Sunday, June 25, 2023

Life In Plastic: A Barbie Marathon Part 4

I arrive at work on a Monday morning. My coworkers are talking about sports, camping, all the usual guy stuff.

"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!

Monday, June 19, 2023

Life In Plastic: A Barbie Marathon Part 3

I haven't been out of the house for a while. A friend invited me out to a bar for wing night. I accepted.

"How's it going?" he asked.

"Barbie movies." I replied.


"I hate Bibble." I blurted out. "I want to throw Bibble off a cliff."

He looked at me for a long, withering moment.


Film 15: Barbie Presents: Thumbelina (2009)

I'm beginning to think watching a Barbie movie every day for six weeks is not a sustainable pace. There's only so much Barbie one grown man can watch before things start deteriorating. It certainly don't help when this is the shit they're serving. It's another with a framing device, Barbie telling this story to Kelly (Not yet Chelsea) about plants or something. Now I ain't no Thumbelina expert, but from my recollection she's supposed to be from like, normal people and her name is because she's as big as a thumb. Well in this Thumbelina is part of a race of teeny tiny people like the Borrowers, except they also have plant growing powers? That's like naming a normal girl Thumbelina! It don't make sense! They should have just been fairies. Thumbelina and her friends even make wings out of leaves they use to fly around the whole movie. They're just fairies! Not to mention the plot is just some Ferngully shit. Thumbelina has to teach this little rich girl empathy so her parents don't bulldoze the tiny people's home and put up a bullshit factory. This is the first Barbie movie to have cellphones and stuff in it, it's jarring after all the fantasy stuff. I found everyone annoying. This is for babies, and I'm not a baby. I'm an adult man who watches Barbie movies.


Film 16: Barbie and the Three Musketeers (2009)

Now, this might be me losing my mind from the strictly Barbie media diet and all, but this film felt like a fever dream. This is the first Barbie movie to have, like, actual sexism in it. Everyone's all "Girls can't be Musketeers!" and so Barbie becomes a cleaning lady at the castle instead, and it turns out all her coworkers want to be Musketeers. Then it turns out the old lady who works cleaning the castle has like, a secret Musketeer training room, and also has the skills of a Musketeer? The prince is obsessed with hot air balloons, and Tim Curry is trying to kill him. Yeah, Tim Curry is back voicing a villain and I couldn't be happier. Barbie swordfights a dude, some other chick fights guys using fans, then Barbie's pet cat starts swordfighting a dog. I dunno man.


Film 17: Barbie in A Mermaid Tale (2010)

It's Aquaman. Barbie's just Aquaman. She's the halfsies child of some land dude and a mermaid and she has a secret destiny to save the underwater kingdom from an evil queen SHE'S AQUAMAN. Weirdly enough this is probably the first movie that has a clothes try-on scene. I figured what with Barbies being dolls that you dress up it would play a more prominent role, but what do I know. There's annoying psychic mermaid teens that can tell the future. I guess an interesting part is that Barbie doesn't wanna be a mermaid, in contrast to every single little girl I've ever met. The villain is almost exactly the same as the one from Diamond Castle, and I think that's the only time I've seen them reuse a villain design so far. At one point to distract the evil queen the whole mermaid town starts singing a song and, infuriatingly, it gets stuck in my head sometimes.


Film 18: Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale (2010)

