For those severely behind the curve, the Bratz are a line of pint-sized plastic dolls with beach-ball shaped craniums that sit atop pipe-cleaner skinny torsos and miniature stiletto heels. They're like those bobble-head figurines people plaster to their car dashboards, only their range of motion has been limited to the few joints needed to change clothes and pose. In short, their closest human equivalent is Pam Anderson, drained of silicone; even the quasi-ethnic Bratz wear the same glassy-eyed stare and pouty grin, just in darker shades of Caucasian. They exist to teach girls on the cusp of middle school the delicate life skills of accessorizing, forging your mom's signature on credit card receipts and sticking a finger down your throat after inhaling a few slices of cafeteria pizza and a smuggled-in Zima.
Naturally, they have been given a movie. Faced with the challenge of anthropomorphizing these little consumerist demons, their creators have made the bold decision not to just animate the damn thing as they have with countless Bratz videos but to cast real live girls, an audition process that had to be one of the more surreal in recent memory: Imagine being told, "you're too life-like," "could you tone down your personality" or "your head's not round enough." After what was surely a week or two of arduous filmmaking, this labor of love has finally reached the big screen, and it's certain not to disappoint its target audience of spoiled 10-year-olds caught in the throes of bitter custody battles.
Bratz: The Movie even makes a weird, half-hearted attempt to reflect or more likely, pander to the presumably broken home lives of its fans. Sasha (Logan Browning) bides her time between unhappily separated parents; Cloe (Skyler Shaye) tries to help out her overworked, seemingly smack-addled single mom; and a third Yasmin (Nathalia Ramos), the Mexican-American one rolls her eyes at the mariachi band playing in her kitchen every morning. Huh? While the plot is made up of the obligatory clique wars, talent shows and product placements, it's the incidental stuff in the movie that gives one pause: Sasha's dad can't operate a toaster ("What would I do without you?"); the choir teacher spices up his lessons with a little old-school turntable scratching; and the girls just love to give horrific makeovers to 8-year-olds at the mall ("Fashion is your superpower!").
Mostly, though, Bratz operates at a frequency undetectable to adult eyes and ears, not unlike a dog whistle. Even the lame reference to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and the painful appearance of a prosthetic-nosed Jon Voight is it any wonder Angelina isn't on speaking terms with him? don't make much of an impression, thanks to the migraine-inducing editing and camerawork. In fact, the most entertaining thing about the movie might be what it didn't include: The once-hyped involvement of real-life brat Paula Abdul. As captured on her reality show Hey, Paula, the AmIdol judge threw a screaming, crying hissy fit when the film's producers informed her that her "dance and fashion consulting" services would no longer be needed. Moms, let Paula serve as a reminder of what can happen when you expose your daughters to Bratz.
Michael Hastings writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].