Barbie as Rapunzel (2002)

Written by Elena Lesser & Cliff Ruby
Directed by Owen Hurley
Starring the voices of Kelly Sheridan, Anjelica Huston, Cree Summer, Iam James Corlett, Mark Hildreth


Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: If there's a young girl in your house, own it.

Barbie (Sheridan) and Kelly (Chantal Strand) are spending their time painting, although young Kelly's not quite sure how or where...or even if she should begin. To assist with the young girl's painter's block, Barbie tells a version of the Rapunzel (also voiced by Sheridan) story. This Rapunzel is kept in a manor behind a magic camoflage wall in order to be the house servant of Gothel (Huston), a witch who is very jealous and a stickler for cleanliness. Gothel also has a ferret for a pet, Otto (Peter Kelamis)--which should tell you something, as we all know the little weasels to be furry spawns of the Evil One. Rapunzel's not alone, though. She has friends as well--a purple clumsy dragon named Penelope (Summer) and a rather large rabbit named Hobie (Corlett). One day, quite by accident, Rapunzel and friends stumble upon a hairbrush with magical properties that leads them to believe that they've all been deceived by the evil Gothel.

Okay--this is me, impressed. At first, when I heard they were making direct-to-video CGI animated films starring Barbie as characters from time-honored tales, I thought it would be nothing more than a giant cheesefest for young girls, and only the extremely young would be able to enjoy the film. Not that I'm saying the thing is an incredible work of art, but it's obvious that great effort was put into this thing--and most importantly, that the target audience (young girls) will no doubt love it.

The animation isn't Pixar, but then again--what is? But considering you're dealing with direct to video, and also considering that your lead character is a doll, the quality of how the film looks is actually pretty good. The voices of the characters are all quite good, especially Sheridan and Huston, and if you check out the filmographies of most of the actors on the IMDB you'll see that they're pretty much all seasoned at this. The story is amazingly pretty thorough as well, with character arcs that make sense and a tale that actually satisfies. Granted, if you're an adult watching this thing there are some elements and some Velveeta that you must stomach--but let's face it, if you're watching this with your daughter, their delight will more than make up for anything you have to deal with. And there is enough solidity here not to make the adults run screaming from the room.

The features are not bad, either. First, the voice of Barbie explains to all the girls in the audience how to work the menus. There's even a help feature where she takes them through how to work the remote (although I'm sure if you have a three-year-old in your house right now, they can work the DVD player better than you can). There's a good-sized documentary called The Artist in Me that goes along with the theme of the film: namely, that art comes from inside you and you shouldn't be afraid to let your inner muse come out and party. Featuring a 19-year-old painter from Texas that young girls can easily look up to and a legion of cute little girls talking about their own experiences and thoughts about art, it, like the feature, nails its target audience and will be duly inspiring.

There's also games that don't suck. Probably the first instance of these I've seen. The Dress-Up Game is fluff, pure and simple, but quality fluff that girls will like. Then there's the Art Gallery game. It invites the viewer to help Rapunzel/Barbie hang works of art on the walls of the castle. First, you have to identify the picture out of four possible choices--like for example, the landscape--and then it gets hung on the wall. Then the voice explains what the picture is and takes the viewer through it. Holy smokes, a Barbie game that's educational! I'm floored.

I am very pleased this title. And I'm sure if you have small female child-creatures in your home, they'd be even more pleased. This is a perfect gift for any of them you might have in your family some place. And in that way, I recommend it to you.

Buy it from Amazon!
Buy the doll from Amazon!
Buy the horse & carriage toy from Amazon!
Buy the PC CD-ROM game from Amazon!
Buy the book from Amazon!

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