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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Barbie as The Island Princess
Barbie as The Island Princess
Universal // Unrated // September 18, 2007
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Paul Mavis | posted September 28, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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Universal is releasing Barbie as The Island Princess, a charming little direct-to-video animated film featuring that all-American doll, Barbie. Evidently, these Barbie DVDs sell in the millions; I've never watched one before, but I was pleasantly surprised by the sure, confident storytelling presented here. This may be far from a big-budgeted Disney/Pixar CGI-fest, but it's competently done, with bright, sunshiny colors and a sweet message for all those little girls out there, who dream of far-off places and adventures.

In Barbie as The Island Princess, Barbie plays Ro (Barbie introduces herself at the beginning of the DVD, and states she's acting in this DVD, just in case young viewers may be confused by the name change), a shipwrecked little girl who finds comfort and love from her island friends, including Tika the baby elephant, Sagi the red panda, and preening peacock Azul. Living happily on the island for ten years, Ro is astonished to see Prince Antonio accidentally arrive by boat. Immediately taken with Ro's gentle beauty (as well as her amazing ability to actually talk with animals), Antonio invites her to come back to civilization with him.

Taking her friends along, she returns to Antonio's kingdom, where his father has arranged for Antonio to marry Princess Luciana, daughter of the evil (although no one knows that yet) Queen Ariana. But Antonio is in love with Ro, and even though his parents disapprove of him marrying a commoner, he refuses to marry the kind Luciana. But Queen Ariana will not be thwarted by a "native girl" who talks to animals; she has a plan that will put Ro in prison forever, and ensure that not only will Antonio marry her daughter, but that will also allow her to bring vengeance down on Antonio's father, the King.

Certainly not original, borrowing elements of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and even Doctor Dolittle, Barbie as The Island Princess is nonetheless a sharp little number that's expertly crafted to appeal to the little girls and mothers who will no doubt love this fairy tale. I was in a toy store once, and this sweet, adorable little girl was forcibly led away from the Barbie aisle by her mother, who brayed, "You're not buying into that crap!" I've heard similar complaints against the mythos of Barbie, as well as the Disney princesses (mostly from angry writer types who wouldn't be happy with Eden, Shangri-La, and Disneyland rolled into one), but I suspect those voices are very few and far between. Most parents of course want to indulge their young daughters' love of fairy tales, and princes, and innocent romance (the alternative? The Bratz hootchies, apparently). And Barbie is the perfect fantasy figure for those sweet, tender dreams.

And supplementing those fantasy doll figures are these direct-to-DVD movies. Now, we're not dumb, we parents. We know these Barbie DVDs are nothing more than elaborate, incredibly effective marketing tools, geared directly at us and our kids, to do one thing, and one thing only: sell more Barbies. Now, as long as the film is entertaining, who cares what its agenda is? After all: all commercial movies are made to make money, regardless of message. And Barbie as The Island Princess makes for a very light, engaging commercial.

The songs in Barbie as The Island Princess are hummable and tuneful (even though they bear more than a faint resemblance to the standard Disney ballads in their animated features), and while the animation isn't the most fluid, there's genuine thought put into the colorful backgrounds and the more-than-competently executed facial expressions that immediately connect with young viewers. There are lots of shots of Barbie, in full close-up, pondering her situation, and even though as I said, the animation is far from perfection, there's a sweet determination in Barbie as The Island Princess to connect the characters emotionally with the young viewers. The filmmakers could have easily just trotted out all the accessories that you need to buy to complete your Barbie Island Princess® playset and be done with the whole thing. However, some care was put into Barbie as The Island Princess to make it palatable to both parents and young girls, to make it tender and soft and believable in its love story, and to keep the proceedings tasteful and not crass. Barbie as The Island Princess gets marks from me for going against the grain and making a gentle love story that doesn't insult its audience.

The DVD:

The Video:
The anamorphically enhanced, 1.78:1 widescreen image for Barbie as The Island Princess is sparklingly clear, with delicately shaded colors, and a bright, sharp picture.

The Audio:
There's an optional Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround audio mix that's wonderful for the nice little tunes here. You can also access Dolby Digital English, Spanish, and French 2.0 stereo versions. Subtitles and close-captions are optional.

The Extras:
There are some fun extras included on the Barbie as The Island Princess DVD that will easily please both parent and child. First, there's the Barbie Island Karaoke Club, that offers your child (or you - come on; admit it. You know you were singing along) the chance to sing all the songs on the DVD, with or without Barbie's voice, or without the other character's voices. There's a terrific extra called the Barbie Island Party where you can access all sorts of print images - via your DVD-ROM on your computer - to make a special Island Princess party, including invitations, tickets, a poster, marquee, and even sheet music (!) of all the songs. We printed up some of it, and they're quite colorful. There's a music video for the song, I Need to Know, as well as a short "blooper reel" with the animated characters supposedly screwing up their scenes. There's also a trailer gallery for other kids programming.

Final Thoughts:
Who cares if it's a commercial? Barbie as The Island Princess is a well-executed CGI animated fantasy, with a sweet, tender, believable approach to its love story that will no doubt make little girls sigh with delight. It's colorfully designed and always remains a class act, never becoming crass in its humor. I highly recommend Barbie as The Island Princess.

Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.

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