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MOVIE REVIEW

With lowly 'Bratz,' toys are back in town

August 03, 2007|John Anderson | Special to Newsday

"Transformers," the summer's other toy-based movie, seems like an exercise in Reichian minimalism compared with the symphonic awfulness of "Bratz." It's a movie on the wrong side side of the so-bad-it's-good line, but not one without an intelligence behind its depravity.

Within the universe of the self-promotional and the self-referential, "Bratz" is a live-action editorial about the corruption of the culture, although not one that sacrifices on hair or makeup. Based on the line of fashion dolls, as well as an animated TV show, "Bratz" takes all the tropes of the femme-centric high school comedy, pumps them full of Botox and unleashes them on Carry Nation High School. It's an odd name choice, given that temperance is the one quality unknown at Carry Nation, where the curriculum seems to have been replaced by Ostentatious Consumption 101, and Remedial Venality.

Into this snake pit flounce our four horsewomen of the apocalypse: Yasmin (Nathalia Ramos), Jade (Janel Parrish), Sasha (Logan Browning) and Cloe (Skyler Shaye), all of whom have special gifts. ("Fashion is like your superpower," Jade is told. "You shouldn't have to hide it from the world." ) But seriously, sort of, Jade is a chemistry whiz, Cloe plays soccer, Sasha is a cheerleader and Yasmin -- when she's not singing "La Cucaracha" with her grandmother (Lainie Kazan) -- is a very shy singer, whose talent will be as slow in arriving as the spring sale at Barneys.

The evil goddess of the movie, and, naturally, the most amusing thing in it, is Meredith (Chelsea Staub), the obergruppenf├╝hrer of the Carry Nation social scene. Her birthday party, to which she arrives on an elephant, is probably the comedic highlight of the film, save for the keening alt-rock soundtrack, which on repeated listening will certainly bring on a cerebral hemorrhage.

Meredith's father, the beleaguered Principal Berkman, is played by Jon Voight, who brings such comedic subtlety to his performance he might as well be a feather in a hurricane. All around him, a teenage hell is breaking loose, but Voight never loses touch with his prosthetic nose, perhaps hoping he won't be recognized.

MPAA rating: PG for thematic elements. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. In general release.

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