Bratz: The Movie Review
Cloe (Skyler Shaye), Sasha (Logan Browning), Jade (Janel Parrish) and Yasmin (Nathalia Ramos) are BFFs...Best Friends Forever! But they're starting Carry Nation High School, where life will be very different. The headmaster, Principal Dimly (Jon Voight) is standing near the statue of himself reading a book titled How To Run A Prison. Security cameras scan the playground, guards stand at the entrances and exits and star pupil Meredith Baxter Dimly (Chelsea Staub) has organised all of the pupils into cliques. Jocks at one table, cheerleaders at another. Martial arts dudes, skater boys and hippies all know their place. The loners, in spite of wanting to be alone, all sit together. Even the mime artists have a place. But the Bratz girls don't do cliques. What they do want is to own the school and it doesn't take them long to be the darlings of Carry Nation High. An upset Meredith has other plans...
This is not a film made with me in mind. In fact, it's hard to think of any film made specifically with me in mind, although Steven Lisberger struck very close when I was about twelve with Tron. Light cycles, videogames and lasers, it was a winning combination then and, I admit, has its attractions still. However, it must seem, to an audience of seven-to-ten-year-old girls that Bratz: The Movie is made with them very much in mind. Not only does it feature four beautiful young women striking out in high school, each one the likeness of the four dolls they have at home, but it's such a pre-teen assault on the eyes and ears that older audiences will recoil at the colour, noise and sweetness of it all while young girls will drawn to it like bees to honey.
The Bratz girls were an invention of toy manufacturer MGA Entertainment who moulded Cloe, Sasha, Jade and Yasmin for girls too old for Barbie but too young for boyfriends. Not for the Bratz the long, fairy-tale dresses of Barbie. The Bratz girls dress in street styles, as punk-inspired rock stars and in fake fur and diamonds. Or, as many a parent might say, like prostitutes. The Bratz girls, as MGA Entertainment so brashly say, have a passion for fashion. Bratz: The Movie certainly lives up to that statement of intent. The opening shot is of the bright green lawns, hot pink roofs and cool blue swimming pools of the Californian suburbs, in which an alarm bell rings and the Bratz girls positively jump out of their beds in a riot of pink and red to get starrin' and stylin' for their first day at high school.
That first day does not go well. Each one promises to own the school at the very thing they excel at. Cloe joins the school football team, Sasha the cheerleaders, Jade the science club and Yasmin the school paper. Everything is fine until lunch time, when the various cliques peel away to their separate tables. The Bratz girls try to resist but social pressure gets the better of them, leaving Yasmin, the quietest of the four girls, all alone. Two years later, the girls, who once instant messaged one another from the moment they awoke to their going back to bed, are barely speaking. It looks like Meredith has won.
Then comes the message of the film and the Bratz girls, following a food fight in the school court yard, realise that it's just not cool be apart, not when they've been best friends forever! And so with Meredith having won the first fight, it's up to the Bratz to win the social war in Carry Nation High School. It's certainly possible to see the positives in a film like Bratz: The Movie. It's message is of social inclusion, of not giving in to peer pressure and of always remembering who your real friends are. And, of course, to look utterly dazzling in your own style. That last moral will go down well with its intended audience who, with a poor eye for colour, clothes and the clean application of make-up, will be open-mouthed in admiration at Jade's clash of styles. Blue highlights, stilettoes tied up with ribbons and a white science coat might never look so good every again.
However, the film is painfully inclusive, ensuring that no race, creed nor disability is left out, except perhaps the Amish. This certainly reflects the dolls, although Jade, who looks anaemic in plastic, is now Chinese-American while Yasmin has lost her beauty spot and her tan and is now Jewish-Mexican. Cameron now appears to preferring studying to skateboarding while Dylan, too often cast as Cameron's rather dim friend, is now deaf and mixes football and music. Poor old Eitan, who gets treated shabbily even in the animated movies doesn't appear here at all, although neither does Roxie, Nevra nor Fianna. Still, children aren't going to mind and will, one hopes, be blind to all of this. However, there are a couple of winning performances in all of this. The Bratz girls are good are should have careers after this but the two standout actresses are Chelsea Staub as Meredith, who gets to sing a couple of dreadfully self-aggrandising songs, and Emily Rose Everhard who brings nearly all the film's brattitude with her playing of Cherish, Meredith's younger sister. Rude, nasty and with a sweet way with a putdown, there isn't half enough of her in the film.