SHE'S HERE! FINALLY! Yes, you guessed it, Rrrrrrraquelle, the one the only! They ditched her earlier design from Diaries and now we have her current design, more or less. She's got bangs though. (I don't know enough about what hairstyles say about a person to make a statement on whether this is more or less true to her character.) Okay now I'm probably mischaracterizing this movie. Raquelle is in it for maybe a couple minutes. However! She sets the whole plot off. See, this Barbie (No longer played by Kelly Sheridan, instead it looks like Diana Kaarina is taking over for a while) is the one who acted in all the previous movies. She mentions working on Three Musketeers, and has a poster for A Mermaid Tale in her trailer. After she gets fired for offering moderate suggestions to a director onset, she gets a call from Ken (YES KEN'S HERE BABY) where he breaks up with her, so Barbie decides to fuck off to Paris and spend time with her Aunt Millicent. But it turns out Raquelle faked the whole thing and now Ken's gotta get to Paris as a grand romantic gesture to get her back. Meanwhile Barbie finds out her aunt's fashion... shop? Fashion house? Boutique? Nakedness Refusal Center is closing down because nobody likes her clothes no more and also the French bitch across the road has been committing Clothes Plaigarism. So it's up to Barbie, a subtly enchanting shy bookish French girl who has a secret passion for designing, and three random fairies (sorry, Flairies) to set up a big fashion show to save the building. Ken's whole Planes, Trains, and Automobiles subplot is pretty funny, though there's also a subplot with a dog designer who's in love with Barbie's dog and I wonder why this is the one set in "real life" if magic and human-level intelligence animals were gonna be in it. On the other hand, I think this is the first kiss I've seen in a Barbie movie.


Film 19: Barbie: A Fairy Secret (2011)

NOW THIS IS WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT! A full supporting role for the queen of queens, my creepy obsession, RAQUELLE! She's in full form this time, being a huge bitch almost the whole time. Even when she's not talking, she's in the background rolling her eyes or making blah blah motions with her hand. Seeing as how Raquelle (my love, my muse) is in there it should be obvious this is a sequel of sorts to A Fashion Fairytale, and since Magic is Real they can just go buckwild. See, Fashion Fairies exist. Listen, don't ask me. What's important is the Fairy Princess sees Ken and wants him so fucking bad she kidnaps him and plans to marry him the next day. Barbie, Raquelle, and two new characters who have been Fashion Fairies the whole time (GASP) go to the fairyworld to save Ken. Ken's subplot is even funnier this time, where the fairy princess keeps forgetting his name, and her previous suitor challenges him to a duel, which he almost refuses til it's implied he's not Man enough. I love how when Ken is in these he's just shit on over and over. Also all the ladies fall for Ken. He's just a poor himbo without a clue. They actually nail down the source of Raquelle's envy, where since high school she assumed Barbie thought she was better than everyone else, and Raquelle has just been paying her back in kind. It makes sense, Barbie's more human in this than Life in the Dreamhouse, like she gets genuinely mad at Raquelle at one point. I'm a little disappointed though, since getting all that out in the open makes Barbie and Raquelle actual friends, instead of Raquelle being a bitter envious bitch forever. Whatever, man. I got what I wanted.

Rating: Raquelle/BARBIE

Film 20: Barbie: Princess Charm School (2011)

Holy shit how the hell did they do it. They made me like a movie called Princess Charm School. Either that or I'm losing my fucking mind. This one don't take place in "Real Life," instead in some fictional kingdom with a gamified royal system. At some point in the past the whole royal family died in a car crash, so they opened up some kind of school for noble kids and the best one gets to be princess. The real twist is that they have a lottery for commoners to get in, and who else should win but our friend Barbie. There's almost some class-consciousness here, beyond the "how am I gonna learn to be a princess" that's more common. At one point the prospective future princess (who is a mean girl) and her evil bitch of a mom say once they have the throne they'll demolish the slums for some upscale housing and a park. But, like, Barbie, her sister, and her sick mom live in those slums. It's like Princess and the Pauper, it ain't exactly The Jungle but any mention of economic class in a Barbie movie is something I didn't expect. But yeah we got redemption of the mean girl, we got the plot twist where it turns out Barbie is actually the not-dead princess like Anastasia, and I forgot to mention that each student of the charm school has an actual fairy as a servant. That's a bit weird. All of that don't actually matter because the highlight of this movie is Portia, a girl who looks and acts as if she's stoned out of her goddamn mind. It's true that a stupid character is easy mode for comedy, but it's not a guarantee. (See Ghostbusters (2016). She's great and should get her own movie.


