Bratz: The Movie

Bratz: The Movie


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

We've all seen films based on books. Pirates Of The Caribbean introduced us to the concept of a film based on an amusement park ride. Now it's 2007: welcome to the concept of a film based on dolls.

If you're old enough to be as yet uninitiated, let me explain: Bratz, which arrived on the market in 2001, remain one of the must have toys for girls from four to 14, very nearly outselling Barbie. Noted for their oversized heads, they are presented as characters who are obsessed with shopping, and their promotion has, accordingly, been highly materialistic. They've already appeared as cartoons in a video, but this is their first adventure on the big screen and their first step into live action.

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Actresses Nathalia Ramos (as Yasmin), Janel Parrish (as Jade), Logan Browning (as Sasha) and Skyler Shaye (as Chloe) have a lot to live up to, as it's well known that there are no critics fiercer than disappointed children. To their credit they pull off the high energy, intensely emotional characters pretty well, but they're caught in a rather odd situation. This film sees the girls going through high school. Whilst the actresses are convincing as the original Bratz characters, those characters don't really make sense in this environment.

Perhaps the Bratz had to grow up sometime, but the fact is that they remain popular with very young children, and the decision to age them in this way is only going to add to the concerns of parents who fear that their heavily sexualised behaviour has a damaging influence on those children. Their message about the importance of confidence and self-assertion is undoubtedly a good one, but too much of that message seems to be rooted in looking good in a very sexualised way. The film features almost non-stop shopping sprees (something else which parents on limited budgets may be unhappy about their kids getting into) and there's a lot of emphasis on dressing up to get the attention of boys. It's a shame that this often dominates other, more positive messages about the importance of friendship and of believing in oneself.

Most of the Bratz are already the kind of unnaturally popular girls whom most kids can only dream of being, so it falls to nervous Yasmin to support the emotional core of the film. She's the only major character who undergoes any sort of development, and most of this is handled rather flippantly, though young viewers will find her struggles easy to empathise with. More impressive is the handling of the minor characters, especially Dylan (Ogie Banks), Yasmin's shy jock admirer, whose deafness is intrinsic to his experiences yet is never allowed to dominate his part in the story. The presence of the various love interests is managed very well - they're important to the girls but are never essential to their sense of personal value, and, of course, they're never allowed to compete with that all-important central friendship.

As you might expect from a film of this type, the story is very slight and entirely predictable, but it's well played and ought to satisfy its target audience. Chelsea Staub is excellent as the scheming Meredith, the most popular girl in the school until the Bratz came along. The school itself also plays an important role, centered rather charmingly on the figurehead of Carry Nation (with a golden hatchet awarded in its annual talent show) and with notices scattered around the yard proclaiming 'order' and 'obey' in a clear tributs to They Live. Throughout the film there's a vein of humour like this which is clearly aimed at older viewers, perhaps as consolation to those parents forced to go along as supervisors.

Bratz is a surprisingly watchable movie. It could certainly have been a lot worse. A couple of awkward scenes featuring pre-pubescent kids dolled up like its central stars remind us how.

Reviewed on: 31 Jul 2007
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The Bratz girls go to high school.
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Director: Sean McNamara

Writer: Susan Estelle Jansen, Adam De La Peña

Starring: Nathalia Ramos, Janel Parrish, Logan Browning, Skyler Shaye, Chelsea Staub, Ian Nelson, Stephen Lunsford, Jon Voight

Year: 2007

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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