However, much as the audience might be full of seven-to-ten-year-old girls, I'm not sure they want to watch one of their own on the screen. Who they have are the real-life Bratz dolls, much as they are in the animated series and with songs, styles and sass to match. Perhaps it lacks a Troy Bolton figure for young girls to swoon over - brows were furrowed and older girls cried when rumours abounded that Zac Efron had perished in a car accident - and it does miss the songs that Disney's film delivered so effortlessly, which still leaves High School Musical 2 as the film for pre-teen girls this Crhistmas but for that audience, Bratz: The Movie is a bright, brash if ultimately trashy treat.
It's surprising to see this in 2.35:1. Not that it doesn't work in that aspect ratio but it feels out of place, the story, characters and action looking too small and somewhat lost in amongst such a wide image. The picture itself, though eye-wateringly colourful, is generally not bad although there's a fair amount of grain in the image that becomes distracting, not least in the darkness in the hall in the talent show finale. However, more than that, it does just look very ordinary much of the time. Where one could forgive High School Musical the same for it being made for television, that's less the case here as this was a cinema release. Director Sean McNamara doesn't appear to have raised his game any since That's So Raven and any number of direct-to-video features before that with the film looking no better than a typical Disney television production. The soundtrack, a DD5.1 surround track, is good, though, with the music sounding clean and direct, offering plenty of bass on the songs and making sure the dialogue, vocal tracks and action, what little there is of it, is clear from the background noise. The rear speakers are not, however, used very much but it's not really the kind of film that demands a dynamic surround track. Finally, there are English subtitles throughout.
Director Sean McNamara has contributed an Audio Commentary to the DVD release and, to be honest, I was surprised to find that he had as much to say as he did. Even as a more grown man than I am, he didn't fail to do his Bratz research and is quite impressive with what he can recall about the Bratz throughout this commentary. Of course, he spends most of his time - and he does talk throughout the film - talking about the production of the movie and he's mostly interesting and always enthusiastic. However, it's hard to see the point of this. I doubt if any girl who actually enjoys playing with the Bratz dolls will have any interest in what McNamara has to say while anyone with a real interest in how movies are made may not ever find themselves watching Bratz: The Movie. Following the commentary and on to the rest of the extras, the Deleted Scenes (10m03s) fill in some of the gaps in the film, such as Jade jazzing up the physics clique, Meredith introducing the judges. Two music videos follow, Daechelle's Fearless (3m49s) and Janel Parrish's Rainy Day (3m28s), both of which also play out over the end credits of the film.
What would be presented as a Making Of... on another DVD is featured with some attention paid to the origins of the characters as dolls. Casting The Bratz (6m06s), for example, interviews MGA Entertainment CEO Isaac Larian before the girls who play Chloe, Jade, Sasha and Yasmin are compared to the dolls and how easily the fitted into the roles. A Day in the Life... (3m23s) sits in on the girls meeting one another for the first time before following them onto the set while Bratz Are Different (3m20s) spells out the theme of the movie one more time. Not that it's difficult to work out, even for the youngest of viewers.
As Bratz fans will tell you, Chloe, Jade, Sasha and Yasmin are the girls with the passion for fashion and so it's will some fanfare but little surprise that the DVD extras take in costume and make-up over three features, Bratz Style (clothes, 4m18s), Fashion Profiles (individual styles, 5m30s) and Highlights & Glitter (hair and make-up, 4m42s). Again, music also ranks pretty high for the Bratz girls, not least their past fashion line of punk-inspired Rock Angelz, so the DVD extras also take in behind-the-scenes rehearsals in The Music And Dancing Of The Bratz (3m55s), the choice of songwriting in It's All About Music (3m18s) and a Rainy Day/Making The Video (2m05s). Next come three behind-the-camera looks at two scenes and one dog, The Food Fight (2m29s), Meredith's no-expense-spared reprise of her birthday party in Super Sweet! (2m25s) and Meredith's awful toy dog Paris in Doggy Dearest (2m22s).
Finally, there is a Theatrical Trailer (1m14s) and a Bratz Doll Advertisement (24s) for the Bratz line of dolls that accompanied the release of this film.