Review: Barbie and the Secret Door

Barbie and the Secret DoorIf you’ve read my last review of a Barbie movie, you’ll know that I’m not the greatest fan of the series, although my girls most certainly are. And since they, not I, are the target audience for these animated tales, I guess my opinion doesn’t really count for that much – far less than theirs anyway.

It was with a little trepidation, then, that I sat down to watch the latest movie, Barbie and the Secret Door. Released on DVD on September 1st, the movie sees Barbie cast as a princess (but of course!) called Alexa, who lacks confidence in herself, and avoids as much social interaction as she can get away with. Things change, though, when her grandmother gives her a special book which reveals and unlocks a secret door, leading to another, more magical kingdom.

And it’s in this second kingdom that the bulk of the action takes place, as Alexa battles to free it from Malucia, a mean and nasty princess who’s stealing magic from fairies, mermaids and even unicorns to make herself more powerful. Throw in no fewer than seven all-new songs, and it was almost inevitable that the girls would enjoy it. Heather gave it 11 out of 11 which, unknowing Spinal Tap reference aside, is as good as it could get, and Megan loved it too. Every time they’ve watched it.

Here’s the strange thing though – I enjoyed it too! Yes, the story was a bit predictable, but to adult eyes most films aimed at kids are, so it would be unfair to knock it for that. Predictability aside though, this actually had a lot going for it.

The songs, although not in the same league as those from Frozen, were catchy, and fitted well within the structure of the movie. They were also spread fairly evenly throughout, unlike Frozen which seemed determined to get the musical numbers out of the way as soon as possible.

The animation – something I’ve very hit and miss in previous Barbie movies – was pretty good, and had more than a nod to Dr Seuss in the magical kingdom, both in the characters and its landscape. Not a bad thing in my book.

I also really liked the “villainous” Malucia, particularly the scene where we are first introduced to her – that got an actual out loud laugh from me!

All in all, this is definitely one of the better Barbie movies I’ve seen, and not one I’d try desperately to dissuade the kids from watching again. Which, if you’ve seen some of the older ones, you’ll know is high praise indeed!

Barbie and the Secret Door is available to buy on DVD from 1st September 2014.

As part of the DVD launch, Razzamatazz Theatre Schools are putting on special FREE Barbie Singing Academy events where kids aged 3-8 will learn some of the songs for the movie, and improve their singing technique in the process, before putting on a performance for parents and family. The Barbie Singing Academy takes place on Saturday 30th August, with times depending on which Razzamatazz school you attend. More details can be found at 

http://www.razzamataz.co.uk/barbie-and-the-secret-door.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Hey there, Jersey Girl

Gem had a night out last Saturday night, meaning that once the kids were in bed I was on my own, something that doesn’t happen often, and left me with an interesting problem: what to do?

A quick scan through the TV listings revealed there was absolutely nothing on worth watching – it was Saturday night after all – so I raided the DVD cupboard and came up with a Kevin Smith double-bill of Chasing Amy and Jersey Girl. An unusual selection for me, as it barely featured Smith’s most famous creations, Jay and Silent Bob.

Chasing Amy, a story about a comic book artist who falls in love with a lesbian but ultimately can’t deal with her past, was every bit as good as I remembered it on the numerous occasions I’ve watched it in the past. Highly recommended.

Jersey Girl, released 10 years ago this month, was still in its cellophane wrapper, which tells me the only time I’d watched it was in the cinema. A rather different film for Smith, it’s a sweet tale of fatherhood starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, at the time one of Hollywood’s most high profile couples. This wasn’t a good thing, however, as their previous collaboration, Gigli, was a box office flop and is still regarded as one of the worst movies of all time. Jersey Girl suffered by association, and reviews were rather mixed.

I remember thinking at the time that it was better than I’d expected, though, and I expected to like it ten years later. What I wasn’t expecting was to like it more than I had first time around, and I think that’s down to understanding the subject matter a lot more.

Affleck and Lopez start the movie as a high-flying couple living in New York City. All that changes about fifteen minutes in, when Lopez dies in childbirth, leaving Affleck to raise their daughter single-handed. At first he’s more interested in his career, dumping the baby on his dad (played by the great George Carlin), but an unfortunate incident at a Will Smith press conference changes all that, and slowly he embraces what it means to be a father, ultimately realising that raising his child is the most important thing in his life.

