Tuesday, November 8, 2016


If you have seen the trailers, you know what kind of movie this is. If you haven't seen the trailers, do yourself a huge favor and watch them first.

If the trailers didn't make your ears bleed or make you throw things, then you will enjoy the hell out of this movie. It is a pixie stick movie. Pure sugar rush, with nothing really substantial underneath. Yet somehow, when we're done, we just want more.

Now, I want to state that I have zero problems with the premise of "let's cash in on dolls that never had a story attached". I also had zero problems with Battleship (which I quite like, in a guilty pleasure sort of way) and Angry Birds (which I didn't see). Using an existing property as a touchstone and selling point is just fine, provided you write a script that actually works. Go watch Clue for a perfect example of how it can be done.

This script? Wow. Just wow. It is 100% formula. It does not deviate from Scriptwriting for Dummies in plot or character. But it commits to that formula, and brings it home. Each character and plot point is sold with such an earnest fervor that you can't help but be impressed. The jokes are mostly fresh, if not particularly innovative. And yet you can't help but laugh, because it pushes to crazy new levels of ridiculous with absolutely no shame, but the kind of straight face that lets you know that they know exactly what they are doing.

The soundtrack helps this out tremendously. They use and abuse a fantastic array of unexpected 80s hits. Sure, I think we all saw "Celebration" coming. "True Colors" was a perfect ballad for the moment. But when you hear Lionel Richie's "Hello", you can't help but bust out laughing.

The visuals of this movie were a crazy drug trip. Lots of super bright primary colors, as you'd expect. Pretty much zero realism. Lots of safe, round shapes. Pretty much ideally designed with its pre-school audience in mind.

I do have two quibbles with choices made in the movie. One, the drastically overused autotune. Which is weird, because both Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake are great singers. Maybe it was just a sound they were going for, but it really grated on my middle aged ears. Two, they set Chekov's gun on the mantel, and punked out on firing it. Early on, Branch asks Poppy if she was going to "scrapbook them to safety". Naturally, as is the case in all such movies, the climax is resolved by talking to the bad guys and convincing them not to be bad anymore. That speech totally should have been scrapbooked. Major fail. (Yes, yes, spoilers. But I think that this movie was already entirely spoiled by Bug's Life and Shrek long before this review came along.)

Should you see it? Yeah, I think so. If you are feeling down and just need brainless fun, this movie is 100% brainless and 100% fun. But, you can totally wait for Netflix. There is nothing about this movie that needs the theater experience, and you are not going to be missing out on water cooler talk. Of course, if you are the parent of a young child, prepare to curse this movie. It is going to grate on you in ways that Frozen never could imagine, because kids will never get tired of it, but there is nothing there to engage you on a third (or thirtieth) viewing.

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