Bratz (2007)


Dir. Sean McNamara
Premiered August 3, 2007

In one scene in Bratz, a gawky nerd tells terrible jokes onstage. Nobody laughs. The hostess comes on and says “that was hilarious.” In a way she’s right. The whole movie is kind of like that.

Bratz™ dolls were a rare thing in American history; not only did everyone hate them, but everyone hated them for the same reasons. Bratz™ dolls epitomized the worst aspects of a D-list celebrity culture that venerated greed, vanity, lust, and humiliation as a strategy to get attention, and which reached its apex in 2007 before rapidly receding back into the supermarket tabloids with the DUI conviction of Paris Hilton and subsequent California laws that made life much more difficult for the paparazzi.

Bratz the movie has basically nothing to do with that, but it’s still horrible in a normal, cinematic way, which kind of makes it a perfect adaptation. Its pedigree, or lack thereof, is staggering; it was directed by Sean McNamara, whose filmography is filled with direct-to-video schlock, such as three sequels to Baby Geniuses which were filmed almost entirely via green-screen but still all feature Jon Voight. Among the producers was former Marvel chief Avi Arad. Screenwriter Susan Estelle Jansen Corbett had never written a screenplay for a theatrical film before, and hasn’t since. I don’t believe this film was ever intended for theaters. When I told people that I was going to review it, they didn’t believe it existed.

I’ve read that this was supposed to be the first in a series of Bratz films, a prospect that was ruined by financial and legal troubles. I don’t buy it. Frankly, I’m not convinced this was ever meant to be shown in theaters, because the level of effort put into this film suggests that it was only made to launder money, or some similar purpose, but certainly never to be seen. The opening credits are in Comic Sans. The closing credits are in Comic Sans.

The plot, as if any of this matters, is thus: four stereotypes begin high school as best friends: Yasmin (Nathalia Ramos), a Mexican-American with a stereotypical Mexican “Bubby” (because Jews, Mexicans, whatever) and a live-in mariachi band; Jade (Janel Parrish), an Asian-American overachiever and math whiz with an overbearing immigrant mother; Cloe (Skyler Shaye), a soccer-loving blonde airhead who squeaks like Jayne Mansfield in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?; and Sasha (Logan Browning), who is black and written with utmost respect.

But the high school experience ends up tearing them apart as they are relegated in to a caste system of cliques that is mandated– mandated– by resident billionaire mean girl Meredith Baxter Dimly (Chelsea Kane, and no, I don’t know why she’s named after Meredith Baxter) and her dictatorship-obsessed father, the school principal (Jon Voight). After getting involved in an accidental food-fight in which traditionally messy foods spontaneously appear, the four remember being BFFs™ and decide to teach Meredith about Brattitude™, first at her MTV My Super Sweet Sixteen™ party, then at the school talent show.

There is so much wrong with this movie that it can’t fully be described. Almost every second is full of music that’s either public domain or transparently generic ripoffs of popular music…from four years earlier (including not-at-all-flamed-out superproducer Scott Storch!). Characters own flip-phones with HD video. The talent show ending is ridiculously choreographed and leads Sasha’s divorced parents to get back together. There’s a minute-long scene that plays like an Oscar reel, in which Cloe’s mother seems dangerously ill, and it’s never brought up again. There’s an ongoing subplot wherein a deaf jock decides to become a DJ. The moral of the story is that that teenagers shouldn’t abide by the mandatory segregation policies implemented by mean girls and their administration cronies– something we can all relate to.

This is the live-action Foodfight. This is the girly, juvenile Battlefield Earth. It’s not even so bad it’s good; it’s so bad that its very existence will amuse you to the point of giggling psychosis.

Signs This Was Made in 2007
It’s a movie based on the Bratz™ dolls.

Additional Notes

  • It may be the fact that I got hammered in order to get through this, but I swear one of the extras was Chelsea Peretti.

  • Flip-phones have HD video quality in this movie.

  • The Sweet 16 dance scene totally wasn’t lifted from Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl.

  • This fucking song.

How Did It Do?
Bratz got a 9% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes, with the few positive reviews exclaiming that it had a message: not what the message was or whether it was communicated effectively, or whether a movie should be judged by its message, just that it had one. It also made $26 million against a $20 million budget, so it definitely made some money disappear. There was a tie-in video game that was universally panned. Bratz™ dolls, I’m surprised to discover, have never totally gone away, but most of them were repainted and repurposed under the Monster High™ label. Don’t ask.

Next Time: Hot Rod


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