Every now and then, we get interesting mails in the Uncanny inbox. Recently, it was the announcement that none other than Barbie is having a CGI-animated movie in cinemas. So we’ve had a look at Barbie in Rock ‘N Royals.
Apparently, Barbie, as in the doll by Mattel, has had a few movies over the years. So many, in fact, that there are – according to fans and analysts of all things Barbie – three generations of Barbie films.
- Generation I: 1987. This was basically two movies that should serve as an intro to a cartoon series starring Barbie as the singer of a rock band. But negotiations fell through and there were only ever two movies made.
- Generation II: 2001 – 2009 The second generation of Barbie movies include 16 films. Most of them have a Fairy Tale plot or they’re based on the current Barbie product line such as Mermaidia or Fairytopia.
- Generation III: 2010 until present.. The Fairy Tale approach apparently didn’t yield the success that Mattel wanted so they rebooted the series with what analysts claim to be a more modern approach. So less fairies and more singers and other modern, but trendy, professions. Still a lot of princesses, though
The latest of these films is Barbie in Rock ‘N Royals. It hit cinemas in Switzerland recently and we’ve seen it. And be glad that we watched it. Because now you don’t have to.
The Nonsensical Plot
Even going into this, we didn’t really expect to be faced with high-brow humour and intellectually challenging story that provokes the mind. After all, we’re not exactly the target audience of this but rather the sort of person in charge of the target audience and allowing them to watch movies. So it’s at least somewhat interesting to know what we’re putting in front of girls between the age of five and about ten. But even kids shouldn’t watch this. At one point, writer Franzi expressed that if she ever had kids, they would not be allowed to see this film. I believe the exact quote was «Jesus, I will censor the shit out of what my kids will watch.»
The movie stars Barbie as Princess Courtney who is, surprisingly, a princess. But her life isn’t apparently all that as she’s really looking forward to Princess Camp which is held at a lagoon resort once a year. All the princesses, about ten, meet there to do princess things such as sing and dance and feed the unicorns and practise their magic. All princesses are magical beings, you see, and they can just witch everything into happening.
At the same time, on the other side of the lagoon, around a five minute walk from Princess Camp, there’s a Pop Star Camp where the biggest pop star of the world will go – Erika. But due to a computer system glitch, the cruise ships taking the participants of each camp to their side of the lagoon, Princess Courtney ends up on the rockstar side of the lagoon and Erika lands at Princess Camp.
It is then revealed that the heads of each camp, a British former rockstar and a – for lack of a better word – random woman used to be an item but are now at loggerheads for reasons unknown. Both camps are in high demand so they aim to expand, but because the lagoon is small, each actually want to take over the other’s camp. In this adverse environment, the world’s biggest pop star and the world’s greatest princess must face adversity from princesses and pop stars respectively,while being made part of a real estate conspiracy.
Within the first five minutes of the movie, around the time Courtney and Erika are on their respective and nicely segregated cruise ships that pass through the magic barrier, separating the camps from the outside world, that any viewer with half a functioning brain cell can predict the ending. Courtney and Erika will break down the barriers between the two camps and it will all end up in a giant sing-off that they’ll do together. What follows are about sixty minutes of intense boredom, leading up to the obvious.
And then there’s parents or babysitters wondering why the devil children can’t sit still in front of the television anymore. This is why. This is the reason why they’ll be bored after ten minutes. This movie is bland, boring and horrible.
Segregation is Okay
The most important thing to carry away here is that nobody is okay, apart from all the people who are exactly like you. Princesses can’t get along with anyone who’s not a princess and rockstars can’t get along with anyone else. This message is never really negated, even though at the end, the two camps merge to form the world’s first Rock ‘n Royals camp, where the two segregated cultures will get to mingle in a controlled environment for a limited amount of time.
The reason for this segregation is never made clear. It might have to do with the fact that princesses have magic and can conjure up rainbows and feed the unicorns. While they don’t make a big secret about it, it’s very obvious that nobody else is made aware of the unicorn and the magic.
As it is, you must ostracize everyone who is not exactly like you and make them actively uncomfortable. Is this really what you want your child to see and learn?
