"What did you do this weekend?" asks one of my coworkers.
"Oh, uh." I stammer, "Just, watched movies."
"That's cool, man. I was camping with the boys. What did you watch?"
I begin to sweat. I cannot think of anything but Barbie.
Film 22: Barbie in A Mermaid Tale 2 (2012)
Oh goody. A sequel to a Mermaid Tale. This was the Fairytopia: Magic of the Rainbow of Barbie Mermaid movies. The fact that I not only understand, but wrote that phrase scares me a little. The mermaids gotta do some ritual bullshit to save the ocean but there's an Australian surfer chick who gets roped into letting the evil bitch out from the last movie and blah blah blah. The Australian chick wasn't bitchy enough for me, she gets too nice too quick. The mermaid witch had some spell that made people experience their worst nightmare, and I thought people would overcome it by conquering their fear or something but it just goes away when Barbie does the ocean magic thing. Eh.
Film 23: Barbie: The Princess and the Popstar (2012)
Okay this one actually pissed me off. I knew they were gonna do another riff on Prince and the Pauper, but this is just insulting. As you all know, Princess and the Pauper is a perfect movie and the standard by which I judge any other Barbie movie. The songs were good, the plot made sense, I liked the characters, it had everything. This one was dumb. The reason a Prince and the Pauper story works is because of the gap in privilege between the two people, if they're both rich girls who have a comparable slew of responsibilities to maintain it then there's not much point in switching them. The songs suck too, they cover "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper, but change it to "Princesses Want to Have Fun" then they cover "Perfect Day" from Legally Blonde like three different times. Those are bad enough. BUT THEN. THEN!!! THEY COVER "To Be a Princess" FROM PRINCESS AND THE PAUPER AND THEY RUIN IT!!! Pauper had the charm of a stage musical, this is overproduced pop garbage. The villain can't hold a candle to Martin Short, he doesn't even have anything to do with our leads until he steals the magical diamond bush from the secret garden of the castle in the last 20 minutes of the movie but it's fine because they stop him and grow another diamond bush and WHO GIVES A SHIT FUCK THIS
Film 24: Barbie in The Pink Shoes (2013)
Another ballet movie! We haven't had one of those in a long time. I think Swan Lake was the last one, since strictly speaking 12 Dancing Princesses was just a dancing movie, not ballet. The motion capture for dancing has gotten way better than it was, when characters are choreographed the same there's little variations so they don't just look like soulless robots following the same command. So Barbie's in a ballet... studio(?) and there's some big recital but Barbie keeps going off-step and freestyling, which is bad. Then her and her nerdy costumer friend get transported to Ballet World when Barbie puts on the eponymous shoes. There's like, four ballets referenced in there, Giselle, Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and The Snow Queen. They kinda traipse their way through some of these plots and change shit, which the Snow Queen don't like, but then Barbie beats her at the end because she can just dance too good. I don't really get the end. Barbie ends up freestyling at the recital but suddenly now it's a good thing? The only thing that changed after she went to Ballet-Verse was the mean ballet girl was suddenly nice to her after. Still, this might be the classiest Barbie movie since Nutcracker.
Film 25: Barbie: Mariposa & The Fairy Princess (2013)
Is it just me or are they running out of ideas? A sequel to a previous movie isn't unheard of with Barbie, but then they did the same plot again with Princess and the Popstar, and now they're doing a sequel five years after the last one. I had some high hopes for this one, given how unexpectedly good Mariposa was, which as always with Barbie movies was a mistake. For the first time I wish Kelly Sheridan hadn't voiced the main character, since the first Mariposa had Chiara Zanni as main VA, and she had a great performance. Getting Sheridan for this one seems like filing off the edges to me. Not only did they bring back Sheridan, they GAVE MARIPOSA A FUCKING BIBBLE. I HATE BIBBLE SO MUCH. I WANT TO CRUSH BIBBLE IN A HYDRAULIC PRESS. BIBBLE SHOULD BE SENT BACK IN TIME TO 1692 SALEM AND TRIED AS A WITCH. The stupid thing isn't the same Bibble, it's just the same creature, an ostensibly cute annoying creature that sort of talks in obnoxious gibberish. Anything like that is a Bibble. Baby Yoda, for example, is a Bibble. In this one the queen sends Mariposa to the Crystal Fairy Kingdom as an ambassador, because for some reason they have hated each other for a long time but relations are possible again. Now this is what we in the biz call a Racism Movie. It follows a really boring structure. Fairy King says something racist, Bibble and Bad Bibble do something annoying, then Mariposa fucks up and knocks shit over with her wings and the king gets all mad. You really can't make an entertaining movie for kids when the message is something as tangible as "Racism is bad." It's too concrete a thing and you really gotta hammer it in so kids don't somehow think being a racist is great. If the message is, like, "Believe in yourself" you got a lot more leeway for story. Now I don't usually get in on this, but it seemed like Mariposa and the Crystal Princess might have been in Lesbians, even though the prince back home with a Burning Latin Passion was sweet on her. I will never check because I have already gone too far, but I feel like there could have been Edward or Jacob level shipping wars over this back in the day. The last thing that bothered me is that at the end, Mariposa magically gets different wings, when that's exactly what happened at the end of the other Mariposa movie. I get toys and all that, but does she really need to get new wings every time she accomplishes a task? It's like if I got a new hairdo every time I finished one of these articles.