Now that I’m a father myself, I was able to relate to all of that much more. The scenes in the delivery room meant much more, as did those involving smelly babies. In short, I got it far more than I did first time round. And being able to relate more to the characters meant I was rooting for them more, which ultimately meant I enjoyed the movie more. So much so, when Gem got home, we ended up watching it again, together.

More often than not, re-watching something you loved in your youth is a disappointing experience. Dated visual effects, clunky dialogue and poor acting all seem to show up more when compared to old memories. So it was nice to see something that had improved with age.

Which makes me wonder… what else is hiding in the DVD cupboard, waiting to be rediscovered?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Review: Barbie The Pearl Princess

DVD cover for Barbie The Pearl PrincessIt’s probably no great surprise that I’m not a huge fan of the Barbie movie franchise. However, the girls love them, so when we got the chance to review the new Barbie movie, Barbie The Pearl Princess, there was no way I could turn it down.

Barbie appears in this movie as Lumina, a mermaid with special powers that allow her to control pearls, making them dance and glow amongst other things. But Lumina has spent all her life hidden away from the world, living with her aunt on the outer edges of the mermaid kingdom. She dreams of one day visiting the royal palace, and when an opportunity comes up to do just that, Lumina and her seahorse friend Kuda set off on an adventure that brings Lumina more than she bargained for.

The animation in this movie was great, and a real step up from some of the previous Barbie movies I’ve seen. The music was pretty good too, particularly Mermaid Party which managed to sound like a load of recent chart hits without sounding like a rip-off of any of them. The story, though, left me a bit cold – there was no real sense of surprise or danger, and you can probably work out how things end up from the title alone.

That said, I’m not really the target audience, and the girls enjoyed it well enough. Heather gave it a solid 3 out of 5 (although I’m not sure she really understood what I was asking) and Megan has watched it several times, so clearly she enjoyed it too. Also, she got really excited about the posters and trailers we saw in the cinema at the weekend (as well as it’s DVD release, the movie has a limited run at Vue cinemas) which proves how much she liked it. What do I know?

Barbie The Pearl Princess is released on DVD on February 17th. It’s also on at Vue cinemas on February 15th/16th

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

The cold never bothered me anyway

If, like me, you share a house with two young girls, you’ll no doubt know all about Frozen, the latest movie from Disney Animation Studios. To date it’s taken over $810m at box offices worldwide, enough to make it the 42nd highest grossing movie of all-time. Which isn’t bad going, when you consider that neither of Disney’s last two releases (Tangled and Wreck-it-Ralph) broke $600m – and I believe Frozen is yet to be released in China.

For those not familiar with the movie, it’s the tale of two princesses (of course!) who’ve grown apart thanks to one of them having the power to create ice and snow out of thin air. Things come to a head when Elsa (the one with the power) is crowned queen, and accidentally freezes the kingdom before running away from it all to an ice palace at the top of a mountain. Anna (her younger sister) gives chase, convinced that Elsa will be able to undo everything and they’ll all be able to live happily ever after.

There’s a little more to the plot than that (including a fantastic twist that I didn’t see coming at all) but you get the gist.

We’ve only taken the girls to see a handful of films, and only then thanks to a benefit we get with a life insurance policy, but it’s far and away the best thing we’ve seen as a family – so much so we’ve seen it twice (so far… Gem’s hoping the sing-along version gets a release round these parts). And, it’s the only film we’ve seen where neither of the girls has needed a toilet break – if that isn’t high praise, then I don’t know what is!

My favourite thing about the movie is how much the girls love it. If they’re not watching their favourite bits on YouTube, or singing their favourite songs from the soundtrack, or arguing about who will play which sister in the next re-enactment, then they’re probably asleep, because honestly that’s about all they’ve done for the past 6 weeks or so.

And who can blame them? The soundtrack really is excellent, in a West End/Broadway style, and if Let It Go doesn’t walk away with the Oscar for best song I will be very surprised – performed by Idina Menzel in the film, it’s a real showstopper and one that I’m struggling to get out of my head. Demi Lovato’s version over the end credits, on the other hand, isn’t.

I’m not sure when the DVD is due to be released, but Gem’s already desparate to pre-order it (for the girls, of course!). We might need to get two copies though, in case one wears out.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!