Sunday, July 9, 2023

Life In Plastic: A Barbie Marathon Part 6

It's hard, being a pioneer. To be willing to do what nobody else can. I bet people said all kinds of shit to the first guy to climb Mount Everest. They probably said stuff like, "Why?" and "But that's for little girls," and "You're a grown man this is weird." But now I know exactly how he felt, after weeks of grueling work, feeling like it was all pointless and maybe he should have been watching Breaking Bad or something, only to see the summit, the pinnacle, the top of the world. It doesn't matter if nobody believes in you, nor think other people need to believe in you because what you're doing is inconsequential and kind of creepy. Because that summit is only a few steps away.

And I am almost there.

Film 36: Barbie: Dolphin Magic (2017)

So turns out Video Game Hero was the last Barbie movie to come out as a straight-to-DVD, and now they're all going to Netflix. So we have what I think is another iteration of the "Real Life" Barbie and her sisters. Maybe? The designs are pretty close to the Puppy movies, and the puppies are still there, not to mention we still got Erica Lindbeck voicing Barbie. I dunno. It's another mermaid flick, this time some evil marine biologist captures a magic dolphin and its mermaid friend tries to free it and runs into the Roberts sisters, who adopt her like some kind of lost child. Of course the mermaid has a magic shell that gives her legs, though she doesn't know what a sandwich is, which doesn't trigger suspicion for any of the sisters. Oh, we finally have Ken back, after who knows how many movies of absence. (I counted. 16 films.) Ken doesn't really seem like Barbie's boyfriend here, which may point to it being a new continuity. It's pretty boilerplate from there, evil marine biologist wants to sell magic dolphin, mermaid reveals she is mermaid, they all work together and everything works out. It's not great, but it could have been worse. At least the dogs don't talk, and surprisingly Barbie herself doesn't become a mermaid.


Film 37: Barbie: Princess Adventure (2020)

Woah! What!? That's a three year gap! This is unprecedented! So I had to do some research (I hate that) to figure this out, and it turns out there were no Barbie movies while the show Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures was running. I haven't watched that show because I got an episode in and there was no Raquelle so I have no reason to ever see it. So this movie is like a finale to that show, which means we got a new voice actress for Barbie, America Young. She's okay, but gives a very different feel to Barbie than the previous ones, which all had the same sort of voice. She's closer to Chiara Zanni than Kelly Sheridan or Diana Kaarina. The change in VA makes sense because this Barbie is significantly younger than a lot of Barbies we've had, she's still in high school and has parents and everything. She's also a Youtuber. This is too much background for a Barbie movie. At any rate, this is another riff on the Prince and the Pauper, but at least this one didn't insult me. Erica Lindbeck plays a princess who watches Barbie's vlogs and arranges for Barbie and all of her friends to go on a school trip to her kingdom so they can swap. It doesn't work great because we don't see her perspective of the switch the whole time, just Barbie dealing with princess shit. This one is also a musical, but all the songs are average at best. We got two villains, one is a media CEO who wants to exploit Barbie's online clout, and the other is a prince from a neighboring kingdom who tries to keep the princess from the coronation so he can take the kingdom using some technicality. The only time I laughed was when the media CEO took one of Barbie's videos and essentially made a YTP from it. Barbie didn't like it though. There's a sideplot of Ken trying to tell Barbie something but being unable to. He's definitely not her boyfriend in this continuity, so I assume he's trying to confess his feelings. If the whole show was a will-they-won't-they with Barbie and Ken there is no way I would be able to stand it. There's too many other side characters, like some asshole red haired guy who they gave a song for some inexplicable reason. A pale comparison to Princess and the Pauper, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been.


Film 38: Barbie & Chelsea: The Lost Birthday (2021)

Yeah, from now on these all take place after Dreamhouse Adventures. I guess it's nice to have only one continuity for once? I'll get into it later. As you can see from the title, this is a Chelsea oriented movie, which can mean only one thing. This is baby shit. They're all on a cruise because of Barbie's mom and it's gonna be Chelsea's birthday but then they cross the international date line and skip a day and she gets sad and has a Wizard of Oz style adventure where she does a bunch of shit with talking animals that sound like her sisters but oh what it was all a dream who could have guessed. Okay, for a while I didn't catch the dream thing. I don't know the level of magic that exists in this world, maybe there are talking animals, who knows? Barbie is still on about her vlog all the time, but now that leaves Skipper without a thing to do. She's supposed to be the internet one! I guess now she just makes music. It was better before. The closest thing to a villain in this movie is the activities director on the cruise, who for some reason is actively malicious towards the Roberts family. It's not even funny, he's just creepy.