Film 26: Barbie & Her Sisters in A Pony Tale (2013)
Okay I get the pun but there's only one pony in this movie, it's really about horses. You might not know this about me, but I don't like horses. Nothing made up of a ton of muscle with a brain the size of a walnut can be trusted. If a horse wanted me dead, there is not a single thing I could do to stop it. Sure, the same can be said about bears, but ain't nobody making movies about how cute bears are and how we should just ride them around! Unfortunately, this one is actually pretty good. This one is set in Real Life again, where the Roberts family goes to their aunt's horse school in Switzerland and they gotta win the big horse competition or the school will be closed down. That doesn't matter so much as the mythical wild horse that Barbie finds. There's a nice 2D animated section where a French guy tells Barbie the Horse Legend, and I was primed to believe these were stupid magical horses, especially since the French guy's evil brother, Napoleon, is trying to get the horses for himself. Turns out, it's just a really fucking fast horse. Barbie uses it to win the race at the end, but I feel like there's gotta be a rule against bringing a wild horse to a race. I ain't no horse guy. At any rate the dynamic between the Roberts sisters is just as good as A Perfect Christmas, which is nice to see.
Film 27: Barbie: The Pearl Princess (2014)
What I want to say here is "Oh great another mermaid movie woohoo," but there really haven't been that many mermaid ones in comparison to the fairy ones. And I hate to say it, but this one was pretty good. It's got the same "Barbie is a secret princess" angle also used in Rapunzel, Island Princess, A Mermaid Tale, and Princess Charm School. Only this time her caretaker was hired to poison Barbie as a baby but couldn't bear to do it, so the poison lady raised Barbie secretly to protect her from the queen's brother who covets the throne. Meanwhile that brother wants to poison the king and set up his own son as the new monarch. Only problem is that the king's nephew is a fucking nerd and all he cares about are plants. He's great, give him a movie. Oh, and Barbie has the magic power to control pearls, which is apparently a part of the royal bloodline. So the plan gets stopped and Barbie becomes princess. The Evil Brother has an eel henchman that sounds like Peter Lorre, and he's really expressive and fun to watch. The bad guy's number two has a lot to do with whether I find a movie annoying or not. You got a good one in there and it's a lot of points. There's also a hairdresser mermaid who has a New Jersey accent, and I love her.
Film 28: Barbie and the Secret Door (2014)
SECRET DOOR SECRET DOOR SECRET DOOR SECRET DOOR SECRET DOOR. At first this one seemed pretty unremarkable, Barbie is a princess with social anxiety who would rather read than be around people, until a book her grandmother gives her opens up a door to some Narnia/Wonderland and Barbie has to save all the fairies, mermaids, and unicorns, but it's a bunch of little things that raise it up. The animations are really snappy and expressive, especially the facial animations. Sure, there's some bouncing gopher things I find terrifying, but there's a few other creature designs I quite like. Against all odds, they made another musical I don't hate! It's no Princess and the Pauper, but the songs drive the plot forward and aren't grating. It's got a comedic dumb character, which as you know is the cornerstone of good comedy. Most importantly: The villain is an evil little girl princess, and she gets a villain song which is easily the best song of the movie. She's got a Darla Dimple vibe, and that's just good filmmaking. The world design, though admittedly oversaturated, is strong, probably the best since Mariposa. It's a charming movie, though it made me wonder when the trend of Barbie getting a new magical dress at the end of the movie started. It seems to at least have been the last few. Whatever, I'm not going back and checking.
Oh shit that's two 6's in a row. I thought the golden age was past when a second Mariposa showed up, but this week finished strong. I didn't expect there to be quality films this far down the line. Yeah, we got a lot of stinkers before, but given that I was aware of Barbie movies shortly after these came out, I thought they would mostly be trash. Speaking of which next week has the Barbie movies I've actually seen before! That will be the real test if immersing myself exclusively in Barbie media is affecting my brain and possibly giving me a B shaped tumor on my hypothalamus. We'll see next time!