Barbie: Princess Charm School
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this direct-to-DVD movie is an installment in Mattel's ever-growing list of cleverly marketed tie-ins to their newest Barbie collections. While there's little objectionable content in the story (besides the inclusion of a perpetually ignorant "air head" character), the entire movie is made to boost advertising and generate even more interest in the dolls and their accessories -- in this case about a princess academy where one spot is reserved for a lottery winner who will learn how to be a lady-in-waiting to royalty. Despite the emphasis on makeovers and fashion, there's a stronger than usual focus on practicing skills (even if they're of the "finishing school" variety), telling the truth, and being kind to those less fortunate.
What's the story?
Blair Willows (voiced by Diana Kaarina) is a waitress trying to help support her mother and younger sister. One day she returns home from work to discover that she's unexpectedly won a televised lottery to attend the exclusive Princess Charm School, an elite boarding academy where she can train to become a princess or royal lady in waiting. Blair reluctantly agrees to attend to provide a better life for her family, but besides her kind roommates, she quickly becomes the target of the school's queen-to-be Delancy (Brittney Wilson) and her snobby mother, professor Dame Devin (Nicole Oliver). Although the Devins try to sabotage Blair's time at Charm School, the sympathetic Miss Privet (Morwenna Banks) tutors her so she can reach graduation day.
Is it any good?
Barbie keeps adding various careers and storylines to her repertoire, and in this incarnation, she's a kind and loving princess student. Never mind that in reality, royalty is all about birthright and doesn't provide "scholarships" for random wannabes, the fairy tale will delight young girls who will look past the budget computer animation (backgrounds are fuzzy, and everything looks amateurish, without detail) and the preposterous.
While hardworking Blair is a vast improvement over a couple of other Barbie protagonists, one of the movie's most disturbing characters is Portia (Ali Liebert) -- a "dumb girl" who takes things literally because she's so ignorant. Even pseudo-villain Delancy redeems herself, but a girl as air-headish as Portia is an awful role model for girls, who may think she's funny. There are many flaws in this formulaic princess flick, but at least Blair will show that if you practice again and again, you'll get better at everything -- from posture and dancing to, one hopes, much more important endeavors.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about whether this movie focuses more or less on consumerism (fashion and the "rich and famous" lifestyle) than other Barbie movies. How is Blair different than the other charm school students? Why is she a more likable underdog than the other characters?
Kids: Does seeing this movie make you more interested in buying the dolls and accessories? Parents: How can you focus on the movie's positive themes without giving in to the merchandising impact?
In the movie, even beautiful Blair is made to feel lowly because she doesn't come from a wealthy family. Which of the charm-school students make her welcome, and which ones criticize her and act threatened?