5 August 2017 | TheLittleSongbird
Less than magical and not quite a pearl, but passes the time inoffensively
It is very easy to meet the 'Barbie' films with a lot of dislike and scorn and they are all very lowly rated here (despite some favourable reviews). It is understandable to take issue with the dialogue (a fair few are ropy in this regard), the predictability of the stories, the odd annoying character, the animation in a few (not all are well animated) and whether there is enough for adults to keep interest.
Despite not being the main target audience, to me they are mostly better than given credit for, easy to take them for what they are and don't deserve to be dismissed as baby-ish and for little girls only (a very narrow minded generalisation). Are they animation masterpieces? No. Are they among the best films ever made? Again no. Are they worth watching if taken for what they are? Absolutely for most of them. Most of them look good if not having the polish of studios specialising in computer animation (Pixar for one), often great music, good lessons and messages, a good deal of charm, have their heart in the right place and have entertaining characters well voiced (some had actors of considerable calibre like Tim Curry, Anjelica Huston, Martin Short and Kelsey Grammar, all of them terrific in their respective outings Curry especially) and a likable title character that particularly young girls can relate to.
'Barbie: The Pearl Princess' fares quite well as far as the later/recent 'Barbie' films go, though not one of the best films of the franchise. It is not a great film, it is not quite a pearl and lacks magic (quality-wise not literally or figuratively) but it makes for an above average time passer in a way that won't, or shouldn't, offend anybody watching.
Yes, the dialogue (hardly the first time when it has not been a strong suit, and that's putting it lightly, in a 'Barbie' film) is not great, often not at all. Some of the lines are stilted and not of good quality, and is lacking in the verbal sparring and hilariously colourful insults that made the writing in 'Barbie and her Sisters in a Pony Tale' have its moments. The story is nothing new, and we are not talking about just Barbie (with themes and plot twists that have been explored in a 'Barbie' film that have been done a fair few times) but it is very over-familiar in general, when so many events in the film are so easily foreseeable (like the villain's plan) it does take away from the fun.
Pacing is less than perfect too, tending to plod along if not quite as badly as 'Barbie Mariposa and the Fairy Princess', the thinner parts of the story not going in any direction really. While the music is very nicely done on the whole, "Mermaid Party" does make one want to have a toilet break or fast forward.
This is sounding very negative, but actually 'Barbie: The Pearl Princess' has a lot to enjoy. The animation is nice, with a beautifully rendered undersea setting that is so inviting one wants to be part of it. There are bright colours, handsome and imaginative backgrounds and the character designs and movements are improved from 'Barbie and her Sisters in a Pony Tale'. "Mermaid Party" aside, the music is a good and is catchy, though there has always been a preference for the classical music-oriented ones.
Although the story is less than perfect, it does have cute and charming moments and has its heart in the right place. Appreciated the positive messaging, hardly new the messages taught but done in a way that's heartfelt and not like the film is talking at you. As well as being closer to the original Barbie rather than trying to make her modern. No negative messaging like in 'A Fairy Secret' and 'A Fashion Fairytale'.
Particularly good here are the truly charming friendship between Lumina and Kuda and an effectively downplayed yet sweet romance that wisely wasn't focused on too much.
Lumina is very likable and resourceful with a sympathetic personality that never gets annoying or bratty. Kuda is adorable and sometimes amusing. The voice work is spirited, cannot imagine Barbie without Kelly Sheridan (the 'Barbie' films without her did suffer from her absence on top of even bigger problems) and she continues to grow.
In conclusion, a nice inoffensive time passer but could have done with more magic. 6/10 Bethany Cox