This is a multi-part review of the Bratz’s movie, Genie Magic. To read all sections of this review, click here.
I’ve talked a lot about the problems inherent in Bratz media. But here’s one that I haven’t really gotten into before; cultural appropriation. Bratz tries really hard to be culturally inclusive to all races in its doll line. And by that, I mean that it gives dolls of all colors and races a chance to be as overly-sexualized, scantily clad and obsessed with fashion as everyone else.
There is nothing cultural about how the Bratz girls are portrayed. Yasmin, a Latina girl, makes guacamole, Sasha, an African-American girl, listens to hip hop, Jade, an Asian girl, is an A student, and Cloe, the white girl, is a drama queen. It’s ridiculous, stereotypical and insulting. And in this movie, it’s more of the same.
The main character is a genie. Her manner of dress and genie bottle are both influenced by Arab culture and myths but neither the genie, Katia, or her father are actually of Arab descent. Both of them have Russian names and in the Bratz world, the origin of your name is your origin in general. So the Bratz team are using Russian characters and slapping Arabian culture and legends onto them with no thought to what they’re doing in general. Not that these people really seem to put a lot of thought into anything that they do.
The movie starts out with a POV shot down some long hallways. Tall men in white trench coats are combing the area, as if looking for something. These men in white coats are identical in every way and the only purpose they serve in the entire film is that of moving the plot along. I will be referring to them as Men in White or MIW for the rest of this review.
One of the MIW sees the camera and hits an alarm button. Sirens blare and the camera takes off running through metal tunnels. As her escape routes are cut off, the person whose point of view this is (Katia, as we later find out), uses some magic on a large industrial fan above her head and suddenly she’s outside, running. The set is then revealed and the place that the dark-haired girl ran from is actually a large tanker that’s at port. Just then, the camera flies over a valley.
The story picks up inside of the ship that Katia, the genie character, just escaped. There is a large logo on the floor that reads ESA. A man, Conn, and a woman, Zel, are in the room. Conn is standing in front of a large, glowing ball. He looks over at Zel and demands to know how she could have let this happen. She says that she’s sorry, but Conn seems less than forgiving. He tells her that Project G is now in jeopardy. He then puts her in charge of the search and adds that she’s personally responsible.
The next scene starts in front of a club. Apparently one for those under 18, as the Bratz are performing there. The girls twirl and dance awkwardly on stage. In true Bratz fashion, none of them are quite in time to the music. But not to be deterred, they flip their hair and bump their hips. In fact, they do that a lot. A few seconds of dancing show the clip of the girls hip bumping exactly five times.
The Tweevils are standing in the audience, both looking very smug for some unknown reason. Probably due to the poor animation though. Just then Yasmin exclaims that she can see Matt Rock in the crowd. Which really just proves that the girls were lip syncing to their song and their mics were not turned on during this entire sequence. Not that that should come as a surprise. Yasmin notes that Matt Rock is a blue jeans model. The boy winks at the Bratz.
Outside of the club, Katia runs towards the door, trying to shield herself from the rain. Which she should be able to do with all of her magical powers, one would reason. But no worries. Katia gains access to the building and enters to see the Bratz still on stage, performing. Only now, the song lyrics are playing without the girls’ mouths moving at all. Have they given up the charade that they are actually singing? Did they just say, fuck it, let people know that we can’t actually sing our own songs? Again, most questions in Bratz can be answered by the reality of their incredibly poor animation.
Anyway, as Katia makes her way through the crowd, she bumps into the Tweevils and the two teenage sisters can’t help but mock her. “Look at boho hippie flippy girl,” one of them crones. Katia moves past the twins and starts to seem to enjoy the music and the club’s atmosphere. But just as she’s getting comfortable, Dylan comes up and grabs her wrist and asks her if she’s new in town.
Katia replies, “Oh no, I frequent this establishment quite often.” As if any of the other teenagers in Stilesville talk like that or Dylan is going to have any idea what she means. Dylan insists that she’s not a regular, declaring that no girl gets past the “Dil Man”. Katia finally admits that it’s her first time there, even though that already seems highly apparent.
Although Dylan is usually played as part-buffoon, part-comedy relief, his behavior in this section is quite worrying. He physically grabs Katia as if he’s entitled to do so and starts asking her questions that she clearly doesn’t feel comfortable answering. When he says that no girl gets past the Dil Man, what he really means is that no girl is safe from his attentions and he will confront anyone that hasn’t already rejected him, and even then, he still probably would. Dylan is not so much the popular boy that the Bratz would hang out with, as he is a hanger on that would creep out all of the four girls immediately.
Dylan continues and asks Katia her sign. He offers that he’s a Leo and Katia is unsure of what he means. Obviously, she didn’t have a lot of pseudoscience drilled into her genie bottle. Katia extracts herself from Dylan and makes her way back stage. Immediately after which, Dylan tells Cameron that Katia is totally into him. Since he is completely oblivious how uncomfortable he makes girls and how much they don’t want him around.
