Review: Barbie - Mermaid Power

Barbie: Mermaid Power is a direct sequel to two of the four Barbie movies from the new generation, Dolphin Magic and Big City Dreams. For full disclosure, I have not seen Big City Dreams or Barbie and Chelsea: The Lost Birthday, which came out before it. I also haven't seen Dolphin Magic in five years, so my memory of it is patchy. Like most people from my generation, I am a bigger fan of the Barbie movies from the early to mid-2000s, which focused primarily on fairy tales and roleplay. However, since this one had mermaids in it, I had to check it out since I quite enjoyed the Mermaid Tale films.

Barbie Mermaid Power Poster

Since the Barbie movies have moved to Netflix, their runtimes have gotten shorter. Both Mermaid Power and Princess Adventure come in at a little over an hour, but Mermaid Power does a lot more to fill that time. The plot is similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender, only with mermaids. Due to a natural phenomenon that occurs once every hundred years, all the mermaids in the sea gain the ability to bend one of the four elements as they seek the Avatar (they called it something different, but it's the same concept), who can control all four elements and save them from a giant mound of pollution. Isla, the mermaid who Barbie met in Dolphin Magic, seeks out Barbie and her new companion, who is also named Barbie, to fill two additional slots in the mermaid games to find their equivalent of the Avatar. Barbie's sisters come along for the ride as well, and they all transform into mermaids whose hair colors change underwater like the Winx Club's Sirenix forms.

My favorite thing about this movie was the aesthetics. I loved how bright and colorful all the underwater worlds were from previous Barbie mermaid movies, and this one was no exception. These films bring the fantasy of visiting a magical underwater kingdom to life with glowing seashells, glittering tails, and fun fish companions. I also loved the different tiaras that appeared on each mermaid's head after she discovered her secret power. What I didn't like was the music. Instead of belting out siren-like melodies, the soundtrack and vocals changed to an electronic modulation for each song, which really took me out of the film. I know Barbie is trying to be more modern now, but when a character's voice turns robotic every time she starts singing and nobody questions it, it's a little off-putting, especially for a fantasy story.

I have to give this film props for being very pro-disability. This isn't the first time a Barbie movie has celebrated fantasy disabilities since Barbie starred as a handicapped fairy with no wings in Fairytopia in 2005. This film handed the reigns to a new character who wasn't portrayed by Barbie. Aquaria is a young mermaid who was born with a non-functioning tail, so her family provided her with a prosthetic tail that allows her to swim normally. My only qualm with this is that the prosthetic tail is not noticeably different from other colorful mermaid tails in the film and allows her to function no differently from any other mermaid, so it's easy to miss that she is handicapped if someone isn't paying attention to the dialogue. However, this could play into the fact that not all disabilities are visible. Aquaria makes fast friends with Chelsea and proves herself by the end of the film. Since the villain is essentially a giant heap of pollution, the movie also has a strong environmentalism message, rounding out its theme of love for all forms of life.

Overall, Barbie: Mermaid Power is fun for a modern Barbie movie and has better pacing than Princess Adventure due to its large cast of characters. The colorful visuals have a few instances of sensory overload, but that's what makes Barbie movies so fun in the first place. It places value on positive concepts like acceptance of people who are different and protecting the environment. The only thing I wish it had done differently was using more natural-sounding vocals for the musical sequences or taking out the songs entirely. What's your favorite Barbie movie? Let me know below!

Comments

1. In regards to the music, the score is primarily done by The Math Club, while they along with Matthew Tishler and Andrew Underberg handle the songs. Many of their non-Barbie projects having similar sounding music. It's been established since Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures to have either one of them or both of them in the current Barbie projects due to all projects that came out after the former (movies and TV shows alike) taking place in the continuity of the show. For bonus points, Barbie's singing voice is done by a pop singer (Elli Moore), much like how Jordyn Kane, another pop singer, did the singing voice before her.

2. I do have a bit of a soft spot for modern Barbie movies, though that's mainly from how I've only watched those that came out from the mid 2010s onwards (I watched 1 Kelly Sheridan movie from 2015, and all the ones where she's voiced by Erica Lindbeck and later on America Young).

3. Though the movie does use the same setup from Barbie: It Takes Two that's only alluded to at the beginning (the two Barbies living together in New York while visiting her family when need be), this movie sets things up in a way where only watching Dolphin Magic is just fine.

4. Though Mainframe Studios has animated almost every Barbie movie for 20+ years, their current movies tend to be brighter, similar to Dreamhouse Adventures.

5. The movie has a bit more action compared to the other Barbie projects that Ann Austen developed (Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures, Barbie Princess Adventure, and Barbie And Chelsea The Lost Birthday). It's probably from how she's also worked on various Power Rangers projects and other action shows (though she's also done slice of life shows)
Sugar said…
I had never thought of Elina from Fairytopia as disabled, among other reasons because at the end of the movie she gets a pair of wings as a prize, becoming a "normal" fairy.
Maybe it's just me but I would like to see in some movie or some disabled princess whose disability is not "fixed" at the end of it. There are disabilities that people live with and that's fine, the media should teach and show that.
That's why even though it's far from being a show about princesses, Toph from Avatar, I liked her a lot. She was blind but she was really very capable!
Lisa Dawn said…
Elina is considered a disabled fairy by many people because she grew up not being able to do something that was commonplace among other fairies. There are a few examples of disabled chargers in princess shows, but they aren't usually recurring characters. The Little Mermaid series had a deaf mermaid named Gabriella, Sofia the First met a blind princess in one episode, and the Netflix movie The Christmas Prince had a princess in a wheelchair. There was also a blind girl in Mia and Me who was only able to see when she traveled to the magic fairy realm. Disabilities are typically only "fixed" if it's a temporary loss due to a curse or if the character is a "chosen one" like in the case of Fairytopia.

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