Barbie in Princess Power
Barbie in Princess Power 2015
You know that superheroes are getting almost overwhelmingly ingrained in the popular culture when even Barbie is getting in on the action. It’s also a bit of a shame to think that before this movie came along the last superhero movie to feature a woman in the lead role of a superhero movie was back in 2009 with the DC Animated Wonder Woman movie. As someone with an 8 year old daughter, I have seen my fair share of these countless Barbie animated films which typically range from tolerable to ok. There’s nothing special about any of them with the exception of the webseries Life in the Dreamhouse which is actually quite funny. This one falls right in line with the rest of them with a fairly predictable plot, simple one-note characters, and a bit of a moral to the story in the end. It does have the benefit of tossing out a small handful of superhero references, though they are some of the most well known and obvious ones they could have pulled from. Obviously it’s not a film that I would recommend the average movie-goer to go out and pick up, but if you have a daughter between 4 and 14, especially if they like superheroes, this is one of the best choices available. More than that, along with Powerpuff Girls they are the only superhero movies led by females.
Without going into too much detail the plot takes on a lot of superhero tropes, but not always in the right ways. Most of the popular superheroes that aren’t aliens/mystical beings fall into one of two categories: a billionaire that has training/gadgets/etc that will make them a superhero, or a regular person that has some sort of accident that turns them into a superhero. Here Barbie, sorry Kara, is a rich princess of a small kingdom and she also gets her powers accidentally when the villain’s pet frog knocks over the secret potion that falls into the sewers and onto a caterpillar. The caterpillar turns into a glittery pink butterfly and kisses Kara, giving her powers. There are plenty of light references to other superheroes, like that frog’s name is Bruce as in Banner or even Wayne, her pet cat is named Parker as in Peter, Kara is also the name of Supergirl. One of my favorite little moments is when she’s experimenting with her two nerdy friends to determine what super powers she has, she makes a series of hand gestures like in Raimi’s Spider-Man movie and one of them is the Spider-Man pose, her friends also ask her if she had been bitten by a radioactive spider. There’s even some scene transitions that feel very reminiscent of the Adam West Batman series with a mask or a silhouette that zooms in and out with a colorful background. And finally, the first time she rescues someone, he exclaims “you’ve got me? Who’s got you?!” which is the same line in the original Superman movie.
There is a bit of gender role reversal in one of the supporting roles is the typical Lois Lane style reporter, although he isn’t quite as respected. Instead, Wes is merely a blogger and early on one of the characters calls him out on it. But while he isn’t always the one getting himself into trouble, he does often happen to be on the scene with his phone in hand to snap a picture and write a blog post. He is a bit on the smarter side though since he does manage to figure out her secret identity via a lightning bolt ring that she wears both as her superhero identity Super Sparkle and as Princess Kara. There’s also a stereotypically girly nature to many of the superhero trappings. One of her powers is the ability to create a pink sparkly energy ball that she can throw, her costume is very much on the pink and sparkly side of things as well. Surprisingly when it came down to the typical costume creation montage, it was very short with only a single other costume used. There’s also plenty of animal sidekicks, the villain has his pet frog that ends up getting super powers and a purple mask by the end, and Kara’s two pets: a dog and a cat also end up being furry superheroes before the credits roll.
The one thing that the movie does do a fairly decent job of is the slight morality tale. From the very start, Kara wants to make a community garden to help make the area a better place and give back. But as her popularity as Super Sparkle begins to grow, she becomes more focused on the more glamorous tasks of stopping criminals and saving people from burning buildings. And when her cousin tracks down the sparkly butterfly to become her rival Dark Sparkle, they spend their time fighting over who gets to save people instead of working together and Kara becomes jealous of the new hero stealing her spotlight. It’s not until they’re faced with the villain, who unsurprisingly happens to be the Baron and the king’s assistant. I say unsurprisingly because it’s always the Baron, and we as an audience essentially see him as the villain from the very beginning of the film. Since this is a children’s film, Kara obviously learns to work with Dark Sparkle in the end to defeat the Baron together, Kara’s parents learn to trust their daughter’s judgement a bit more, and she finally decides to help out with the community garden. There’s nothing surprising or new here, but as far as women superheroes go there’s not a lot to choose from and this is as good as it’s going to get for a little while. At the same time, there’s nothing incredibly annoying either, and there were a few small moments that got a slight laugh out of me. As far as my daughter was concerned, her favorite part of the movie was when the two pets become superheroes, the rest of it she could take or leave. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.