If you have a daughter under the age of 10, you've probably heard of the Barbie DVD series; a straight-to-video computer animated series featuring your favorite 50-year-old plastic, blonde bombshell. And if you're not familiar with the movies, you've probably seen the toys, because department store toy isles are constantly infested with the latest Barbie DVD merchandise. And if you've been hiding under a tarp for the past several years and haven't seen either, then you've probably still had to sit through countless moans and groans from your little one as to why you haven't bought them for her yet. Ah, the trials and tribulations of parenthood.
If you're like me, you probably scoffed at the DVD's upon first look, dismissing them as lame attempts to be the next Pixar studios franchise. After all the animation is almost archaic in appearance compared to the major players such as Fox and Pixar, and the movies are straight-to-video releases, so they can't have put that much effort into them, right? Well, if you're like me, after actually watching a Barbie movie you'll find yourself to be pleasantly wrong. Despite being light-years behind the big dogs in terms of visual excellence, the animation is still quite good, and the story lines are decent enough to pull off their intended purpose - sell toys. But the most redeeming quality to the Barbie movie franchise is the outstanding voice talent. You won't find any low-rent, cardboard cutout characters voices here. Special attention is even given to the voices of the supporting characters of who pull off their quirkiness quick nicely.
The latest installment in the Barbie series is Barbie As The Princess & the
Pauper. As with past releases, this movie takes an already existing theme or fairy tale, and expands on it to fit in the Barbie universe. But unlike past movies, this one goes in a different direction taking cues straight from Walt Disney and attempts to be a musical. Now the problem with musicals is that a movie can either live or die by the music. Beautiful examples include Disney's
The Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. Horrific atrocities include any straight-to-video movie released by Disney in the last five years. So given the latest track record of musical giant Disney Studios, my expectations were pretty much down in the gutter for Barbie's first attempt at musical excellence. And once again, I was pleasantly wrong.
The music in The Princess & the Pauper is catchy, well written, and beautifully sung. Each song meshes perfectly with the plot and helps it progress without throwing out the anchor on an otherwise quickly paced movie. And again, a large part of the success of these songs goes to the fantastic voice talent commissioned for this feature. Most of the same actresses from past Barbie movies return for this feature, but the most pleasant newcomer is the character of Preminger, voiced by Martin Short. And as we all know, Short isn't just funny, he can sing too. And sing he does.
Barbie As The Princess & the Pauper is loosely based on Mark Twain's well-known children's novel. Princess Anneliese and the village baker's daughter, Erika, look identical, minus their opposite shades of hair. They meet face to face in the town square and marvel at their similarities, and before they know it, are cast into a familiar plot of switched lives and mistaken identities.
Like all Barbie movies, the overall message is positive. Although no one is likely to dispute the real agenda here is to sell merchandise. Not that that's a bad thing, because as a result our children get delightful movies that won't necessarily make parents cringe after the tenth viewing in a row. So if you're looking for the perfect present for that young little lady in your life, consider picking up this DVD. Just make sure she doesn't already have it.
Presented in roughly 1.66:1 widescreen, Barbie as the Princess & the Pauper looks great. This should come as little surprise since it is a computer animated movie, and thus no film-to-digital transfer is necessary. Colors are bright and pronounced, and black levels are nice and deep. I saw no signs of edge enhancement, or problematic pixelation. This is a decent looking DVD, and I'm sure you'll hear no complaints from the kiddies.
Despite sporting a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track, Princess & the Pauper doesn't make much use of the rear surrounds. However, the musical numbers sound wonderful, successfully immersing you in the magical world of Barbie. Dialogue is easily discernable, and the sound effects that do come from behind are crisp and effective. But as nice as the movie sounds, it's the music that will make a lasting impression. And trust me, young girls will love these songs - perhaps a little too much.
Most of the special features offered on this DVD pertain to the songs in the movie. Such as the Sing-Along Feature, the My Favorite Songs Menu, and the included second musical CD that has the seven major songs featured in the movie. And since this is a movie musical, these features are appropriate and well liked by the children. If your young one knows how to read, the Sing-Along Feature will likely see much use.
The Barbie series gets progressively better each time out, and Barbie As The Princess & the Pauper is no exception. Filled with loveable heroes, despicable yet funny villains, and catchy songs, your children will likely beg to watch this movie over and over again. And you can bet they'll be humming the tunes well after the TV has shut off. This DVD is a safe bet for any young Barbie fan. And if you still need further proof, my four-year-old simply adores it, and repeatedly tells me it's her favorite.