Alternative title: Barbie: Princess Adventure (2020) Review: 1 Hour of My Life I will Never Get Back
Barbie: Princess Adventure opens with our heroine, a blonde princess, galloping through the woods on her horse, Morning Star. “Pretty, isn’t it, Morning Star?” The princess remarks.
Morning Star neighs enthusiastically in response.
“And cut!” In Barbie: A Fashion Fairytale-eque style, it’s a film. The blonde princess, is being filmed for a new movie. It begins to rain and the scene is cut short.
Despite the fact that all I can think about when I hear the words ‘Morning Star’ is the Chicago-based investment research firm, it’s a pretty good opening scene! I love a little ~twist~ and the audience is left wondering – “who is this princess?” “Why is a princess acting in a film?”
The next scene shows Barbie, Daisy, Skipper, Stacie, Chelsea and their Dad in the garden, filming a video for Barbie’s next blog post. Stacie is talking about how she doesn’t know what to be when she is older, and Chelsea suggests that she plays dress-up to figure it out.
This gives Barbie an idea, who promptly launches into a rendition of “Try It On.” It’s a cute song, but nothing spectacular.
The next scene is the princess, still unnamed, sitting in her nauseatingly-pink bedroom in her nauseatingly-pink castle, watching Barbie’s music video. Her regent (also unnamed), walks in and remarks that it’s a shame that this morning’s photo shoot was ruined because of the rain.
Barbie: Princess Adventure wastes no time establishing the plot of the film. “You know that the world holds you to a higher standard,” the regent says.
“I wish they wouldn’t,” our unnamed, rain-loving princess replies. “I mean, for once, it would be so great to just let the world see me as me.”
(Anyone getting Barbie: The Princess and the Pauper (2004) vibes here?)
“Alfonso, I’m almost 18. I’m about to be queen. You’ve trained me so well. When are you going to let me make my own decisions?”
“When you’re ready. Until then, it’s my job to protect you from yourself.”
Wow. This film really doesn’t waste any time, does it? Six minutes in and we have already established that the orphaned princess is about to be queen, hates being babied by her regent and feels like she can’t make any of her own decisions. Bit of an overused trope, but let’s keep going…
We jump over to Golden Beach High (interesting! I think this is the first time that Barbie’s high school has been named?), where the principal / teacher / somebody important is announcing that there will be a Malibu / Floravia cultural exchange program. I am assuming that Floravia is the kingdom where our princess heroine lives.
A very important note – Golden Beach High School’s mascot is a rooster.
“Floravia? That’s where she’s from!” Nikki exclaims. She shows Renee a photo of our princess on her phone. “Princess Amelia! Total fashion icon!”
Okay! So we have finally established the name of our princess heroine – Princess Amelia! I thought to myself, ‘where have I heard that name before?’ And then remembered that ‘Duchess Amelia’ is the name of the uptight duchess from Barbie: The Princess and the Popstar (2012).
The principal / teacher / important person explains that the kingdom of Floravia has decided to host an all-expenses paid trip to Floravia to certain Golden Beach High School students – Ken Carson, Trey Reardon, Renee Chow, Teresa Rivera, Daisy Costopolis, Nikki Watkins, Ned and Ted Johnson and Barbie Roberts.
Wow! Let’s pause for a moment. This is the first time that I have heard Nicki, Teresa, Daisy and Renee’s last name. (Of course I knew Ken, Barbie and Trey’s.) This gives us an insight into the cultural heritage of our characters.
Rivera is a Spanish last name (we already knew that Teresa is Hispanic, so not really a surprise there). Chow is a Chinese last name, so we can assume that Renee is Chinese. Perhaps the most surprising is Daisy – Costopolis is a Greek surname, so we can assume that Daisy has a Greek background. And then Nikki is African American, which has already been established in prior films and media. How cool! It’s awesome that Barbie’s friends are all from different backgrounds.
After the assembly, Barbie speaks on the phone to Rose Ross, a popular online content aggregator. Rose explains to Barbie that she is willing to take her on as a “trial run.” If Barbie passes the trial, Rose will feature her vlog channel on her platform and she will be able to reach a much larger audience.
We then head over to the airport, Barbie’s flight to Floravia is now boarding and we are shown an unnecessarily long ‘puppy chase’ through the airport. I skipped most of it. Miraculously, Barbie’s puppy, Taffy, manages to sneak her way into Barbie’s backpack.
