Review: Barbie Dolphin Magic

Earlier this week, the newest Barbie movie was released on Netflix. Though Barbie Dolphin Magic is not technically a princess movie, it does have a mermaid in it and stars the Barbie, the part-time princess. It looks like Rainmaker is breaking their tradition of releasing the Barbie movies on DVD and switching to streaming media, which makes sense because DVD sales have dropped significantly in recent years. As a Netflix special, the movie has the shortest run time yet for Barbie, clocking in at only a little over an hour. So, is it worth watching? Here's what I think.

In a word, yes. The short runtime makes it an easy watch, and it's paced much better than its prequel, Barbie & Her Sisters in a Puppy Chase, which dragged on forever. This movie gets straight to the point with very little filler. Barbie and her three sisters, Skipper, Stacy, and Chelsea, are on vacation at a beach-side resort where Ken is interning for a marine biologist. Rumors abound of the "gem dolphins," which are semi-magical creatures with jewel-toned skin, which has something similar to cutie marks on it that appear at seemingly random times. Isla, a mermaid who is also an unofficial protector of the gem dolphins, transforms into a human using a magic shell necklace because she fears that one of them was taken captive against its will. Of course, the first person she meets on land is Barbie, who quickly befriends her.

The best thing about Barbie Dolphin Magic is the animation. Rainmaker Studios have come a very long way since the first Barbie movie in 2001. The characters' movement was very fluid, and the designs were on par with Barbie's vlogs. Isla had fantastic as a natural-looking redhead with hot pink tips. Her skin had a tropical tan, and she sported a glittering purple tale with beautiful understated seashell and pearl accents on her top. The movie's villain, Marlo, had a hip modern design with bright Ariel-red hair. As expected, Barbie and her sisters were very fashionable. The gem dolphins added an additional splash of color to the otherwise realistic-looking undersea world.

The movies with Barbie and her sisters seem to take place in an alternate universe from the ones that feature her rival, Raquel, such as Barbie: A Fashion Fairy Tale and Barbie: A Fairy Secret. In both of those movies, Barbie is in a long-term relationship with Ken, and Raquel tries to come between them. In this one, Ken has a different character design that's more similar to Barbie's YouTube vlogs than his previous movie appearances, and Barbie clearly refers to him as a friend, which doesn't seem to bother him at all. I guess someone along the way decided that having a love interest got too much in the way of the friendship themes that are prevalent in the Barbie movies. Her sisters took up a good chunk of screen time as well. Chelsea's insistence of mermaids being real combined with Skipper's candid underwater picture of Isla made the big mermaid reveal at the end very rewarding.

Marlo, the marine biologist in charge of Ken's internship, was a pretty typical villain. She wanted to steal the gem dolphins to make herself rich as per the usual formula for any story about someone who gets their hands on something rare. I found that I was really able to relate to Barbie's hesitance to stand up to Marlo in the beginning out of respect for her as an authority figure even though she knew something was off. Marlo used her power as Ken's boss to stifle Barbie's suspicions. I often feel this way when I disagree with a supervisor but know that I can't say so outright without getting in trouble. It was nice that Barbie's sisters were the one to discover what Marlo was up to instead of Barbie since the movies usually portray her as a superwoman with no insecurities.

Barbie Dolphin Magic is a fun hour-long special about friendship, fantasy, and standing up for what you believe in. While it wasn't the best Barbie movie, it had some terrific animation and was well-paced. As I discussed in yesterday's post, sisterly love was also a common theme in this movie and its prequels. Plus, there was a mermaid. Mermaids are cool.


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