- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 5, 2007

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on www.commonsensemedia.org.

‘Bratz: The Movie’

Rating: PG

Common Sense Media: Pause. For ages 9 and older.

.. (out of five stars)

Running time: 99 minutes

Common Sense review: “Bratz: The Movie” could be seen as a PG alternative for those whose children are too young to see “Mean Girls.” It’s designed as a live-action adaptation of a product line of vampish, high-fashion dolls with outlandish accessories.

Parents — and psychologists — have had issues with the dolls’ unrealistic proportions and sexualized clothing, but other moviegoers will have issues with the movie as well. “Bratz” steals directly from “Mean Girls,” showing the severe peer pressure that forces girls to try to fit in and be popular. At least this clone — pitched to a younger, doll-buying, tween age group — took out the Lindsay Lohan movie’s objectionable language, sex and alcohol references while delivering the same self-affirming morals. It gets grudging points on that count.

Set in Southern California, “Bratz” centers on Chloe (Skyler Shaye), Sasha (Logan Browning), Yasmin (Nathalia Ramos) and Jade (Janel Parrish), four clothing-empowered girlfriends so fashion-conscious that they computer-conference each morning to coordinate their outfits.

They eagerly enter freshman year at a cartoonishly caricatured Carrie Nation High School. There, blond, preppy class president Meredith Baxter Dimly (Chelsea Staub), who happens to be the spoiled and pampered daughter of the principal (Jon Voight), reigns like a queen. She personally assigns every beginning student to a clique, and that student dare not stray beyond it.

At first, the interests of the various friends — Jade is into science, Yasmin wants to sing — pull them in different directions during class and extracurriculars, so they no longer have time for one another. In junior year, however, the quartet re-establish their camaraderie. Her system of conformity threatened, Meredith tries to blackmail and humiliate the Bratz into submission, mostly through vulnerable Yasmin.

Though you’re supposed to admire the Bratz over the vile, manipulative Meredith, all the exaggerated bling and cosmetics make these young shopaholics look distressingly alike after a while.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know a pro-shopping, pro-consumerism message underlies all the preaching about acceptance, confidence and standing by your friends. There’s a heavy emphasis on physical appearance, and it might be noted that overweight or plain-looking girls are not much in evidence. That said, the movie’s Bratz girls sport significantly less-clingy attire than the dolls in an attempt to desexualize their appearance.

Families can talk about whether the movie promotes an enlightened attitude or lots of clothing, accessories and Bratz dolls. Could its message have come across without all the materialism? What’s the appeal of the Bratz dolls in the first place?

Sexual content: A few provocative or tight dresses on the girls and bikinis at poolside.

Violence alert: Some slapstick pratfalls and food fights, and a hostile athlete gets martial-arts punched — and impressed — by a science student.

Commercialism alert: Not only are the main characters inspired by a line of toys, they’re surrounded by brand-name clothing, cars, computers and a shopping-as-empowerment message.

Social-behavior alert: The four heroines are multicultural and mostly confident in their abilities and friendships. Furthermore, they dare to socialize with people outside their clique at school. There’s a big qualifier, though — as befits characters based on a toy product line, they’re fixated on fashion and material possessions.

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