Hello, Spongey here.
After mostly finishing the Buddies and Tink movies, I’ve been looking for another Direct to Video franchise to review. However, I haven’t found any good ideas. The ones I came up with have too many entries for me to do them all. Though I may still cover some of those.
(Looking at you. Monster High)
And of course one obvious idea did pop up in my head: Barbie. Yeah. But then I stopped once I saw it had over THIRTY entries. No way I’m doing all of those. Besides, I bet most of them are the same and thus reviewing them would get boring.
But I did want to cover them in some fashion. So…I thought of just doing a few to get an idea of what they are like, without having to cover all of them. I still don’t know what I’m doing for my Tink replacement but this seemed like a good idea until I have one.
So….i regrettably welcome you to BARBIE MONTH!
I don’t really need to introduce Barbie but here’s the gist: Created in 1959, Barbie is pretty much the post child of girly dolls that all boys hated because boys hated girly things. I think we all get the concept.
Barbie is one of the biggest marketing machines ever and she has spawned tons of products and had at least 5000000 careers. That’s one fulfilling life, I have to say. So naturally, she has appeared on our screens, be it TV, games, and of course, film.
Which brings us to the ever infamous direct to video franchise. In 2001, they decided to make CGI Animated Barbie features, and as 2015 there have been at least 29 entries, with no sign of slowing down.
This franchise has gone through a few retools and this month we’re spotlighting 5 of these films to see if this series has any value in it at all. To start off, we’re going all the way to the beginning.
The original concept of the franchise was to put Barbie in classic stories, and for their first entry they picked The Nutcracker. I don’t need to explain The Nutcracker so we can skip that part.
Now, I bet you think this would make for sense to cover in December. Well, that’s true but Barbie has an official Christmas film so we’ll do THAT one come December. Since is the first movie I wanted to start with this one, so there.
The writers and directors have done little of note, so let’s move on a more interesting fact. Most of these films were made by Mainframe Entertainment, now known as Rainmaker. That’s right the same company who brought us the classic Reboot series and the not so classic Escape From planet Earth.
Considering their track record with films (Cough Scary Godmother) we shouldn’t anything amazing in the animation department, but maybe, just maybe this could be fine. …I’m an optimist, okay?
But whatever, let’s just dive in.
This, is Barbie in the Nutcracker
The movie opens at a Ballet Studio place as Barbie is teaching a young girl named Kelly some Ballet. Right off the bat, we have two noteworthy actors to mention. Barbie is voiced by Kelly Sherdian, who is the main VA for the character to this very day.
She was also the villain in the MLP Season 5 premiere. If you’ve seen it, you know why seeing her as Barbie as funny.
Speaking of MLP, Kelly is Diamond Tiara. …Um…okay then. Anyway, Kelly sucks but Barbie says she will get better. So naturally, she jumps into the classic story of the Nutcracker to get her spirits up.
So that’s our framing device…eh I can roll with it. Oh, and the animation is bad but I expected that.
So we start our real story with A girl named Clara who lives with Drosselmeyer, her stern grandfather, and her typical younger brother Tommy. She is visited by her nice Aunt, voiced by Kathleeen barr. Cuz…eh why not get Trixie in there while we’re at it.
She’s the cool adventure aunt that the grumpy Grandpa hates cuz she’s free spirited or whatever. She brings the kids some gifts and of course Clara gets a Nutcracker. Tommy and her end up fighting over it and it breaks.
Then it just kind of moves on to that night, after it shows that Tommy regrets his actions and Clara is cool with it. Huh.
By the way, Clara looks like an actual doll when she sleeps. If that’s what they were going for with the animation…mission accomplished.
That night, magical crap happens and The Nutcracker comes to life to fight some Foodfight rejects that the movie calls mice. Barbie, I mean Clara wakes up to see this and just assumes she is dreaming.
This is of course means the Mice King pops up and he is voiced by Tim Curry. I’m less shocked then I probably should be. Clara tries to stop Tim Curry but he uses magic to shrink her down to his size.
Despite this, Tim Curry still gets his ass beat and he runs away. Guess he can’t use magic to make himself bigger so he can just kill everyone.
Anyway, Clara wants to reverse the spell but only the Sugarplum Fairy can do so. Then an owl shows up and says the Sugarplam princess can be found on an island across the sea of storms. She also gives Barbie a magic locket that will teleport her him once she finishes her quest.
Um…thanks random owl.
With that, she’s on the epic quest to turn back to normal. Well…I’ve seen worse plots, I suppose.
They go through a mouse hole that takes them through a time warp thing and drops them into some snow land. They trek on and Tim Curry already finds out about their epic quest. Also, only Tim Curry can make the word Nutcracker sound badass. Our heroes stumble the Gingerbeard village which is having some problems.
Some children inform them that the true heir the throne, Prince Eric, is to blame. He was kind of a dick, so someone put someone else in charge until Eric proved himself worthy. That someone else is Tim Curry.
