A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Barbie Spy Squad finds Barbie and her gymnastics teammates recruited as modern-day, high-tech secret agents. The girls are called upon to be brave, skilled, and intelligent in a quest to help the International Intelligence and Innovation Agency (T-3) solve a series of robberies that endanger the world. In fact, all female characters in this tale are strong and intelligent. The filmmakers have conscientiously left the shopping and dress-up behind, except for one short sequence as they prepare to disguise themselves. Among other positive messages (teamwork, loyalty, courage), the concept of visualization -- "See it, then be it!" -- is introduced as a method of prepping for challenging tasks. Cartoon action is mild and includes chases, falls, maneuvering through laser fields, rappelling down steep inclines, and outwitting some robots on the attack, but no one suffers any injuries. As usual, Mattel is offering an extensive new line of Barbie merchandise to tie in with this film.
What's the story?
Team Barbie (Erica Lindbeck), Theresa (Jenny Pellicer), and Renee (Stephanie Sheh) barely qualify for the upcoming Golden Cup gymnastics meet in BARBIE SPY SQUAD. Barbie blames herself because she lost her focus and her confidence at the last minute. The girls vow to practice hard for the finals. Their plans are interrupted when a proposed picnic near the Hollywood sign leads them to a hidden tunnel, an underground facility, and an unexpected adventure. The International Intelligence and Innovation Agency, headed by a surprising leader, thinks they're just the right people to help stop a series of gem robberies. Five gems from a set of eight have been stolen. If the scoundrels can obtain the last three, the world will be in peril. Excited at the prospect and wanting to do the right thing, Barbie and her friends agree. Only Theresa, slightly fearful, needs coaxing. The eager girls train, receive amazing gadgets and spy gear, and set off to catch a thief. It's a "cat-and-mouse" game, which finds them up against a gymnast as skilled as they are and an unlikely villain with his army of battling robots.
Is it any good?
Cultural shifts and Mattel's good intentions (plus marketing savvy) have reached their zenith in this movie in which the curvy doll and her friends are asked to work as spies and save the world. No fashion-obsessed teens or storybook princesses here; the only makeup in sight is actually spy gadgetry in disguise. The teen girls are resourceful, brave, and physically skilled as they meet danger head-on and answer the call. A simple, very typical story; by-the-numbers animation; and derivative James Bond-inspired music make the actual events less compelling than the ideas behind them. But there are enough inventive twists and scenes of derring-do to make this film fun for both girls and boys. It's nice to see Barbie going in a new direction. Mattel wins, too. Lots of new merchandise reaches store shelves when Barbie ventures into the spy world.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the mantra "see it, then be it." Do you think this idea could be useful in real life? For kids? For grown-ups? Give some specific examples of how this technique might work for you.
It's important to be aware that this DVD is not only a fun movie for kids but also helps Mattel sell dolls, toys, and games. You see the movie; you want the toys. You see the toys; you want to see the movie. How do the kids and adults in your family deal sensibly with these marketing techniques?
There are some "plot twists" (surprises) in this movie. Can you identify them?
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