So my fatherly and reviewerly duties intersect once again, as I've been chosen to take a look at "Bratz: Genie Magic," the new direct-to-video movie based on the popular toy line.
Here's what I knew about "Bratz" before going in: they're dolls with slightly oversized heads, their main focus being their apparent unhealthy obsession with notably tacky fashion and makeup. I think I might have seen one with a leopard-spotted pimp hat. (At first glance, one might assume the toy line was called "Skankz.") It turns out there's also a TV series, in which the four Bratz (Bratzes? Bratii?)) are also a famous pop group. In between concerts, trips to the mall, and fashion shoots, they get tangled in a series of adventures, some of which involve concerts, trips to the mall, and fashion shoots.
Now comes "Genie Magic," my (and my daughter's) introduction into the Bratz universe. For the record, my daughter liked what she saw and got a kick out of the girls and their story. Me, I can't remember which Bratz was which and who did what. It was a 72 minute blur of girl culture, bubbling with slang that would make the cast of "Clueless" say "OK, tone it down a smidge." (I will admit that they're not nearly as skeezy as I had thought they'd be. Not as clever and enjoyable as such girl-centric cartoons as "Totally Spies" or "Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi," though. "Bratz" is more like a "Jem" for the modern era. Truly outrageous, indeed.)
The movie has the Bratzes (Bratzen?) befriending the mysterious Katia, who turns out to be a wish-granting genie (more Barbara Eden than Robin Williams). There's kooky humor about Katia granting every wish spoken around her; a comment of "I wish I had a nickel for every time you asked me that" ends with a hailstorm of nickels, that sort of thing. Cute. Anyway, it turns out there's some evil supervillain and a crew of henchmen out to kidnap Katia, so they can wish themselves into world domination, etc. It's up to the girls (and some reportedly cute kid who I'm guessing is a boyfriend or hanger-on or something) to stop the bad guys and save the day.
Like the series and other DTV movies before it, "Genie Magic" features a computer animation design that makes the characters look quite doll-like - everyone here looks plastic. You can read this as a cheap method of cartooning or as a shrewd way of bringing toys to the screen. It's probably both. And it's actually not bad, considering its target audience isn't going to mind the limited budget.
A note on the menu: we're told to click on such things as "scene selectionz," "special featurez," and "languagez." Ugh.
The full frame presentation (preserving its original 1.33:1 format) isn't as lively as this kind of CGI product should be, but it's vibrant enough to make the animation look good enough. For a lower-tier kiddie offering, it does the job.
Offered in a crisp, clear 2.0 Dolby Stereo. Spanish and French 2.0 tracks are also available, as are optional subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
Complementing the movie is "Pet Show," an episode of the "Bratz" TV series that showcases several overwhelmingly cute puppies and kittens. (Considering this is the only extra on the disc, it's curious that Fox chose to create a separate special features menu, forcing us to do a little more clicking for no reason.)
I can't quite recommend "Genie Magic," as it's far too shallow and empty-headed to become memorable. But young girls - especially those already into the Bratz franchise - are certain to like what they see. It's flashy and silly, and the creative staff drops in enough kid-friendly action to keep the kids interested. Rent It.