You see how that turned out. Oh, and the little girl here is voiced by Britt McKillip, who was 10 at the time but grew up to voice Princess Cadence. Is this attack of the Pony actors or something?
The Mouse King’s henchmen spot them.
“Come on, into the woods”
They bump into some people doesn’t trust them at the moment. They explain their problem but they get angry once Eric is mentioned. Hey, he’s not the one who put a mouse in charge.
They don’t buy into the Sugarplum Princess thing despite being ruled by a mouse. Eventually they figure eh, why not, and join them to find the princess. I’m getting some legends of oz flashbacks with this set up..
Oh, and The Nutcracker is Eric. Just going to call it now since they make it painfully obvious. After another delicious scene with Tim Curry, Barbie figures out…what I just guessed. Wow, she’s good.
Eric never told anyone since…well they aren’t fans of him as you can tell. Then we just cut to the next day as our heroes continue on their EPIC quest to find a princess. After stuff happens, they make some boats to cross the sea but a badly animated rock monster pops up and crushes the boats.
Thankfully, some plot device fairies to pop up to freeze the lake so a horse can drive them across. Sure, why not.
They manage to get rid of the monster and eventually make it to the island. Well, that was a short quest. Only like…3 stops or so?
However, Tim Curry’s goons pop up and capture everyone but Clara. A plot device fairy helps Clara get to his castle to rescue them. If these fairies can do all that, you think one of them would know exactly where to find the princess.
She sneaks in and makes it to the dungeon where she saves the others. That was ….too easy. It’s like the writers didn’t care about suspense or being interesting at all.
They face Tim Curry and The Nutcracker ends up in an EPIC BATTLE. It’s at this point where you start to think about how Tim Curry is having too much fun in a movie like this. Everyone else is just …there but he’s having a ball.
Eventually, Barbie steps in and Tim Curry tries to make her even smaller, but Nutcracker blasts his powers back at him so he becomes small and then he’s defeated.
….Yeah, I expected a really lame climax. Just not one with Tim Curry, who deserves way better.
Having defeated the Mouse King, Nutcracker gets a kiss and turns back into Prince Eric. Then Clara has her own change..
“You’re the Sugar plum princess”
What a twist. One that makes no sense but ah well. Anyway, magic stuff restores the kingdom to its former glory and everyone is ready to accept Eric as their lord and savior.
Then everyone has a dance party set to the music you were probably expecting. It’s padding but it’s at least pretty padding. After that, Clara decides she’s gonna stay here since she’s a princess and also she loves Eric. Yeah, weak romance was weak.
Well, looks we’re-
“I absolutely despise Happy Endings!”
Tim Curry is back….fine. He takes her locket but then he is knocked down. Tim Curry is kind of lame sometimes.
Suddenly, Clara vanishes and soon wakes up at home with everything looking normal. Looks we’re doing the “it was a dream but it was also not” thing. Whatever.
Aunt Elizabeth walks in with a young man who looks a lot like Eric because I called it. He’s the son of a friend of hers and he will stay for dinner. God, we’re still not done?
He gives her the locket and they dance. I’d question the logic of this but we’re almost done. We then get more padding in the form of a dance and the story proper ends, bringing us back to Barbie and Diamond Tiara.
Kind of a weird story but who am I to question Barbie?
With that, Kelly is feeling better and they get back to practicing. Which means…more dancing. Three in a row, are you serious?!
And this how the movie decides to end. Lame but not unexpected. At least Diamond Tiara is happy, and that’s all that matters.
Well that was…..boring. That’s the best way to sum this one ep. I expected this to be notably bad but instead it’s just….weak. Every aspect that fails is weak is a typical way. Not much for me to comment on.
It’s mostly harmless but also very forgettable. The story is by the books, cliché, and predictable. The pacing is rushed, the characters are one note, and the animation looks like something from a PS2 game. But these are all things I expected, and none of them are any worse than usual.
The animation isn’t even bad in an amazing way. It’s just…typically bad. Even this company has made worse looking movies.
The story does nothing too heinous in the grand scheme of things, and the characters are…bearable. The story is still weak and unengaging and the characters offering nothing interesting with only 2 really getting any depth. At least they have likable traits and Tim Curry is a lot of fun as usual.
The film is just a bore…for adults. For kids, it’s harmless and something they’ll enjoy. Hey, compared to other kids movies, it’s The Godfather. It’s just a very….meh movie. Nothing horrible, but nothing all that good either.
I didn’t get a ton of materiel for this one cuz it gave me little work with. I’m sure others may find it worse and have more to say but I was just empty. But the movie itself is at least not painfully…it’s just boring.
For kids, it’s okay. For anyone else…it’s boring. As as start to the Barbie franchise, it’s …un-Barbie like being about CLARA but it could have been worse.
…And I fear it will get worse as the month goes along. But this first film is….just meh. Better than I feared, but it could have at least been memorable.
Next time on Barbie Month, we jump ahead to a take on a less classic story that will hopefully be more memorable.