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Bratz: The Movie
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Apparently Jon Voight Can Do Worse Than "Baby Geniuses 2"
1 stars

“Bratz: The Movie” is essentially “Transformers” for pre-teen girls. After all, both films were based on popular toy lines, both are little more than collections of randomly assembled scenes devoid of even a semi-coherent storyline and both even feature embarrassing and wholly inexplicable supporting turns from the once-reliable Jon Voight. The only real difference between the two films, when you get right down to it, is that “Bratz” is nearly an hour shorter than “Transformers,” a fact that will likely come as some blessed comfort to those not squarely in the film’s target demographic (i.e. anyone not still dreaming of one day owning their first training bra) who have somehow been shanghaied into chaperoning those who do belong to said demographic to the multiplex to sit through this dreary exercise in crass commercialism instead of something more spiritually uplifting, such as that film with Lindsay Lohan as the stripper with the robot hand.

Because I neither own nor associate with any pre-teen girls, I have more or less managed to go through life without very much exposure to the Bratz phenomenon. Imagine what a Barbie doll might look like if she were stricken with encephalitis and dressed like the “Dirrty”-era Christina Aguilera, minus the quiet dignity and grace, and you pretty much have the Bratz in a nutshell. Brought to the silver screen in flesh-and-blood incarnations, the producers have allowed the heads to maintain normal proportions but have otherwise done virtually nothing to individualize their quartet of heroines–imagine the Spice Girls without those pesky complex personalities and you have the Bratz. There is Yasmin (Nathalia Ramos), whose key identifying traits are a lovely singing voice, a terrible case of stage fright and the ability to magically produce chocolates from behind the ears of Lainie Kazan. There is Jade (Janel Parrish), whose chief characteristics are that she is Asian and while she is really smart, her real dream in life is to excel at Home Economics. (For an opposing view on the usefulness of Home Ec. in the contemporary high school experience, I urge you to check out “Superbad” when it comes out in a couple of weeks.) There is Cloe (Skyler Shaye), who is the blonde girl that the others hang with even though she is poor (despite apparently being able to afford plenty of wardrobe changes and makeup), clumsy (despite being a whiz on the soccer field) and evidently unable to spell her own name. Finally, there is Sasha (Logan Browning), who is African-American and. . .okay, I am wracking my brain here but I cannot recall any other individual characteristic that she might have possessed.

The film kicks off on the first day of freshman year in high school as the four friends vow that they will stick together forever. This deeply-felt promise lasts until their first lunch period and the immediately split up to join different cliques–Jade with the brainiacs, Cloe with the jocks, Sasha with the cheerleaders (there, I knew she had some characteristic) and Yasmin all by her lonesome–much to the relief of school Queen Bee Meredith (Chelsea Staub), who has somehow terrorized the entire school into following her lead for social order despite only being a freshman herself. The film skips ahead two years and the former friends are still on the outs until they reconnect after a food fight and vow to defeat the clique-based society represented by Meredith once and for all. They achieve this by spiking Meredith’s drink with drain cleaner and allowing her to expire in a hail of Corn Nuts and broken shards from the glass coffee table that she plunges through in her final moments. Okay, not really–that is what happened in “Heathers,” a movie whose memory I clung to throughout “Bratz” in much the same way that Christian Bale dreamed about well-stocked refrigerators while a P.O.W. in “Rescue Dawn.” Instead, we get a bunch of nonsense involving a lavish Sweet 16 party (including an elephant), the least-incriminating incriminating video in the history of blackmail, cute boys (all the girls get one except for poor, personality-free Sasha), fights, reconciliations, montages (involving shopping and cooking), random mariachi bands and a climactic high school talent show–one that is actually seven time more painful than any real high school talent show you may have endured in your lifetime–in which the bad people are duly punished and the good ones bring down the house with a “spontaneous” number that is as highly choreographed as a Debbie Allen routine on Oscar night and is just as garishly misconceived.

I realize, of course, that I couldn’t be further from the target audience for this particular film and that as such, it isn’t supposed to appeal to someone like me. Granted, but just because a movie is essentially a glam fantasy aimed at young girls doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t appeal to others as well–in the past, for example, I have enjoyed both the “Princess Diaries” films and I am even willing to admit to having looked upon “High School Musical” with a certain degree of fondness. (That latter title appears to have been a key influence on this film as it too involves a storyline about school cliques, a bitchy blonde villainess and several musical numbers.) The difference between those films and “Bratz” is that those films made and effort to lace their girly-girl fantasies with a certain amount of wit, style and good cheer and made sure to populate them with likable characters. “Bratz,” on the other hand, plays like a head-on collision between the old mental hygiene films they used to show in junior high (the ones that reminded you to brush your teeth, stay away from strangers and conform, conform, conform) and a Fergie video, though with the wit and choreography of the former and the sound moral lessons of the latter.