It would be okay-ish, if that was the only thing that would actively be working against a child – presumably a girl – to grown up to be a modern person who successfully navigates this world with the necessary empathy and compassion. But it’s not. It’s only the biggest one.
You’re Useless if…
In other news, the 84 minute movie tells girls that princesses are essentially useless. It is nothing short of a miracle that Courtney has not died yet because she thought that stabbing a knife into a power power plug was a good idea. Princesses have no agency of their own as they’re just perfectly content to fuddle about all day long, being nice and obedient without any real skill. The difference to the rock stars is this: They’re where they are because of who they are. You’re born a princess and you don’t need to do anything to be a princess.
On the other hand, there are the pop stars, making pop that is the most unoffensive thing since cuddly kittens. While it’s somewhat implied that Erika Juno and others at the camp have worked to be where they are, none of that work is evident anywhere. They also just are. They’re adored by hundreds and they deserve to be adored.
Both parties of this forced conflict are actively working to make the outsider in their group – Erika Juno and Princess Courtney respectively – feel as hated and unwelcome as possible. It is only in the end, after the presumed promise of fame and fortune, that the outsiders are accepted by the entire group and not just a few outliers within the group.
Conform and Be Passive
What also needs noting is that the first step to acceptance in another group appears to be conformity. The first thing that the two misplaced girls do is change their dress style to fit in with everyone else. This isn’t what kids should be taught. Of course, there will always be group dynamics and everything and groups will eventually start to look similar, but this should not be a defining characteristic in a social group. It should be an afterthought.
And last but not least, nobody in this movie accomplishes anything. Everything is some conspiracy. Okay, you can’t do anything to become a princess, you’re born that way or you marry into it. But being a pop star takes work. You need to learn how to sing, how to dance, how to market yourself to a degree and usually, playing an instrument helps. Generally, let’s assume that knowing how to music helps. The characters at Camp Pop obviously do all that, but viewers never see any of it. They show up already successful. Erika Juno is the world’s biggest pop star, but seeing the way to her stardom is never shown. Instead the two camp leaders conspire to get each other out of business and the campers conspire against that conspiracy. Do we really want to teach our kids that scheming is the way to the top?
In fact, the writers and director of this film show that singing is just something that is given. Princess Courtney sits down in one scene, turns her magic wand into a pink microphone and then sings the best song of the movie. Who needs pop stars when you can have a magic microphone?
So Rock ‘N Royals is full of very unhealthy messages, but it’s also very, very stupid. We at Uncanny believe that children are more intelligent than this movie. They’re capable of comprehending more challenging subjects.
Low Budget, No Value
Even looking past the questionable content of Barbie in Rock ‘N Royals, the movie doesn’t offer much. The movie is cheaply produced CGI animation where the characters look sickly at best and move awkwardly stiffly in fluid motions. They possess large dead eyes and the environments seem sterile and static. Of course, expecting a Pixar level of animation here is too much, but there are PlayStation games with better graphics than this movie. Recently I’ve had a good long look at The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and that looks like so.
The worst thing that destroys the look of the Barbie movie is the fact that all characters have the same face. All female characters have the exact same body and they move identically. This becomes especially obvious when there’s a large dancing scene to one of the bland pop numbers that don’t even have any memorable lyrics and seem to have been crafted around a few certain words such as friend and star while not necessarily having to make sense between those words.
Then there’s the visual aspect. Why must everything be pink and purple and pastel? How about some contrasting colours? Is this what girls should look like?
About Ten Minutes Worth of Story
What adds to the boredom is the fact that the movie has about ten minutes of story, all things added up. How is that possible, you ask? There are obviously – and fittingly – a lot of music numbers. How could you not when your story deals with pop stars and at least one singing princess?
But the stories of both Princess Courtney and Erika Juno mirror each other exactly. So every aspect of the story is told twice. When Erika gets bullied by the princesses, Courtney gets bullied by the pop stars. This is where the movie becomes – in addition to being offensive and very probably somewhat harmful to girls – just plain boring.
After 84 minutes, this movie is over. But Mattel has announced making two to three Barbie movies a year. Obviously, they generate enough income to warrant sequels. And that, frankly, is shocking.