August 9, 2007

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Bratz (PG)
Mothers, lock up your daughters; the squealing, fashion-addicted Barbie-like sassy-pants known to toy-shoppers as the Bratz come to the big screen in Bratz, a live-action movie about four large-headed girls and their adventures in high school.

No, seriously, mothers. Lock up your daughters; keep them far far away from this pink, glittery lip gloss-slathered freakshow. I’m no Gloria Steinem but this can’t be good for the future of independent, confident, intelligent women. There’s too much shiny clothing and concern about going to the big party. And the squealing, dear God, the squealing. It’s a noise like the “awwww” people make when they see a kitten but sped up and played at a pitch one notch below dog whistle.

All the “yeeeeeee!”-ing starts as four BFFs prepare to enter high school. Yasmin (Nathalia Ramos) is their Spanish-bilingual leader with a passion for journalism and a secret talent for singing. Sasha (Logan Browning) is a good dancer with cheerleader aspirations. Jade (Janel Parrish) likes science and sewing and wears a parent-approved nerd wardrobe to school before changing into a funky get-up of her own creation. Cloe (Skyler Shaye) is clumsy and plays soccer. All of the girls have hair of a size and style to rival a beauty pageant contestant auditioning for the part of Rapunzel and, just like their doll progenitors, strangely giant heads. They all dress like they bedazzled themselves with the entire contents of a Claire’s Boutique after first getting a Gwen Stefani makeover. With all this fashion insanity, how can our little freshmen help but be noticed on their first day of school?

Unfortunately, it’s a far more horrible girl named Meredith (Chelsea Staub) who does the noticing. Those girls just won’t go sit with the pre-approved cliques — Goths, emo kids, cheerleaders, nerds, loners, kids who dress like dinosaurs — as the rest of the student body does. Who the hell is Meredith and why does she care where anybody sits? She’s the daughter of the principal (Jon Voight, in a role that defies understanding) and, despite everything we know about educational pay scales, has money to burn. The cliques help her “control the school” — a concept which makes about as much sense as a principal who makes enough to have a lavish mansion with an infinity pool. This member of the Future Dictators of America club needn’t worry, though; eventually the power of the cliques pulls the four girls apart.

Fast forward two years and the girls are all immersed in their own groups — except Yasmin, who appears to be friendless, but the movie never really addresses that. After a freak accident involving one of those tiny, kickable Paris Hilton dogs and several trays of spaghetti lands the girls in detention together, they rekindle their best-friends-forever-ness and decide to break Meredith and her clique system once and for all.

How? Via a bunch of sassy clown costumes and a talent show. Like, duh!

Bratz gives lip-service to friendship over popularity and the importance of education (the big prize at the talent show is a scholarship) but the movie’s overwhelming message seems to be that a Teen Vogue-approved fashion sense and vaguely age-inappropriate dance moves will ultimately win the day. Meredith’s villainy seems to be rooted in the fact that her desire to be fabulous extends only to herself and that she attempts to gain fabulousity by keeping everyone else down (and by giving two sweet sixteen parties, both of which are featured, in a perfect re-creation of the actual show, on MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen). The Bratz want everyone to be fabulous, fabulous in the exact same too-much-lip-gloss, not-enough-common-sense kind of way. One big fabulous, BFF clique. Sort of a communism of awesomeness compared to Meredith’s fascism of fabulousness. From each according to her school spirit, to each according to her nail polish needs.

Bratz is a depressing window into teen-dom — even if it’s just the platinum credit card-crafted fantasy of teen-hood aggressively pushed by marketers. Mothers, don’t let your daughters grow up to be squealers. D

Rated PG for thematic elements. Directed by Sean McNamara and written by Susan Estelle Jansen, Adam De La Peńa and David Eilenberg, Bratz is an hour and 50 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Lionsgate.