Film 39: Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams (2021)

Barbie's going to New York, baby! This is a weird one. Barbie goes to some performing arts school for the summer, where she's put in a room with another girl who is also named Barbie Roberts. The other Barbie is from Brooklyn, while our Barbie is from Malibu, so they refer to each other as such. Weird that middle names didn't come into this, but I guess nobody wanted the main character of the film to be called Millicent the whole time. The two Barbies become best friends immediately. Like, right after they meet they sing a song (which sounds a bit like a love song) and they're inseparable. They meet one of Brooklyn's old friends who's actually a super famous pop star but wants to learn more shit on the down low, but then her manager dad buys his way into directing the center and wants to make sure his daughter wins the solo at the end of the semester. They have the whole "Barbie is bad at things" montage that we got in Princess Charm School, but in this movie it's weird. This is the actual Barbie we're talking about, not some character she's playing. They're making her a more relatable figure, but to me Barbie should be more aspirational. Think Spider-Man vs. Superman. Spider-Man fucks up all the time, but it makes you feel like you could be him, while Superman is the idealized hero, he does the right thing all the time. On that note, while they're all dancing and being silly, Malibu Barbie knocks Brooklyn Barbie off a stage and she sprains her ankle, and Manager Dad tells the principal that Malibu did it on purpose, so she gets expelled and the two Barbies sing a breakup song. Luckily the pop star finds a video that shows it was an accident so Malibu comes back and both Barbies get the to sing a big song in Times Square. Manager Dad faces no repercussions. Brooklyn's gonna be in the rest of these, and they even got a whole teevee show that I'm not going to watch. (I'M NOT YOU CAN'T MAKE ME) I'm not sure how I feel about her. She's not a one-to-one copy of Malibu Barbie, like she's not hypercompetent in all skills or anything, she's almost entirely music-focused. I dunno, I just like it better when I can use names and don't have to put prefixes before them. There's probably someone out there who's really happy about Brooklyn Barbie and I can't hold that against them.


Film 40: Barbie: Mermaid Power (2022)

This is a sequel to Dolphin Magic, which I guess means that one had Dreamhouse Adventures Barbie all along. You would think that this, being a sequel, would make more sense while having less to introduce, but somehow they fucked that up. Right in the beginning of the movie Barbies and sisters are cleaning trash from the ocean and like a minute later they're all turning into mermaids. As if they all knew they could do that with Barbie's magic necklace already! Don't get me started on Mermaid Town where they have to do a magic ritual like in that Fairytopia movie or Mermaid Tale 2 but in order to do it they have to find the Mermaid Avatar. For some reason every mermaid has an elemental power, even the Barbie crew who just became mermaids like 5 seconds ago, except for one who gets all of them, and then they can do the mermaid ritual and save the ocean. The evil marine biologist is back, this time with a Mr. Crocker-like obsession with proving mermaids are real, and a badass crab sub. This movie has too much going on. It's gotta introduce the entire mermaid society, their magic powers, then there's racist mermaids who hate land dwellers, and to top it all off there's a giant trash heap in the ocean. Once again there's a million characters in this thing, all throwing fire underwater(?) or shooting air or talking to dolphins and I can't care enough to keep track of it all. Anyway there's a little girl mermaid who turns out to be the Avatar and she disintegrates the trash island and evil marine biologist becomes a mermaid and turns into a good guy. This showcases one of the problems with maintaining one continuity with these things, if this were made before the Netflix era, I'm sure it would have been a standalone film with Barbie playing a character. Instead they had to shoehorn the Roberts sisters into this plot and world all at once and it just kept throwing shit at you. One of the things that made the Barbie franchise so versatile was its ability to have unrelated movies, even if they all had the Barbie branding. I hope they move back towards that model with later releases.