Film 21: Barbie: A Perfect Christmas (2011)

I want to preface this with the very real possibility that this project is actively altering my mind and you should all cut me some slack. Okay. This movie made me think and feel things. I know! I know! Hear me out! This is another "Real Life" sort of movie, but this time it features all of Barbie's sisters. We got Skipper for the first time, the oldest sister, Stacy the middle one, and Kelly has finally transformed into Chelsea. They're all going to New York City for Christmas to see their Aunt Millicent, but a bunch of winter storms happen so they're stuck in some Christmas hotel in Minnesota. It's interesting because each sister has a little emotional arc. Skipper wants to be out of Barbie's gargantuan shadow, Kelly wants to be left the fuck alone, and Chelsea is trying to navigate being her own person but ends up copying Kelly. Barbie herself has a notable one, which brought up some questions. So like where are these kids' parents? Are they dead? Barbie is their caretaker in this movie, and her turmoil is that she's letting down her sisters by not giving them the Christmas she promised. She's got a parent's anxiety, which is an oddity considering every single other movie before this. I thought the family dynamic would be the usual trite sort of thing, but the conflicts that show up make it feel lived in, like actual siblings would act towards one another. This is the second movie to show a character who makes poor decisions trying to exist outside of Barbie's enormous talent pool, and I don't know if I should expect a payoff to that or not. This is a musical, but the songs are just okay. I just didn't expect the Roberts family to be rendered in such an authentic way. It caught me off-guard.


I don't even know how to deal with this. 4 films in a row got a 5 or over. Is this the Golden Age of Barbie? If I start rating all of these that good, somebody call in a mental health check. This officially marks the halfway point of my Barbie Marathon! Will I make it to the end? Will there be a satisfying conclusion to the inter-movie story I entirely confabulated? Will my creepy obsession with Raquelle ostracize me from society? Find out next time!

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Life In Plastic: A Barbie Marathon Part 2

I sit in my home. The sky has darkened, the sunlight shining orange through the hazy air. Wildfires in Canada have sent a dense, choking smoke wafting through the entire East Coast, and my home is not spared. I was supposed to have exercised, but I took an impromptu two hour nap after work. My mind is foggy. I find it increasingly difficult to focus or care.

But it's Barbie Summer. And I have some movies to watch.

Film 8: The Barbie Diaries (2006)

This week of Barbie movies did not begin well, AQI over 200 notwithstanding. You see, I had actual expectations for this movie. As you may be aware, this is the first appearance of the best Barbie character, Raquelle. My queen, my muse. Of course what I didn't know was any other thing about this movie. It's a hard shift from the fantasy/fairytale genre that we've seen so far. Now it's that which chills me to my core. Teen drama. There are only certain conditions in which I can enjoy a teen drama, and that's if the main character is also a superhero or a teenage witch. Barbie ain't neither of those in this flick. Barbie is instead a high schooler who doesn't stand out, despite being in a band and a member of the school news station. Raquelle is still in the first draft of her character, she's your standard Libby without the deep pathos she would gain in later installments. It's really not important what happens, it's the standard teen drama paint by numbers where Barbie worries about being popular and dating the hot football boy but by the end she realizes her friends are more important and dates her annoying guy friend. This is replete with basic 00's style pop songs that grate on the ears if you aren't 13 in 2007. The animation leaves a lot to be desired, where none of the characters are all that expressive, and the whole film has the look of oversaturated cheap CGI. I didn't care for it.


Film 9: Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses (2006)

If I'm being honest any movie would have looked better after the Barbie Diaries, but we got the obligatory high-budget movie for the year this time! I can't believe they cranked out three of these things in 2006. I guess given the quality of the previous two, it's not really a stretch. We're back to background music by the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, matte painted backgrounds, and expressive character rigging. The story's about 12 princesses, all sisters and the daughter of a widower king, whose wife must have died in childbirth because Jeeesus Christ that's a lotta babies to pop out. They're all unladylike and rambunctious, so the king calls his secretly evil cousin to teach them how to be ladies, but she just abuses them and tries to poison King Daddy. They find a secret magical garden which is never really explained, they beat the evil cousin, save their dad, and Barbie gets with a handsome cobbler. Speaking of the cobbler, I was like ten times more invested in this romance than the one in Diaries, and I'm not 100% sure why. Is it because I've seen the teen thing a million times before, or because I am more sucked in by a romance in a fantasy plot? I'm real glad this thing didn't come out in the 2010's, because all these sisters woulda gotten waifu'd and it would have gotten really weird. At any rate, Barbie wields a flail for a couple seconds in this movie, and that's all that matters.


