A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this one-hour animated tale is for very young viewers, but Barbie and her sisters, especially the littlest, do face some mild peril in Barbie & Chelsea: The Lost Birthday. It might not be clear to the youngest viewers whether 7-year-old Chelsea's adventure -- leaving a cruise ship alone to seek a magic gem on a jungle island -- is meant to be real or imagined, considering all of the film and characters are imaginary. Chelsea makes some animal friends on her treasure hunt and learns valuable lessons about courage, strength, and quick thinking as she solves riddles and gets around sticky situations. She also encounters a giraffe held hostage in a giant spider's web, a roaring tiger, and snarling crocodiles. None of these stuffed animal-looking characters are drawn in a very menacing way except for a large Tiki statue, who has an angry face, a booming voice, and threatens Chelsea and her friends with hot lava spewing from a volcano. Tiki also shuts them into a dark cave. Barbie and her other two sisters go looking for Chelsea and encounter their own setbacks with poisonous flowers, hungry parrots, and quicksand. Parent viewers may wonder why Barbie's parents don't seem especially panicked when Chelsea goes missing on a large cruise ship, or why they don't seem to know where the girls are at most times. Barbie offers a specific representation of the female body, but here she and her sisters are teens, tweens, or kids, not women. The older two sisters seem to have their smart phones in their hands at all times. The film carries positive lessons about family, siblings, and giving little kids credit and some autonomy to demonstrate their own abilities. It adds another entry into the body of Barbie films and shows, thus serving as marketing for Barbie products: dolls and pets from this film are already on sale.
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What's the story?
Barbie and her family are embarking on a Tiki-themed, eco-friendly cruise at the start of BARBIE & CHELSEA: THE LOST BIRTHDAY. Barbie's mom is there to work and her dad is looking forward to some rest, so they put Barbie in charge of her three younger sisters: Skipper, Stacie, and the youngest, Chelsea. The girls set out to find the best place on the boat to celebrate Chelsea's seventh birthday the very next day, but they're frustrated at every turn by an angry and uncooperative activities director. The next morning, when Chelsea wakes up, she realizes the ship has crossed the International Date Line and she has missed her entire birthday. Upset, she goes to hide out, and that's when she sets out on a magical adventure on a jungle island, where she makes some new animal friends on a treasure hunt for a gem that can grant them all their wishes. Her wish, of course, is to go back and recuperate her birthday.
Is it any good?
This film, intended for younger kids, sends the well-known teenager and her younger sisters on a fun and colorful adventure. The cruise ship and jungle island setting of Barbie & Chelsea: The Lost Birthday, complete with Tiki statues, pirate references, and talking parrots, may even feel exotic to some. The animation is targeted at the youngest viewers, with soft-edged, stuffed animal-looking characters, though some of the stiff movements of the human bodies in the show could be a little off-putting.
Chelsea's solo adventure should appeal to kids' imaginations in the same way Dora the Explorer's do, where the stakes appear high but can actually be managed by a 7-year-old. A musical number and some references to DJs, vlogs, and smart phone apps also seem like portrayals of teens or tweens intended to excite kids younger than that. Chelsea's animal friends all have individual wishes for personality traits they'd like to have or hobbies they'd like to explore, and the film sweetly shows how they all ultimately discover they've had these traits and skills in them all along.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Chelsea's adventure on the magic island in Barbie & Chelsea: The Lost Birthday. Did it really happen or was it all a dream? Why do you think so?
Chelsea misses her birthday because the cruise ship crosses the International Date Line. Do you know what that is? Where could you go for more information?
Barbie has a vlog and Skipper sleeps with her smart phone in her hand. Parents: talk to your kids about smart uses of technology.
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