A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the Bratz dolls are particularly controversial for being overly sexualized and superficial, but in Desert Jewelz, they're less fashion- and looks-obsessed than in the franchise's other direct-to-DVD movies. There's considerable peril, especially when one character is kidnapped by a creepy professor and in a frightening scene when it seems like a beloved camel has fallen to its death. The language is tame except for a few mild insults and the innuendo implied in the professor's treatment of his captives. Some parents won't appreciate that the girls wear midriff-baring belly dancer costumes in a fashion show, and those who pay attention to the accents may find them caricatures of cultural stereotypes.
What's the story?
The four main Bratz dolls -- Cloe, Jade, Sasha, and Yasmin -- accompany their friend Katia to her father's homeland, where they're supposed to deliver her family's heirloom carpet to a museum. Although Katia's father insists she take the carpet straight to him, she decides to use it as a prop for a fashion show the girls enter. Meanwhile, a ninja-like young woman steals a mysterious ring that activates the magic carpet. When she calls the rug to her, the girls fly to a secret cave, where the robbery's mastermind -- a nefarious professor -- tries to buy the carpet from Katia. When she refuses, the professor kidnaps her on the carpet. The remaining girls band together to figure out how to save Katia before the professor forces her to use the ring and the carpet to unearth a genie in a bottle.
Is it any good?
None of the Bratz movies are really good, but this one at the very least has a slightly imaginative plot that doesn't involve the girls flirting with boys or obsessing about their hair and make-up. The girls embark on an adventure for the sake of saving their friend, and their ability to stay optimistic and intrepid in the face of rather frightening circumstances is commendable. There's some innuendo (the professor is quite creepy and menacing when he interacts with Katia) that's a bit off-putting, but most of the movie is about the four girls as they try to track down their kidnapped friend.
The animation is amateurish and dull, and at times the girls look so identical that it's hard to tell them apart, even though they have different hair and eye colors. While the girls have appropriately young-sounding voices, Katia's father and the thief Alla have distracting, over-the-top accents. Katia's dad sounds like Apu from The Simpsons, when he's clearly supposed to be from the Middle East. Second- and third-grade girls may find the movie delightful despite all its shortcomings, but parents who want more substantive choices should probably find a title that isn't a 74-minute commercial.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the ongoing popularity of movies that advertise toys to children. Parents: Do your kids ask to see movies based on commercials? Kids: Does watching this movie make you want a Bratz doll?
On one hand, the Bratz dolls purportedly promote "diversity," but despite their different shades of hair color and skin, they look exactly the same: large almond-shaped eyes, puffy bee-stung lips, tiny noses, lots of long hair. Do you think the dolls actually support multiculturalism when their features are nearly identical?
Why do the Bratz dolls have a more negative reputation than Barbie dolls? Aren't both sets of dolls concerned with fashion, make-up, and attracting boys?
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