Directed by: Sean McNamara
Starring: Logan Browning, Janel Parrish, Nathalia Ramos, Skyler Shaye, Chelsea Staub, Jon Voight
Bratz is a true landmark of a movie in that it has single-handedly caused me to decide to petition the Xpress for the ability to rate movies with negative numbers. If this is not the worst movie ever made, I don’t know what is (and, yes, I am remembering Little Man). By the 10-minute mark, I commented to the hapless soul watching Bratz with me, “If this keeps up you may have to go get me the number for the suicide hotline.” In six-and-a-half years of reviewing movies on a weekly basis, I have only walked out on two films—both of which were “comedy” concerts. I think the only reason this didn’t become the third is that I was paralyzed by the experience.
When I first heard of Bratz, I had no idea that Bratz was a line of dolls, and I also had no clue what these dolls were. The Internet solved that, proving once again that the Web is a mixed blessing and that ignorance can indeed be bliss. If you don’t know, Bratz are little dolls with disproportionately large heads, provocative clothes and approximately two pounds of makeup. I have no idea why they’re called Bratz; Slutz would be nearer the mark. They undoubtedly represent what my colleague Mr. Souther refers to as “the Paris Hiltonization of America.” The dolls have no noses (presumably due to excessive indulgence in cocaine), which naturally leads to a variant on the old Monty Python gag that begins with, “My doll has no nose,” prompting the question, “How does she smell?” and earning the response, “Awful.” Now, the four “actresses”—Logan Browning, Janel Parrish, Nathalia Ramos, Skyler Shaye—comprising the cinematic Bratz have noses, but both their acting and the movie still smell awful.
OK, so I’m not the target audience for this stuff. I freely admit to that, just as I freely admit to avoiding discourse with anyone who sprinkles communiqués with OMG, BFF, C U Later, LOL, or in fact any set of similar abbreviations with the possible exception of LSMFT (those too young to know the ad campaign can Google it). Even so, this is one horrible movie. Actually it’s two horrible movies, since it plays like a distressing version of Mark Waters’ Mean Girls (2004) combined with director Sean McNamara’s own Hilary Duff abomination Raise Your Voice (2004), except that it’s far worse than that implies.
Bratz appears to operate under the delusion that it has an important message. And, no, I do not mean that it simply has a message for Jon Voight (unsuccessfully hiding behind the worst fake nose in history) that there are indeed more embarrassing things than being puked up by a giant snake in Anaconda (1997), appearing in SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004) and showing up in two Michael Bay movies. The movie is under the impression that it’s dispensing solid life lessons to its tweener audience. What cynical twaddle! The theme of expressing yourself extends no further than expressing yourself as long as you look like a Bratz doll. The theme of self-empowerment here roughly translates into spending as much as—or more than—you can possibly afford on clothes at the mall (“I love the smell of retail in the morning”). Bonding equals shopping in Bratz. Moreover, the idea of the importance of sticking to being “BFF” here means that the really important people in your lives are those who share your sense of fashion. Setting up a nasty girl (Chelsea Staub) with an equally nasty little dog (named Paris) doesn’t change the fact that the life lessons on display here are so shallow that they’re above sea level.
The movie’s moral worth to one side, Bratz is simply god-awful in every respect. From the moment it begins with John Coda’s Danny Elfman rip-off score as the Bratz wake up all smiles and perkiness, you know it’s going to be a long haul. By the time our BFF leads have coordinated their day via some form of Internet-conference call and we find our Hispanic Brat, Yasmin (Nathalia Ramos), perkily bouncing through a family kitchen—complete with a mariachi band at the breakfast table (just in case we didn’t catch her background)—you know it’s going to be even worse than you imagined.
Everything about the movie exists in a hermetically sealed vacuum of stupidity. Are we honestly supposed to believe that deaf kid Dylan (Ian Nelson) doesn’t know that you can feel sound vibrations? Do the filmmakers really think that their target audience knows who Carrie (or Carry, as they spell it) Nation was? They must, since they build the joke of the film’s high school, Carry Nation High, around her and her hatchet. The truly horrifying thing about all this is that the film seems completely unaware of its own shallow—even hypocritical—absurdity. Considering that its director is the producer of That’s So Raven and its screenwriter wrote The Lizzie McGuire Movie, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Rated PG for thematic elements.