All four of the girls are dead bulbs with no personality or spark to speak of–they are essentially carbon-based clothes hangers who exist only to model the trashy fashions that the filmmakers are far more interested in focusing on. Oh sure, we get some blather about being yourself and studying hard but the film quickly shoves those messages to the side to make room for more fashion montages–in one exceptionally creepy moment, the four encounter a group of fresh-faced little girls and slap enough make-up on them to ensure them the top prizes at the next “Pretty Baby”-themed costume party they attend–and before long, I fond myself wishing that the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants would show up to knock some much-needed sense into these twerps. Sadly, none of this really seemed to matter to the majority of the pre-pubescent girls in the audience at the preview I attended–they oohed the fashions, swooned at the boys and seemed reasonably satisfied as they headed for the exits after it ended. (Even more sadly, it appeared that their mothers felt pretty much the same way.)

Of course, no review of “Bratz” would be complete without discussing the appearance of Jon Voight as the bumbling principal/father of the Queen Bee. To put it charitably, Voight has had one of the most inexplicable film careers in recent memory–there have been great performances in such films as “Midnight Cowboy,” “Coming Home,” “Heat” and yes, “Anaconda” mixed in with slovenly work in such artistic abominations as “The Champ” and “Pearl Harbor” (not to mention numerous films that you have never heard of) without any rhyme or reason. Even knowing the depths to which he has been known to sink in his career, I still spent much of “Bratz” wondering exactly why he chose to grace this particular project with his presence. Maybe he has a secret fetish for dressing up like Frazier Thomas that he was allowed to indulge during the film’s costume party sequence. Maybe he wanted to prove once and for all that yes, he could actually find a worse film to appear in than “Baby Geniuses 2.” Then again, maybe he simply wanted to appear in a film that his grandchildren would be able to see. If it was the costume, I guess that such an outfit works for him as well as it would for anyone else. If it was to outdo “Baby Geniuses 2"–a film that saw him as, I recall, a former Nazi doing battle with super-intelligent babies and Scott Baio–he may well have done that but I am not exactly sure if that is something to applaud. If, in fact, it was to make something for his grandchildren to see, I guess that is a noble sentiment but while I don’t claim to know Angelina Jolie in any way, shape or form (much to my everlasting regret), I suspect that she is a good enough mother to keep her children far away from such junk as “Bratz” and if she wanted to show them a film featuring Grandpa, she would select one that was a little more morally, ethically and artistically appropriate–something like “Deliverance” springs to mind.

After seeing the amount of hate mail that many of my colleagues received after panning “Transformers”–one even got a dismissive note from Michael Bay himself, I am half-expecting some young “Bratz” fan to drop a line complaining about my criticizing something that I don’t understand the appeal of and that I am clearly not the kind of viewer that it was designed for. (That said, I have yet to receive a single missive about my decidedly unfavorable review of “Transformers”–this can only mean that those naysayers were so overwhelmed by my thoughtful criticisms and eloquent turns of phrase that they could find absolutely nothing to object to in it.) Ordinarily, I would simply ignore such a complaint but the fact that a youngster has enough taste and intelligence to read this review would suggest that he or she–okay, she–is still capable of being saved. To her, I would suggest that while a film like “Bratz” might seem like a perfectly harmless way of spending 90 minutes and some hard-earned allowance money, there are far better films out there to spend that time and money on instead. If you have an older brother or sister, I would suggest that you kindly go up to them and ask them if they have any of the following titles that you can borrow: “Heathers,” “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “Say Anything,” “Clueless,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Election,” “American Graffiti,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “Sixteen Candles” or “10 Things I Hate About You.” These are all funny, thoughtful and intelligent examinations of the realities of teenagers and high school life that have been made by people who assume that their viewers are funny, thoughtful and intelligent people instead of brain-dead robots who will obligingly swallow anything as long as it has a well-known logo attached to it. No need to thank me–just remember to pass them on to any younger siblings you might happen to have in the event that (shudder) “Bratz: The Next Generation” rears its creepily made-up head.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15752&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/03/07 00:00:00
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User Comments

11/25/15 David H. clearly guided towards teenage girls with nothing better to do. 1 stars
12/13/13 Magenta Fantasies Some parts are genuinely good, others are so bad they're good. The soundtrack is great! 4 stars
1/23/09 Weenie Beenie I'd like to assrape all four of those girls. 5 stars
7/14/08 Karen It was a cute movie 4 stars
10/23/07 William Goss Like Mean Girls, only devoid of wit, intelligence, or purpose. 1 stars
10/17/07 Me god, it sucked soooo much! 1 stars
8/18/07 d0mino How cute. STEREOTYPES POWER. Wake up people.... (My review: Ew.) 1 stars
8/14/07 Matt I agree with Greg. 1 stars
8/08/07 CBC For those who think AOL kiddie-speak on the Internet is "kewl." 1 stars
8/07/07 Porfirio Good movie, shows the true value of friendship, this movie is like mean girls on a G level 4 stars
8/07/07 Rafael This movie is so bad its good!! 5 stars
8/07/07 Lisa Wow. Great! 5 stars
8/07/07 eva rosy mcisaac awsom ,cool,funny,loved it. 5 stars
8/05/07 Tiffany Losco I think it was cute. My daughter liked it. 4 stars
8/04/07 Kelly Whitekiller I know you have to see it if you have a child, bring your ipod! 1 stars
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  03-Aug-2007 (PG)
  DVD: 27-Nov-2007



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