well!
Here’s a taste of “Secret Society of Second-Born Royals,” streaming exclusively on Disney+ starting September 25.