“Can we just back up for a sec? How long have you been British?”
Barbie Spy Squad is a story of Barbie (Erica Lindbeck), Teresa (Jenny Pellicer), and Renee (Stephanie Sheh), three friends who also happen to form a gymnastics team. After suffering a loss the girls are supposed to meet Auntie Zoe (Cathy Weseluck) for a cheer me up picnic. So imagine their surprise when they arrive at the Hollywood Sign only to learn they’ve been brought there under false pretenses. Nothing too devious it’s only to discover that there’s a hidden underground spy organization headquarters and that Auntie Zoe is — well actually still Auntie Zoë but also Miss Z, the current leader of the Hollywood division of a global intelligence enterprise. She’s brought the girls there to formally recruit them to become a Spy Squad. There is a cat burglar who has been busy snatching up rare gems and her athletic ability specifically in the area of gymnastics has led Auntie Zoe/Miss Z to decide that it’s time for the girls to join the cause and help apprehend her. And with about 45 seconds of training the girls to become a trio of spies and set out to stop this mysterious cat burglar whose gymnastic skill rivals if not surpasses their own.
There were definitely some things I enjoyed about the movie, mostly individual areas. I thought that some of the light and shadow effects were handled very well. I felt that the texture of the skin during the close-ups was handled nicely, and I thought that the gymnastics moves the girls have to perform were very fluid for the most part. My favorite thing about the movie was the underlying message — that perfection is not reality, that messing up happens but how you deal with it and who you rely on to help you deal is what matters. There’s also a part in there about visualizing yourself doing something before trying it which I think works on a subtext level as well. I like the idea that kids who watch this may grow up taking a minute to actually think about what they are doing before doing it. Lord knows we live in such an immediate society that a little time to breathe before acting certainly wouldn’t go amiss.
This is a movie which purports to develop the idea of teamwork, of relying on others to help you just the way they can rely on you when needed. That being said Barbie goes off on her own a bit too often and it takes a while for that message to really feel valid. That’s the point of the movie but it may be too subtle for the target crowd. Also the way the situation is resolved comes out of left field. There’s an expected change of heart by a bad guy but we really don’t see why. There’s a throw-away line but we never actually see that character in a situation where they witness teamwork and we can tell they want in on that sweet non-solo business. Again, the end result may be all that matters to little tykes watching but it’s something parents may want to be aware of so they can find a reason why teamwork is so great if asked. (“You can’t do a human pyramid with just one person” is a great go-to answer if you need one. You’re welcome.)
The last thing I’ll mention may be your pet peeve or not but if you happen to be annoyed by lens flares look out. Barbie Spy Squad features so many lens flare wipes which act as transitions between scenes that it would make JJ Abrams weep. (The internet has taught me this is indeed something people take very seriously.)
So earlier I mentioned what I enjoy about the visuals and now there is just a slight quibble I have to put forth and that is Mattel’s inability to master natural looking hugging or walking. I don’t know what it is about these two activities but every time I see them in a Barbie movie it seems as though aliens are doing them or possibly in the case of the running robots since it seems as though the characters glide across the surfaces of their world as opposed to actually making contact with them. But like I said that’s a quibble and certainly something the target audience will not have enter their brains so take that as you will and know that the Blu-ray does boast very pretty visuals as you would expect.
The 1.78:1 1080p transfer features of course the traditional pink as you would expect but with the three girls we also have three main colors which dominate the palette so aside from pink we have blue and purple and they blend together very well. This isn’t a musical per se but it does have a lot of musical elements especially in the montages so it is important to have a strong audio track and the disc definitely does not disappoint with three separate offerings: a DTS-HD Master Audio and two DTS Digital Surround tracks, with the latter featuring the besides-English options. There’re French, Spanish, and English SDH subtitles as well.
The special features include DVD as well as digital copies of the movie, a music video and some outtakes. I particularly enjoy the outtakes because first off there is no need to go the extra mile and animate them and also I feel as though showing the characters making more mistakes simply reinforces the film’s message of not needing to be perfect and giving yourself some slack when you aren’t. The liner notes also feature a puzzle whose answer you can use to unlock more content online.
For decades Barbie and company have given generations of kids a way of acting out nearly every fantasy they can possibly imagine. Barbie Spy Squad is just one more way this plays out. This time it’s for little ones’ dreams of being a secret agent to be splashed across the silver screen in highly saturated colors, but the end result is usually the same with Barbie — showing someone following their dreams and better yet, stumbling a little along the way may just help the current generation of youngsters be inspired enough to follow their own callings.