Film 41: Barbie: Epic Road Trip (2022)

The only cool thing about Netflix is that once in a while they make a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style thing, like that one Black Mirror special from a few years ago. I mostly like them if there's a way I can just fuck up the story, though a lot of these are on rails pretty hard. Surprise surprise, they made a Barbie one! Malibu Barbie, Brooklyn Barbie, Skipper, Ken, and a bunch of dogs are taking a road trip across the US to test out Skipper's dog adoption app, see the sights, and get to NYC for some backup singer audition. A lot of choices boil down to choosing between Brooklyn or Ken, because Ken still hasn't confessed his feelings to Barbie. Now, I know they didn't intend this, but it feels like choosing Barbie's romantic partner. I, of course, immediately speedran Ken% because I need to get my boy laid. I was the heteronormative devil on Barbie's shoulder, making her go to every little romantic spot Ken set up until they kissed on the Ferris Wheel in Pennsylvania and I cherished the small morsel of vicarious romantic fulfillment in my cold dead heart. Apart from the endings where it asks you to start from the beginning, there's a smattering of choices that set you just a little bit back in the story, like in Roswell they can be abducted by aliens which deposit them back at the beach in the beginning of the movie but with no memory of what happened before that. Or a haunted house in New Orleans that opens and trap door and sends them back a few scenes. My first ending was Brooklyn and Malibu move to New York with musical artist careers, while Boyfriend Ken moves to be with Malibu Barbie and be a malewife. I ran through it a few more times for completion's sake, where Brooklyn and Malibu live alone in London with a record deal, or one where Barbie goes back to Malibu without a job, Ken, or anything to show for the road trip. The multiple nature of this kinda works for Barbie, since she's yet to become her omni-talented self, it makes sense not to lock her down as a singer or whatever. I liked it more than I thought I would, if only because I could act as a spiritual wingman for Ken.


Film 42: Barbie: Skipper and the Big Babysitting Adventure (2023)

I wasn't expecting a lot from this film, especially considering how the Chelsea one went down. The babysitting angle and the fact this began with a 2D animated segment that looked like cheap PBS anime didn't help either. But this film had a crucial component I couldn't even have imagined. THEY BROUGHT BACK RAQUELLE!! Well, kinda. Turns out the show has a character named Tammy who, as far as I can tell, is Raquelle with a different name. She's bitchy, entitled, rich, and a failqueen. Also she's got black hair and calls Skipper Mini-Barbie. I was completely blindsided, I thought they just weren't interested in the Raquelle archetype anymore, but here she was! (Mostly) She may have been reincarnated, but I know whatever lives we live we would find each other again... Ahem. So Skipper fucks up her babysitting job and since everyone else is leaving for the summer (Barbie finally being the Barbie I know and planting trees in the Amazon) Skipper decides to work at the local waterpark. But! Turns out Tammy's dad owns the place and put her in charge. Tammy's dad is great, he's the stereotypical businessman, talking on four phones all the time and rating any possible situation on whether it's good for business or not. The funniest joke in this movie is when he sees a pie chart, imagines it as pie, and leaves in the middle of a business proposal so he can go get some pie. He's a legend. Anyway Skipper and some friends get hired because nobody else wants to work for Tammy, and Skipper gets the idea to set up a daycare for little kids in the park. After Tammy tries to steal the idea and fucks up (As she should) Skipper and her friends have a little odyssey trying to get 6 kids back to the park without anyone catching wise. This was way funnier than any recent film has been, like the part where Skipper talks to dolphins by pointing her eyes in opposite directions and screeching, and the only reaction to this from her friends is, "Wow, she is a good babysitter." I think they're finally hitting their stride with this Barbie, which was a nice endcap to my own odyssey across the Barbie-verse.

Rating: Raquelle/BARBIE

(But really like a 5 out of 6)

I... I did it! I watched every single Barbie movie! There were a lot of surprising moments going through this, I liked a lot more of them a lot more than I thought I would. Sure, there were plenty that fit the Barbie stereotype I had in my head, but the spikes in quality were very appreciated. Given the breadth of content here, I'm not actually sure any of this will give me insight to the live action movie coming up. But if there's one thing I've learned through all of this, it's that you can be whatever you want to be. Apparently what I wanted to be was a man in his thirties who watched the entirety of a franchise made for little girls. Thank you for following me on this journey, and hopefully I'll do something less insane next time. Come back for a little denouement later!

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