Film 10: Barbie Fairytopia: Magic of the Rainbow (2007)

STOP IT WITH THE FAIRYTOPIA ALREADY! I just hate this setting. Barbie's character is boring, the villain is overdone, and I wish Bibble was on fire. What's worse is they put another goddamn Bibble in there. Two Bibbles! You can't do that to me! There were a couple things I thought might catch my interest, but they didn't go anywhere. So Barbie is recruited to learn some rainbow ritual thing with a few other fairies or else Fairytopia is doomed or something. Evil Fairy comes back, a buncha shit happens but they win and make a big rainbow yadda yadda. One of the other fairies is a mean girl who hates Barbie, which, as I'm discovering, can be an easy highlight. But then she's replaced by Evil Fairy for like half the movie so it doesn't even matter. There's a boy fairy who seems to take a shine to ol' Barbie, but that's not really worked on either. There's nothing for me to grab onto! I mean yeah, it ends with Barbie getting the other fairies' energy like a Spirit Bomb and shooting it out as a rainbow which beam struggles against the Evil Fairy's evil beam and she's defeated like Gohan beats Cell. But worse.


Film 11: Barbie as the Island Princess (2007)

I made a grave error. I forgot there could be bad musicals. "Oh," I said mournfully, "Why can't they make another musical? It will be just like Princess and the Pauper again!" Then a finger on the monkey's paw curled. They must not have gotten the same songwriter because these songs are painfully mediocre. Barbie's got a song, the villain has a song, even some fucking rats have a song, and I don't like a single one. The plot is also really weird. Barbie was marooned on a deserted island as a little girl, so she was raised by a red panda and a peacock into some kind of Tarzan. Then a prince finds the island and she goes back to civilization for some fish out of water tropes. The prince is in love with her, obviously, but the king doesn't understand why his son wants to marry some insane wild woman that thinks she can talk to birds. Instead the king wants to set him up with some normal princess, and her mom is evil? Like, this was all part of Evil Mom's plan to take over the kingdom, due to some needlessly elaborate backstory and grudge against the king. Evil Mom is exposed and it turns out Barbie was a princess all along so none of it mattered. It looks better than something like Diaries, but when the songs in a musical are bad you're gonna have a bad time. The romance didn't do anything for me either.


Film 12: Barbie: Mariposa and Her Butterfly Fairy Friends (2008)

This week is full of surprises! The first thing I saw in this movie inspires more hatred in me than is probably healthy: Bibble. I want to trap him in an airtight soundproof bottle for all of eternity. I was ready to check out, but then Barbie started telling him a story and I realized this was just the framing device! We haven't had a framing device in ages! Beyond my imagining, it was genuinely good! Like, all the characters are still fairies, no getting around that, but the setting is way different, and Kelly Sheridan isn't even voicing the main character! Wait, does that mean she's not a Barbie? I guess she's just a Mariposa. I could honestly write a full-length review of this, it's got a lot going on! There's a weird unstated class system where some fairies have jobs serving other fairies, they all go to parties and balls every night like the Russian Aristocracy, and for some reason all the royals are Latina. They all live on an island and are preyed upon by big flying monsters that can't stand light, and the queen powers all the light emitting flowers. I like Mariposa, even. She's an introverted bookworm who stays outside of parties to read her books. I could pull Mariposa. When the queen gets poisoned Mariposa has to find the magical antidote with the two faires that employ her, everyone learns about themselves, there's some valley girl mermaids(!!!) and the antidote is found in some mystical cave that reflects your insecurities back at you. It's a way better story than the original Fairytopia, I was actually interested in what was going to happen. It's held down a bit by the intermittent interruptions so we can see how fucking Bibble responds to the story. I want to throw Bibble off a cliff. Apparently there's one more Mariposa movie, and I'm actually anticipating it!


