[Screen It]


(2020) (Peyton Elizabeth Lee, Niles Fitch) (Not Rated)

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Action/Adventure: A rebellious 15-year-old princess learns she has superhero type powers and is invited to join a secret society of other second-born royals tasked with protecting monarchies around the world.

Sam (PEYTON ELIZABETH LEE) is the 15-year-old princess of Europe's smallest country, Illyria. Raised by her mother, Queen Catherine (ELODIE YUNG), since she was five when a plane crash killed her father, the king, and uncle, Sam has grown up to be a rebel. That's especially true now that her older sister, Eleanor (ASHLEY LIAO), is about to turn eighteen and become the new queen. After another round of misbehaving, Sam learns from her mom that she's going to be sent to summer school and thus won't be able to continue making music with her best friend, Mike (NOAH LOMAX), whose dad is the royal gardener.

Upset about that, Sam initially wants nothing to do with her small group of classmates. They include Princess January (ISABELLA BLAKE THOMAS) who's there for extra credit; Princess Roxana (OLIVIA DEEBLE), who only cares about her large social media following; Prince Tuma (NILES FITCH) who accidentally burned down a chemistry lab with his friends; and the wallflower Prince Matteo (FALY RAKOTOHAVANA) whose parents think might benefit from finally interacting with other students.

Their teacher is James Morrow (SKYLAR ASTIN) who shocks all of them with news that due to the supernatural powers they're only now starting to recognize they're eligible to join the "Secret Society of Second-Born Royals." It's an organization tasked with defending the various monarchies and related royals around the world from the likes of Inmate 34 (GREG BRYK), a dangerous telepath who's been locked away for a decade. They also learn -- and Sam is shocked by -- that Queen Catherine is the leader of the secret society, and that like this younger generation, she too is a second-born royal who possesses super abilities.

As the students begin their training to see which of them will be allowed to join the society, little do anything of them know that Inmate 34 has escaped and is planning to get revenge on the various royals who will be gathering for Princess Eleanor's upcoming coronation.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10

It's funny -- okay, maybe not so much hilarious as enlightening -- to look back through old family photos and see a ton featuring my older sister when she was a baby. That's understandable, what with being the first-born in the family.

But perhaps the shine of parenthood -- what with all of the sleepless nights, diaper changing, terrible twos temper tantrums, and so on -- had already rubbed off by the time I came along more than three years later. Because in comparison, there are far fewer photos of yours truly in my early years.

And it's not that I'm bitter about the disparity, it just would have been nice to see more evidence of what I looked like way back when before digital cameras and then smartphones made taking thousands of pictures easier than, well, what it used to be like.

Perhaps that's what I felt a bit of a kindred spirit with the protagonist in "Secret Society of Second-Born Royals" for she too is, natch, second-born and living in the shadow of her older sister. Of course, I wasn't born a girl in a royal monarchy and didn't grow up to suddenly discover that I have superhero type powers, so that comparison between us is, well, fairly limited.

Peyton Elizabeth Lee stars as 15-year-old Sam, whose long-widowed mother, Catherine (Elodie Yung), is the queen of Europe's smallest country, Illyria, and whose older sister, Eleanor (Ashley Liao), is about to turn eighteen and thus be named the new monarch of the land. While her sibling is prim and proper and a poster child for royal life, Sam is a rebellious punk rocker who sings down with the monarchy songs with her drummer and best friend, Mike (Noah Lomax).

When an evening out with him results in both spending the night in jail for a pulled fire alarm in a club they've snuck into, underage style, Sam's mom sends her off to summer school where she wants no part of her classmates -- Princess Roxana (Olivia Deeble), Prince Tuma (Niles Fitch), Princess January (Isabella Blake Thomas), and Prince Matteo (Faly Rakotohavana) -- or their Paul Ruddish type teacher, Mr. Morrow (Skylar Astin).

But they're all shocked to learn that being second-born royals, they've been gifted by birth, nature, or just good luck a gene that's enabled them with a superpower specific to just them. For Sam, it's having hyper-sensory abilities where she can see and hear things others can't. Roxana gets invisibility, Matteo can control bugs, Tuma can control other people through verbal commands, and January can borrow any of those powers for herself for short durations.

They also learn that the current Queen is actually in charge of this top-secret program where such second-borns are tasked with protecting monarchies around the world. And that's important because in Illyria, a super-villain initially only known as Inmate 34 (Greg Bryk) has just escaped and is plotting his revenge against Queen Catherine and the rest of the royals at Eleanor's upcoming coronation.

What follows is about as predictable as they come, with Sam losing her standoffish 'tude with her classmates as they bond and train together, all while her friendship with Mike begins to wane and suffer a bit. But fear not fans of royals with superpowers, for all will turn out well as everyone comes together to defeat the bad guy just in the nick of time.

As directed by Anna Mastro from a screenplay co-written by Alex Livak and Andrew Green, the flick feels a bit more like a TV movie than a big-screen one (there's no wow Marvel vibe happening), and that's okay as that's where it's going to be viewed on Disney+. I imagine lots of young girls (and perhaps a few boys) will enjoy this mash-up of royals, princesses, and the ability to perform like a superhero.

Decent, but making me wonder why only second-born royals get to be superheroes unlike the rest of us photo album challenged ordinary folk, "Secret Society of Second-Born Royals" proves that second-born doesn't mean second best. It rates as a 5.5 out of 10.

Reviewed September 20, 2020 / Posted September 25, 2020

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