Judge Erich Asperschlager is beyond ridonkulously outrageous.
Get your sparkle on!
So it begins. Sixteen months ago, my wife gave birth to our first child, a girl. Right now, she's obsessed with horses and graham crackers, but in a few years it's probably going to be pink plastic princesses and glitter. If I'm lucky, she'll skip fashonista-in-training and go straight to bookworm. If I'm not lucky, she'll make me watch Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale with her, over and over and over…
Facts of the Case
Barbie has had a lot of jobs throughout her storied career: stewardess, astronaut, doctor, anorexia spokesmodel. These days, she's in movies. At the beginning of A Fashion Fairytale, she's working on her latest, a big screen adaptation of "The Princess and the Pea." But creative differences with her snotty director (he wants to add rapping zombie peas; she doesn't) get her kicked off the movie. Even worse, Ken calls to break up with her. Devastated, Barbie does the only thing a famous movie star with limitless resources can do: she flies first class to Paris with pet poodle, Sequin, to visit her famous fashion designer aunt.
When Barbie arrives in the City of Lights and Primary Colors, however, she discovers that her aunt is being run out of business by a rival designer who copied all her best work. Determined to help, Barbie enlists the help of a shy young designer named Marie-Alecia to produce a new fashion line in less than a week so they can raise enough money to save the store. Things get really "ridonkulous" when Barbie and Alecia discover a magical cabinet in the attic, inhabited by three tiny fairies—er, I mean Flairies—who have the power to make any design…glittery. Meanwhile, it turns out Ken never actually called Barbie to break up with her, but he must still make the long and overly arduous trek to France by way of planes, trains, and pig trucks so he can apologize for something he never did, proving that he really is missing a pair of—oh, wait. This is a kids' movie review, isn't it? Never mind.
I have no misconceptions about being the target audience for this movie, so I can't speak for the giggly hordes of prepubescents drawn to Barbie and her well-accessorized cohorts. But I can speak for their parents.
Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale isn't an affront to humanity. It has a decent—if predictable—story that has enough conflict and twists to make its hour and 23 minute runtime almost bearable. The animation is far better than I thought it was going to be, with a clean widescreen presentation and a 5.1 surround mix that proves someone was actually trying when they made this movie. In the world of straight-to-DVD kids' fare, A Fashion Fairytale is a slick production.
I bet your kids will love the bright colors, talking animals, shiny clothes, and glittering "Flairies," at least enough to keep them quiet during the last leg of the trip to grandma's house. You may even find yourself humming along to the peppy, inoffensive soundtrack (I defy you to get the chorus of "Get Your Sparkle On" out of your brain without the help of an experienced exorcist).
But be warned: although the messenger is clean cut, you might not want to inflict the message on an impressionable mind. Forget the anti-feminist and body image claims. Those criticisms are valid, but if you're considering buying anything Barbie, you've probably already made peace with them. The real problem with A Fashion Fairytale is that if you get this for your child, you won't just be buying a DVD. You'll also end up buying the dolls and play sets, too. Heck, given the movie's focus on pricy technology, you'll be lucky to escape without springing for a pink laptop or bedazzled iPhone.
I'm probably out of touch when it comes to kids and technology. Maybe your average 6-year-old already uses the latest smart phone to subscribe to Barbie's Twitter feed. But that doesn't forgive this movie's glamorized portrayal of the kind of spoiled rich lifestyle usually reserved for basic cable reality shows. Like a Kardashian with a few more plastic parts, Barbie lives in a world of movie stars, first class flights to Paris, and an inexhaustible supply of frilly dresses. I'm sure I sound like the crankiest old man, but would it have killed this movie to give Barbie a token poor friend? The closest A Fashion Fairytale gets to imperfection are Alecia's glasses (which are mysteriously absent from her toy counterpart, by the way).
For proof that A Fashion Fairytale is more about selling toys than empowering kids, look no further than the trademark-laden text on the back of the box. It's one thing to protect your copyright on the name "Barbie," it's another to make up words just so you can trademark them. The only differences between "Fairies" and "Flairies" is the letter "L" and the fact that one gets a fat ol' ® and the other doesn't. Oh, and it might sound like those so-called "Flairies" are named Shimmer, Glimmer, and Shine, but they're not. Those words are in the public domain. As spelled out in the fold-out toy ad that comes in the DVD case, they're actually "Shim'r®," "Glim'r®," and "Shyn'e®." And no, I did not make that up.
If, after all that, you still decide to get Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale, at least you don't have to be in the room with your kids when they watch it. The main menu is narrated by Barbie, who helps young viewers "get their sparkle on" with a handy "Help" menu that shows how to use a DVD remote, useful for either playing the movie or checking out the "glittericious" bonus features, which include an outtakes reel, an interview with real-life Barbie fashion designer Lily Martinez, a "Life is a Fairytale" music video, an ad for the Ultimate Barbie Party kit, and music and dance videos for the last Barbie release, Barbie in A Mermaid Tale.
I have looked into the mouth of parenting hell, and in that abyss I saw Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale. Although the movie itself isn't terrible, everything about it, from the packaging to the bonus features, is a toy commercial so shameless it would make George Lucas blush. Mindless? Yes. Harmless? No.
Put this doll back on the shelf. Guilty!
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