Film 13: Barbie & the Diamond Castle (2008)

Now I haven't done any research on these movies before watching them, so this may be an overdone point, but: Barbie's a lesbian in this movie, right? Her and Teresa (in her first movie role) live alone in a cottage outside of town where they sell flowers. It's the Sapphic Cottagecore dream. They find two rocks that look like hearts and wear them as matching necklaces! THEY'RE GAY! I KNOW IT! There's even two dudes who could be romantic contenders, but the girls just use them for transportation! There is a scene where Barbie and Teresa ride away from the two fuckbois on a shining rainbow. I guarantee there were little girls who learned essential facts about themselves from this movie. Anyway, it's not that good. It's another one that has a framing device with Barbie and Teresa telling Barbie's sister Stacy a story. This is the first appearance of Stacy, though she doesn't have a character in the story. There's songs in there, but this isn't really a musical. Barbie and Teresa just sing the same few bland pop songs over and over again because they're also musicians. Blah blah evil witch blah blah friendship and magic they save the day.


Film 14: Barbie in A Christmas Carol (2008)

I was apprehensive about this. It's been a while since we've had an adaptation and the ones we had before were pretty hit-or-miss. Along with that, this is the third film released in 2008, and we already had the good one. Imagine my surprise when this hit all the marks. It's not a straight adaptation of A Christmas Carol, it just has the basic structure with different characters. Barbie only appears in the framing device, telling this story to Kelly (who has yet to become Chelsea), It's a bit regrettable, I would have liked to see how Kelly Sheridan would voice a more malicious character. In any event the main character is an opera singer who also owns her own theater troupe, I guess. She's an angry bitch with a sad past and I am discovering those character traits are like catnip to me. Sometimes as you learn about Barbie you learn about yourself. So she hates Christmas and makes all her employees work on Christmas but then three ghosts show up and all that. There's not an emphasis on greed here as it is in the Dickens story, instead it centers on selfishness, how Scroogette was taught from a young age to put herself first and never more so than on Christmas. The Christmas Past and Christmas Present segments are well done, different enough from the original to fit the new characters, but recognizable as the same basic story. The Christmas Future segment let me down a little bit, it pulls its punches and ends up more comedic than tragic. I guess with the age demographic for this movie they were hesitant to blatantly state that Tiny Tammy died because of the actions of Scroogette. Even so, it was a pretty enjoyable movie, and as a Christmas Carol adaptation it far outpaces something like Scrooged.


Week Two is complete! Barbie movies still find a way to surprise me, like how the fourth Fairytopia movie was actually pretty good. The first appearance of Raquelle was a disappointment, but I know she appears in at least one more movie, so there's still a chance she develops into the character I'm familiar with. I know what I said about Princess and the Pauper, but at this point I think Barbie movies should steer clear of musicals. You really gotta be on your A-game to make one of them work, and that sort of effort is sporadic at best in Barbieland. Of course I'm not even halfway through yet, so who knows what awaits! Until next time!

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Life In Plastic: A Barbie Marathon Part 1

I've never believed in destiny. There are things that happen, but the reason they should happen at a specific time to a specific person has always, to me, been the arbitrary conditions of our universe. But sometimes, maybe, I can feel something close.

This tweet. It stirred something within me, something longing to spring forth, a hidden goal that one day, I knew, would be fulfilled. The time has come. It's Barbie Summer, bitches.

There are currently 42 Barbie animated movies. Watching one each day, I will get through them all in 6 weeks. A lesser man would quail at such an idea. I am not that man. This is the first of six such parts, where I will detail my experience with each movie and provide a rating that will have very little to do with objectivity and the standards will vary wildly between entries. I hope you'll stick around. I hope I'll stick around.

