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!

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