Backstage, the Bratz are congratulating themselves on another performance mimed and wiggled through. Suddenly, Matt Rock appears and within seconds is established as a total douchebag. Like all boys that aren’t the Bratz’s friends. Oblivious to the fact that this character is going to be an awful human being, Matt asks Jade out and she excitedly agrees.
Just then, Katia knocks over a guitar and Sasha picks it up. Katia is unsure of what the instrument is and Sasha tells the girl that it’s her guitar. Which might be slightly more convincing if she was regularly shown playing it and ever shown practicing it. Sasha then compliments Katia on her “wicked” shoes. Stunned, Katia assures her that her shoes are not evil. Basically ignoring her, Sasha begins to jam on her guitar without her hands moving to play any chords. Because again, poor animation.
Katia is then shown partly in the shadows. She announces that she mustn’t tarry and dashes off backstage. Yasmin asks who Terry is. Because it’s hilarious when girls are unintelligent. After she takes off, the bouncer approaches and asks if they’ve seen a “gypsy-looking girl”. Which can be taken as a slur against Romania people and also is not culturally appropriate. Yasmin asks why he’s looking for the girl and he tells her that she never paid the cover charge.
He then spots Katia further backstage and takes off after her. He runs after her, valiantly for that $5 cover, but only finds a mist of sparkles. Katia reforms outside of the club and continues to run.
Presumably the next morning, several men are inside the club cleaning up. All of whom happens to look exactly like Max from the Bratz TV show and Bratz Save Christmas and the million other times he’s appeared in Bratz media. Anyway, the bouncer is off to the side, counting money. Suddenly, two men in black trench coats (I guess someone forgot that they were supposed to be white in this movie?) enter and shove a photo of Katia into one of the men’s face.
He examines it and recognizes her from the night before. He says that she owes him money, but he doesn’t know where she is. The grunts in trench coats continue to stare at him. The bouncer then clicks his fingers and two members of the clean up crew start to advance. But the Man in White quickly beats all of them up. For… You know, reasons.
Meanwhile, at Bratz Magazine HQ, the girls are hard at work. Only joking. Jade, Cloe and Yasmin are watching a horror movie together. Curled up on the couch, they see a couple walking into a dimly-lit room in a haunted house. The bad guys then grab the girl before grabbing the guy, who is none other than Jade’s future date, Matt Rock. The Bratz scream at the horrific content and hold each other. Even Jade, who is supposed to love horror movies.
The movie is then interrupted by a weather alert. The alert is given by none other than Nigel Forrester, 9th Duke of Lessex. Who seems to have taken Cloe’s rejection in Bratz Rock Angelz pretty hard to have become a weather reporter with an American accent on a local channel. The report itself is that it will snow, then become extremely hot, then snow again, then become extremely hot again.
Cloe gets up from the couch, suddenly concerned about her grade in geography. Which, I supposed was somehow jogged by the weather report. I’m not sure what the connection there was. Anyway, Yasmin tells her to stop whining and study. But sure, if she did that, Cloe wouldn’t have anything else to do for the rest of the film.
Sasha then enters the magazine office and announces that a local radio station is auditioning teen DJs for a part-time gig. The girls encourage her to try out. Which, of course, she will do and will get the gig without a problem. Because that’s how things work for the Bratz girls. Meanwhile, Yasmin is concerned about the rain. She says that she feels sorry for all of the stay animals out there.
In a new scene, the movie takes us back onto the ESA ship. Conn states that the deserts are turning into seas and the tropics into icebergs. He adds that everything is going according to plan. So apparently we’ve just solved the mystery of global climate change; the Bratz had the answer all along. Someone phone Bill Nye.
Conn continues, saying that everyone has agreed to his demands, except for France. Damn those French people with their towers and croissants. Just then, Sebastian, Katia’s father, rushes in and Conn quickly and suspiciously changes the monitors from the weather reports that they had been on. Sebastian asks if they have any news on his missing daughter. Conn assures him that they’re doing everything that they can to find her. The father laments that if she doesn’t get back into her bottle, she will grow weak.
Zel assures Sebastian that Katia didn’t mean to be gone for very long because she left her bottle behind. Her father laments that she is acting with no regard for the magical gift that she has been given. Although, I’m not sure that genies are really given gifts. Don’t they just kind of have them? Anyway, Sebastian continues that if Katia is not back within her bottle in 3 days then all of the wishes that she has ever granted will be undone. Zel and Conn exchange glances which indicate that they weren’t aware of this fact before now.
Back in high school, the Bratz are in the lunch room with Katia. The girls with a passion for fashion introduce themselves. Katia greets them and they note how strangely she talks. Which just means that her vocabulary doesn’t insist of words like “rockin'”, “jammin'” and “sorchin'”. Katia asks the girls where exactly she is. She says that she’s never been to a public school before. She’s always been homeschooled.