Film 1: Barbie In the Nutcracker (2001)

Somehow, before even starting this project, I was a day late. That meant on my first day watching I would have to watch two Barbie movies, while through unfortunate coincidence, dealing with a hangover. That's probably a representative moment in this whole project. Anyway, the movie itself is a strong start to the whole Barbie movie thing. I've never actually watched a Nutcracker adaptation before, so if this were the most accurate retelling or a butchering of the story I wouldn't know. That said, the story is simple and clean. A short framing device in the beginning and end shows Barbie telling the story to her little sister Kelly (Who will later be renamed Chelsea) to motivate her to keep trying at ballet. There's an evil mouse king, there's a guy who got turned into a Nutcracker, there's a journey through a fantasy land where everything gets fixed, and then it's all a dream. (Or is it?) The London Symphony Orchestra performs the classic Nutcracker songs, which surprisingly even I recognized. There's a lot of actual ballet in the film as well, motion captured from professional ballet dancers. The real orchestra and ballet performances elevate what could have easily been a forgettable movie. Kelly Sheridan plays the Barbie role in this movie, which she will continue for almost every single film going forward. The Mouse King is played by Tim Curry(!!!) which assuredly influenced my overall opinion of the film. A very strong start to this franchise, I could see viewing this movie becoming a Christmas tradition for people.


Film 2: Barbie as Rapunzel (2002)

Watching Nutcracker, I thought perhaps I had these movies all wrong, maybe they were just good movies and I was blinded by stereotypes and never gave them a chance. Barbie as Rapunzel disspelled that notion. I know enough about Rapunzel to know that this is pretty far from the source materal. SHE DON'T EVEN LET DOWN HER HAIR! Barbie's like, some sort of maid or something for an evil witch, but also Barbie has a talking rabbit and talking purple dragon as friends. Painting is, for some reason, the big theme of the movie, and Barbie gets a magic paintbrush that lets her escape from the tower. There's motion capture used here as well, but since they use it for action scenes instead of dancing scenes, it comes off as awkward and off-putting. Kinda like Food Fight. Actually, the animation looks like Food Fight too. Did the Barbie people make Food Fight? Perhaps it was the hangover or heightened expectations from Nutcracker, but all this movie did was make me annoyed.


Film 3: Barbie of Swan Lake (2003)

I was expecting a return to form here. The "form" being the standard set by Nutcracker. It's another Tchaikovsky ballet, they got a celebrity to do the villain, so my hopes were high. I wasn't entirely disappointed, it certainly turned out better than Rapunzel, but it lacked the snappiness of Nutcracker. Once again, I am completely unfamiliar with the source material. The weirdest part of this movie was the pacing, ostensibly the stakes are high where the evil wizard man is going to take over the Magical Grove(??) but long stretches of the film go by where it seems like nobody really cares about that. There's talking animals again in this one, but with a twist: They turn into children. Or like, elves, I guess. I'm starting to think talking animals are a real bad omen for these movies. One good thing is they got Kelsey Grammer to voice the bad guy. They got a dang ol' Frasier in there! He's an evil wizard or something, but what I noticed is his evil spoiled daughter with black hair. Perhaps the first appearance of the Raquelle architype? The motion capture dancing is back, which while pleasant to look at with orchestral music in the background, made it difficult to care about what was actually supposed to be going on in the movie.


Film 4: Barbie as the Princess and the Pauper (2004)

Now this is the good shit. The first Barbie musical! And the songs are good! AND THE STORY IS GOOD! Kelly Sheridan voices two Barbies this time, and she makes them distinct enough that you can tell who is who, even when they're disguised. This movie has some bite to it. I didn't think I'd see even the most facile complaints against the class system in a Barbie movie, but by gum they did it. That's not even to mention they got goddamn Martin Short for the villain. They did everything right! It had stakes, tension, good pacing, and I didn't even hate the talking animals! The difference here is that the animals could only talk to one another. And the best part: Two romance plots for the price of one! You got the Feelings Held Back Because of Social Differences and Romantic Feelings That Shine Through Even Though There is a Deception. They even had a fake blooper reel during the credits! There is yet hope!

