Saturday, June 8, 2013

Impromptu Review: Barbie and the Three Musketeers

I was babysitting the other night, and was persuaded to watch 'Barbie and the Three Musketeers'. 
Jeez. Dumas is rolling in his grave . . . 

So we start out in a poorly designed farm - no really, that windmill is way too close to the farmhouse, it's never going to turn properly - where we meet our protagonist: Barbie, oops, I mean CORINNE. 

She is training to be a musketeer, using the traditional French fighting style of . . . gymnastics? Seriously, the girl can't take more than five steps without cartwheeling or doing a backflip. 
Our heroine, everyone
So Barbie-ahem, Corinne; and her irritating talking animal side kicks, the poorly animated cat and the crippled-looking horse set off for Paris to join the musketeers. This would be a good time to discuss the animation. It sucks.  The computer animation works relatively well for the human characters, but the animals all look terrible, especially when they move, and the buildings look boxy. It all looks incredibly cheap. 
What's going on with Barbie/s thigh? And the horse's joints?
So Barbie and irritating animal sidekicks arrive in Disneyland. Cos' no way is that Paris: where's the city wall? You can tell that whoever was in charge of designing the layouts just threw up their hands and said 'Screw historical accuracy! Barbie's going to Disneyland!'. So Barbie enters generic-Medieval-themepark-with-pointy-turret-castle, full on Renfaire goers (clothing only two centuries out of date). But oh no! Barbie's a girl-she can't possibly be a musketeer. That and she has zero qualifications. Though I'm surprised that no one's commented on the fact that she;s wearing trousers: I'm fairly sure that Joan of Arc got burned for that (among other things). 
But I can fight scarecrows! I wanna join the musketeers, dammit!
What's a girl to do? Well, not to worry. Due to plot contrivance (a dog that looks like a pig chases her cat to the palace) Barbie gets a job at the palace, where she meets Rarity, Red Head, and Brunette. Not their actual names but whatever. They're pissed with her because during the great cat chase she managed to splash Rarity's new cape, shove Red Head into some roses, and shove Brunette into a fountain. Nice work, Barbie. But wait- this actually matches up with events in the novel! Are they going to all challenge her to a duel, only to be attacked by Cardinal Richelieu's guards and be forced to band together, all for one and one for all?
 Nope. Barbie just has to scrub the floor with a toothbrush (which hadn't been invented. This film is ripe for a game of 'spot the anachronism'. Don't make it a drinking game: you will be dead within the first ten minutes of the film). And now they'e friends. Aw. I guess they bonded over the overly short (for the time period) skirts.
So her new friends also want to become musketeers. But no girls allowed. I actually sort of like the fact that Barbie isn't the only one who wants to be a musketeer, and that while all the girls are pretty good fighters, they do have their own hobbies and distinct (paper thin) personalities.

But what's this!? There's a plot to murder the Prince. Oh God, the historical inaccuracy has been upped to eleven. This movie has decided that Prince Louis (the future Sun King) is a shy, polite eccentric with a passion for inventing. My theory is that Leonardo da Vinci invented a time machine, killed the real Louis (for some reason), and took his place. 
So anyway, Louis da Vinci has an uncle/cousin/relative who is acting as regent. Judging by his magnificent beard, he MUST BE EVIL! 
Uncle Evil Beard wishes to kill Louis so that he can have the throne. Unfortunately, his efforts at killing the Prince all involve convoluted plans that are doomed to failure. Such as dropping a chandelier on the Prince. 

No really, that actually happens. Only the intervention of gymkata Barbie and friends saves the Prince from being squashed. The bland monarch is saved- hurrah! 
This leads to the discovery that one of the servants is secretly a master swords-woman, who proceeds to lead the four girls down a not-at-all-creepy-secret-passage into the 17th century equivalent of the Batcave, where she trains them in the deadly fighting skills of fencing . . .

 and . . . ribbon fighting?
En garde!
But oh noes! Uncle Evil Beard's got another convoluted murder plot. This time he's going to cut the ropes tethering the Prince's hot air balloon, sending him careening into the pointy turrets of Disneyland-Versailles, which will conveniently puncture the balloon, sending the Prince crashing to the ground below. Uncle Evil Beard, just poison him or something!
The addition of a zebra would improve this film by leaps and bounds
But luckily, Barbie is there to save the Prince. Uncle Evil Beard is foiled again.
How d'ya like my ride, girl?
Uncle Evil Beard is not amused.

Which leads to Uncle Evil Beard abandoning all pretence at subtlety in his next murder plot, which the four girls just happen to walk across. And the plan is to STAB THE PRINCE TO DEATH during the 'sword dance' at the upcoming ball. Yep, that's the plan, Stab the Prince to death in full view of all ball attendees. Uncle Evil beard, you do realise that you are highly unlikely to be allowed to ascend the throne if you get caught murdering the Prince? How are you going to get out of this-say it was an accident? 'Oh dear, I appear to have stabbed your Highness by mistake!' 'Alas, your Majesty, I have accidentally decapitated you!' "We really should rethink these dances involving dangerous weaponry.' 'Oh dear, and I was so looking forward to the Machine Gun Polka'.

Zoot alors, what ever will Barbie and co do? Why, they'll sneak into the palace in disguise to protect the Prince. Pity their disguises are worse than Superman's Clark Kent get up: the masks cover about an eighth of their faces.
Sacre bleu! Zey will never recognise us. After all, zere must be many poorly disguised, suspiciously not-French girls in 17th century Disneyland-Versailles.
Time for the assination to commence! Uncle Evil Beard's cunning plan is to distract everyone with fireworks while his lackeys stab the Prince to death. It actually works: everyone gazes slack jawed at the firework
s, failing to hear the sounds of swords being drawn. Unless they're all in on it too. Wouldn't it be great if this was a gigantic conspiracy to murder the Prince, contrived by the entire nobility? 
Not to worry, Barbie and her minions are here to save the day, in an admittedly decent
fight sequence. Though half of their fight moves seem to involve dropping pieces of cloth over their opponents. Maybe palace guards are like chickens: just cover their eyes and all the fight goes out of them. 
But Uncle Evil Beard's gotta have on last go at murdering the Prince. instead of shoving him down the elevator shaft (yep, he's got an elevator), we have more convolutions that a proximal convoluted tubule, leading to Barbie and Uncle Evil Beard fighting on the rooftops. Of course, Barbie wins, and she and her friends become musketeers. Hu-freakin-rray.
This is a pretty awful movie. Although I quite like the premise, it is poorly executed, and feels really cheap and bland. There is no attempt at being historically accurate, and the film only pays lip service to Dumas' novel (yeah, I was expecting Barbie to care about adapting a story faithfully- what was I thinking?).
 Just watch the Three Musketeers film starring Michael York if you want swashbuckling, or Mulan if you want a good example of an action girl.

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