Cloe offers to take her on a tour of the school and Katia agrees. But before they can head out, Katia sees some of the MIW. They see her and the chase is on! Yasmin wisely notes, “Something tells me they’re not the new substitute teachers.” Sasha leads the charge to go help Katia. The girls take off running with the MIW hot on their trail. Once they’re out in the hallway, Yasmin points to the men and shouts, “Help! Bad fashion creeps, incoming!” Because let’s not let our viewers forever, even for a second, that fashion is the most important thing in the world and that we should judge people based off of it.
The Bratz lead Katia through the school and they eventually duck into a room. The MIW run past and the girls are safe. Panting, they turn around to see that Katia has climbed up one of the walls like fucking Spiderman. The girls ask her how she got there and she explains that she climbed. As if that’s what normal people do.
Seemingly unfazed by her spidey powers, the girls ask Katia what’s going on. The genie girl explains that her dad is so strict that he’s kept her from going out, making new friends or seeing the world. She tells the girls that they had an argument and she snuck out one night. Cloe immediately freaks out and announces that Katia ran away from home and now she’s a homeless person.
Trying to remain level-headed, Sasha asks why her dad sent the MIW after her. Which, seeing as most teenage runaways don’t get forbidding men in white coats running after them, seems to be a good question. Katia responds that she lives in a government installation at the Earth Safety Association (ESA). She informs the girls that they’re working on classified projects there. Easily distracted, Jade says that Katia gets to wear cool clothes. The genie responds that it’s one of the few things that she has a say in back home. She laments that her dad refuses to let her wear makeup.
There’s a flashback of Katia putting lipstick on her. Her dad enters and catches her, shouting, “Face paint! I won’t allow it!” Katia tells him that it’s called makeup and ladies have been wearing it for ages. He announces that she won’t wear it at any age. I suppose this is trying to get the audience onto Katia’s side. It’s not enough that he’s restricted her freedom, kept her a virtual prisoner in a military base and deprived her of human contact. Now he won’t let her wear makeup?! How inhumane can you be to your teenage daughter?
Katia states that she’s going to take a walk around the complex. She then complains about the people that Conn “made”. Which is probably the MIW. Sebastian tells her that he knows it’s difficult for her, but she has to think of the big picture and how she will benefit everyone. But Katia screams that she has been patient and she wants out of this prison. She then runs off.
Back in reality, Jade assures the girl that they won’t turn her in. She tells her that she needs to let her dad know where she is. Jade adds that she has to go back sooner or later. Katia says that she just wants two more days of freedom. She insists that she wants to be a real teenager. Sasha announces that she’s found the right friends for that! The girls decide that she can stay with them and they’re going to have a girl’s night at Cloe’s house.
While it’s great that the Bratz want to take care of their friend, they are harboring a runaway. It’s not their place to give her two more days of teenage freedom. While it’s clear that Katia is deeply unhappy with her current situation and seems to be held against her will at the ESA ship, the Bratz are not Child Protective Services. This is yet another example of how the Bratz mission of friendship can be quite toxic to the point of breaking the law.
But never mind about that. This is the Bratz and who cares about legal issues? Cut to the sleepover. The girls are all dancing around in Cloe’s room, wearing dresses or miniskirts. Yasmin imparts to Katia that she needs more confidence. Katia admits that she feels out of place. She doesn’t know anything about fashion, music, boys or all of the other things that make a teenage girl a teenage girl. Yasmin assures her that it doesn’t matter. Jade adds, “There’s nothing more fashionable than doing your own thing.” Which might have a little more weight to it if the Bratz weren’t carbon copies of each other.
Suddenly, the lights go off! Katie worries that the MIW finally found her. The Bratz pick up various household items to use as weapons against these government operative clones. Katia grabs a hair dryer and tells the girls, “I found this pistol.” This needs no comment.
When they go downstairs they find that it’s just Bryce and Dylan. The two yell, “Party raid!” and the lights go back on. Somehow. I’m not sure if they tripped the circuit breaker to turn the lights off to begin with or what they did. But anyway. Disgusted, Cloe says that they scared her to death and wishes that the pair would totally croak.
Using the word “wish” apparently activates Katia’s genie powers and she turns the two boys into frogs. Sasha asks what’s going on. Katia casually announces to be careful what they wish for. Of all the times for people to freak out, you’d think that they’d expend their energy on this event. Cloe can barely handle a geography test, yet she sees two of her friends turned into frogs and that somehow doesn’t bother her nearly as much.
The girls think that this is some kind of joke. As if turning someone into a frog isn’t dead fucking serious. Katia explains that she is the reason that they became frogs. Sasha asks her if she’s some kind of genie or something and the girl innocently replies, “Is it obvious?” the girls gasp.
The truth has come out! How will the Bratz react to the fact that their new BFF is a genie? How will they use the rest of their wishes? Will the boys remain frogs for the rest of the film? Will their parts in the movie be any different if they do?
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