Rating: Barbie/BARBIE

Film 5: Barbie Fairytopia (2005)

And we go right back into garbage. I haven't exactly been rating these based on their production value so far, but this one is noticably worse. They didn't bother with matte paintings for the sky or background, the character models seem more uncanny than usual (Not helped by the myriad of weird creatures in this) and there's no orchestra playing the background music. It sounds like a synthesized soundtrack, and not a great one at that. The plot is oddly dense with lore, like they made a whole cosmology for this movie when the rest were pretty simple Fairytale Fantasy. This seems like it has Lord of the Rings style aspirations, of which it falls very short. There's no talking animals in this one, just some weird fuzzy flying creature named Bibble that I will hate for the rest of my life. He makes gibbering noises that sometimes sound like words, and he never ever shuts up. There's a big butterfly man who looks horrifying, and some evil goblin minions who all look exactly the same. The plot is weird, there's some evil fairy kidnapping fairy lords to steal their power, but she never leaves the one room of her evil lair, and never directly does anything to our protagonist. Barbie starts the movie as a wingless fairy freak, at which point I knew she would get wings at the end. As a character in this she's really boring, just a nice person who's a little unsure of herself, but does the right thing in every instance anyway. Even though the point of the movie is ostensibly that your differences make you special, Barbie's reward is that she gets to be just like everyone else. After the good scriptwriting of the previous movie, the faults are all the more apparent. This was just a dud in every sense, which is concerning because it's the first of a four movie series within the Barbie canon.


Film 6: Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus (2005)

It's weird how inconsistent these are. Like there's not some point where they all dip in quality, they just go back and forth. Case in point: This movie is actually pretty good. They got an orchestra again, this time the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, they got matte painted backgrounds, Barbie is a sassy teen(!!) and they got a nice romance plot in there again. The villain is way better, he's an absolute dickhead who fucks with Barbie's family for no reason except that he just hates women. There's a clear goal and stakes, Barbie's gotta get three parts of a thing to make a thing before some spell turns her parents to stone forever, and her sister-turned-Pegasus helps her travel all around to do that. Oh, remember how everyone said it was so clever when Frozen had "true love" be the love between the two sisters? Well this movie did it first! A component of the MacGuffin is a ring of true love, and it's with love for their parents that Barbie and her horse sister make it in this. Take that DISNEY! The cute animal polar bear in this had the gibbering sort of noises like Bibble, but much less annoying. The male lead swordfights a gryphon. When Barbie gets the magic MacGuffin one of the first things she does is try to fucking kill the villain with it. It don't work, but I appreciate the attempt. The second film to have a blooper reel at the end!


Film 7: Barbie: Fairytopia: Mermaidia (2006)

I don't know why, but I had the hope that the next Fairytopia would be dramatically better than the first one. It's not. It's better in some aspects, but it almost all of the same issues as the first. The backgrounds are bad, everything that's not a standard humanoid is terrifyingly rendered, and Bibble continues to evoke my hatred. They couldn't even get an orchestra for this one! Are these just the cheap stopgaps between movies that have a budget? The plot is at least a bit better. The evil fairy from the first one is having her minions steal some other MacGuffin from the mermaid place, so they kidnap a merman and it's up to Barbie and some blue mermaid to save him and get the MacGuffin back. About the blue mermaid: She's a bitch with low self esteem and I love her. Barbie is, once again, perfect in a boring way, so having an asshole mermaid to bounce off of her is a refreshing change of pace. There's not really romance, except that Bitchy Mermaid is in love with Merman, and thinks he loves Barbie, but no he loved Blue Bitch the whole time so whatever. There was at least more drive to the plot this time, even if there were some absolutely bizarre moments, like when Bibble eats some sea berry and starts talking like Barry White. That was uncomfortable. I think there's like, two more Fairytopia movies? I'm not looking forward to those.


Week One of six done! I'm honestly surprised how much I enjoyed some of these. I was expecting the trite nonsense of Fairytopia the whole way through, but Nutcracker, Princess and the Pauper, and Magic of the Pegasus were legitimately enjoyable. The ratio of good to bad isn't great though. If there's more musicals (and they aren't terrible) I may actually enjoy myself! Until next time!