Disney princesses get an upgrade in the Disney+ original movie Secret Society of Second-Born Royals, which premiered on Disney+ on Sept. 25. The fearless princesses and princes in this live-action film actually join a top-secret training program reserved for second-born royals, with one goal: to save the world! (No sleeping for practically an entire movie or getting married at 16 years old here.) The movie stars Peyton Elizabeth Lee (Andi Mack) as Princess Samantha of Illyria, Niles Fitch (Miss Virginia) as Tuma, Isabella Blake-Thomas (Doctor Who) as January, Olivia Deeble (Home and Away) as Princess Roxana, Faly Rakotohavana (Nightmare Cinema) as Matteo, Skylar Astin (Pitch Perfect) as Professor James Morrow, Elodie Yung (Daredevil) as Queen Catherine, and more.
As Sam grows bored of the princess life that she doesn't fit in with, her mom sends her to "summer school." There, she discovers she — and the four other students in the room — all have superpowers unique to them. She is invited to join the coolest secret club of all time made up of other second-born royals and led by James. However, in order to be part of it, nobody can know they exist (even their families). Shockingly, Sam's mom, Queen Catherine, is the head of the Secret Society of Second-Born Royals. All summer, the students will train for a chance to be part of the club; if they fail, their memories will be erased, and they'll forget. Everything is a test — but the students don't know that there is a real criminal on the loose who escaped from prison with the help from an unknown person. Keep reading for a few things for parents to note before watching Secret Society of Second-Born Royals with their kids.
- Lying to your parents, skirting authority, and breaking the rules happen a few times in the movie.
For example, in order to escape a stuffy royal event, Sam tells her mom she has a headache and has to study. However, she actually goes out with her friend, Mike. They sneak into a club to listen to live music, where there are plenty of people around them dancing and drinking (although they don't partake). Sam starts hearing intense sounds, so she pulls a fire alarm, causing the friends to spend the night in jail.
- There are no curse words in the movie.
Although there are some common slang words like "sucks." They also talk about some violent content, like murder.
- Although there is some light violence, there is no blood or gore.
Some scenes can be tense and dramatic, with fighting that leaves one character hospitalized. Princess Roxana punches an escaped prisoner when she is invisible, and he retaliates by choking January and fighting with Sam. Afterward, Sam runs into the woods after him, which is dark and can be scary for younger kids or those more sensitive to violence. This scene is intense, and it has a jump scare: Sam is looking around the woods when Inmate 34 drops on her from up above, then crushes her with a tree. Later, James is knocked unconscious and injured during a fight and taken to the hospital, all of which may be scary for young viewers.
- Mild flirting occurs between the students.
There is nothing overly sexual or inappropriate during the movie at all — it's all very light-hearted and fun.
- It features Disney's first live-action Black prince.
He is funny, charismatic, and one of the main stars of the show. He is a positive role model for kids, showing children that people of all races can be royalty, heroes, stars — something that has historically been a problem for Disney movies.
- The movie also features diverse female leads.
Queen Catherine is queen of Illyria and also the head of the Secret Society. She is confident, authoritative, strong, and kind (a practically unheard of combination for women in charge in the Disney canon). Sam and her sister, Eleanor (played by Ashley Liao), are both princesses with wildly different views who end up getting along in the end. Eleanor actually becomes queen, showing yet another strong female lead. At the beginning of the movie, Sam wears a "feminist" shirt and encourages the people around her to speak out and make their voice heard — a timely message, especially during an election year.
- Overall, it's filled with timely issues and positive messages.
The movie touches on the topic of the white savior complex by showing a girl who wants to go to Haiti to live-stream her trip for her followers instead of actually helping the people there. It also shows the villain wanting to murder an entire group of people based on their "royal" gene. It mentions feeling invisible when you do something that you can't post online. It talks about not having friends at school, feeling left out, feeling inferior to an older sibling, and feeling lost and offers helpful alternatives to everything. The kids don't make fun of the boy whose power is to control bugs; they embrace him as part of the group. They forgive each other when they make mistakes. They bond and grow close, eventually realizing the best way to succeed is by working together and playing to everyone's strengths.
Secret Society of Second-Born Royals has all the heartfelt Disney charm of the many others Disney original movies before it. It's filled with hope, shattered expectations, reconciliation of family members, betrayal of friendships, evil villains, beautiful dresses, budding romances — all done in a new yet familiar way. It's super cute, though younger viewers might get bored with its many slow moments, and older children may have trouble keeping up with its twists and somewhat detailed plot points. Be prepared to pause and explain a few key things throughout (what it means to betray a friend, how to talk to someone feeling left out, genocide, murder) as well as to mention the importance of diversity and showing powerful female characters (who are more worried about saving the world than falling in love!). It's a perfect option for your next family movie night.