Barbie: Princess Charm School

 
(i)

 

Stereotypes and marketing mar story of likable underdog.
  • Review Date: October 26, 2011
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 81 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Through the story, kids may learn the importance of honesty, loyalty, and friendship, as well as the value of practicing to perfect for your skills.

Positive messages

Good messages include teamwork, practicing your skills until you perfect them, and telling the truth even when you may not benefit from it. Unfortunately, the movie also has the side effect of making young girls want to buy Barbie dolls and all of the accessories shown in the movie.

Positive role models

Blair is a good role model; she's kind to her mother and sister, hardworking in order to earn money for her family, and persistent in her studies at the princess charm school. Miss Privet also recognizes that Blair deserves a chance and decides to tutor her. On the other hand, one character acts as a "mean girl" through much of the movie, and another girl is portrayed as an airhead.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff

The princesses-to-be dance with their male equivalents.

Language

An adult uses the term "poor" and "commoner" derisively.

Consumerism

The Barbie movies may have plots and characters, but they're basically endeavors in merchandising. Almost everything in the movie -- from the main characters to the outfits and the vehicles -- have product tie-ins that can be bought. There's also a Mattel site devoted to the movie, as well as a series of tie-in books for early readers.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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?

QUALITY
 

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?

Movie details

DVD release date:September 13, 2011
Cast:Brittney Wilson, Diana Kaarina
Directors:Terry Klassen, Zeke Norton
Studio:Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Princesses and fairies
Run time:81 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Barbie: Princess Charm School was written by

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent of a 4 year old Written byquackers19 December 11, 2011
 

Horrible movie with a worthless message

This movie is beyond ridiculous. I had high hopes for it in the beginning, watching Barbie work hard to help support her family. The moment Charm School began, I was horrified. Barbie was subjected to mean girl behavior, and bullying by a teacher. The message of the movie was all about appearance, and that princesses are only concerned with pouring tea and curtsying. The worst was the ending of the movie, in which Barbie rewards her bully with a coveted position for her "help". Her two best pals are completely overlooked and tossed aside, while a bully who did nothing but leave a window open to encourage a home invasion gets rewarded. NOT an appropriate message. Just, no.
What other families should know
Too much consumerism
Kid, 12 years old September 12, 2012
 

Eh...

I watched this with my sister (10), and my cousins (5 and 7). None of us really enjoyed it. The animation is low-budget, the voice acting and characters are bland, and I just found it to be one big long Barbie commercial. Plus, Blair's friends didn't get any credit despite how kind they were. Not really worth watching unless you're a hardcore Babrbie fan.
Parent Written bydebjael March 19, 2012
 

Worthwhile messages

Despite the princess trappings, I liked this Barbie movie better than some of the others. There was almost no boy girl stuff and since the princess accoutrements were already at the school, there was no shopping. The movie made a strong point that a person's value is inherent and not defined by other people's words, beliefs or actions. Blair took this message to heart and came to value herself, her beliefs and her abilities despite her detractors. The headmistress made a wise observation that confidence that is not backed up by character leads to arrogance (paraphrase). Despite the poor values and behaviour modeled by her mother, Delancy learned that she valued what was right and could do the right thing. In the end, she didn't let herself be defined by her poor upbringing or use it as an excuse to continue behaving badly. Poise, manners and gracious behaviour are shown to be worthy skills that don't come automatically with a title. Blair models the value of forgiveness and family by choosing Delancy (her cousin) as her lady royal. (Yes, her friends stood by her longer, but as princesses, they didn't need the job.) The airhead character was an unfortunate and unecessary addition. However, since her lack of discernment led her to engage in bullying I was able to use the character to discuss with my daughters the value of thinking critically about what others (friends, adults, movies with merchandizing tie-ins) might be asking them to believe or do.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models

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