“I was really hoping to sit next to Barbie,” Ken says, taking his seat next to Trey on the aircraft. “There’s something I gotta tell her before this trip is over!” (Let me guess – Ken wants to confess his undying love for Barbie, because somehow, between the end of Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse in September 2015 and Barbie’s first vlog in October 2015, Barbie and Ken have reversed from being a madly-in-love couple to merely neighbours and friends. Definitely a big weird, but none the less, let’s ignore this little plot hole and continue.)
Right before the plane is about to takeoff, Barbie receives a call from Rose Ross, who says that this morning’s livestream from the airport was “blah” and she needs to be the “all new Barbie.”
Barbie then launches into a song. Again.
This time, it’s a song called “Somewhere New.” Again, it’s certainly not fantastic, but I’ve heard worse (‘At The Ball’ from Barbie as the Island Princess (2007) is a key example of Worst Barbie Song Ever).
We montage our way into where Barbie and her friends will be staying for the next few days – the palace! The regent explains that the ‘West Wing’ is strictly off limits.
And lo and behold! In typical Barbie, quinky-dink fashion, Taffy is off on another puppy chase down the West Wing. “Taffy! We’re not supposed to go that way!” Barbie cries, running after her puppy, who somehow managed not to be discovered for the entirety of the 10-hour flight to Floravia.
Taffy manages to find her way into Princess Amelia’s room. Princess Amelia meets Barbie, who reveals that she is a big fan of her vlog channel.
Princess Amelia wastes no time unloading her emotional baggage onto Barbie, who she has literally just met less than five minutes ago. “He (Alfonso) means well. But I wish he would let me make my own mistakes. The way that you do… The world loves my image. But is that image really me? There’s a lot of pressure. So many times I feel I am just playing a role for the cameras.”
Whoa! Slow down there, Amelia. I feel like when people talk about “show, not tell” in writing, this is a good example of what not to do. Surely there was a more subtle way to get this message across? For example, in Barbie: The Princess and the Pauper (2004), Princess Annaliese is tugging at a ribbon on one of her engagement gifts, and sings “I’m starting to realise that every present comes with strings.” This metaphor was a great way to get the point across, without just word-vomiting her feelings out onto the audience.
But then! It gets even worse! Princess Amelia starts to sing. (God, there are already far too many songs in this film.) “Not a Picture Perfect Girl” again, isn’t horrible, but it isn’t good, either. Princess Amelia sings about “wanting to be free” and stands on her balcony as butterflies fly past.
I feel like the directors of this film just went “which of our Barbie films was the most successful?” and then just unabashedly copied everything that that film did.
The answer, obviously, is the 2004 film Barbie: The Princess and the Pauper, which not only won an award for “Best Children’s Title of the Year,” was nominated 6 times for the 2005 DVD Exclusive Awards and nominated for the “Best Animated Character Performance,”* it is still the highest-rated Barbie film on IMBD – almost twenty years after its release!
*this was for the Preminger character, who obviously is one of the best Barbie characters of all time.
This is why I feel that the big shots over at Mattel are making so many of the “lookalikes swapping places” films -if it was popular once, then why not repeat the same storyline again? And again. And again. This same basic premise was done in Barbie: The Princess and the Popstar (2012), Barbie in Rock n Royals (2015) and now again in Barbie: Princess Adventure (2020).
The issue that I have is that Barbie: Princess Adventure doesn’t really do Barbie: The Princess and the Pauper (2004) any justice. They are just blatantly ripping off scenes (such as Princess Annaliese singing “Free” on her balcony while butterflies fly past) without bothering to make them … actually good.
Princess Amelia explains to Barbie that she orchestrated the whole student exchange field trip in order to arrange a meeting between the two. She wastes no time suggesting to Barbie that the two switch places, so Princess Amelia can experience life without being in the public eye, and Barbie can experience life as a princess.
Eventually, Barbie agrees to the switch in exchange for Princess Amelia making a vlog with Barbie. Unbeknownst to the pair, they are being watched by Reggie, Princess Amelia’s security guard. I was honestly expecting Barbie to blow a piece of hair out of her eye, saying “I don’t know the first thing about being a princess!” and then have Princess Amelia launch into another song, but thankfully, we were saved from that mess and the scene promptly ends.
The next morning, Princess Amelia heads out on a scooter to an unknown destination. She is again watched by Reggie. Meanwhile, Barbie and her friends head out to Princess Amelia’s pre-coronation yacht party.
At the yacht party, Barbie (acting as Princess Amelia) runs into Prince Johan, who is seemingly Princess Amelia’s boyfriend. Johan reveals that the kingdom of Floravia and the kingdom of Johanistan are about to become one.
They head back to the palace, where they are greeted by Alfonso. “A word, Barbie?”
Oop! And the secret is out already.
“How did you find out?” Barbie asks.
Alfonso explains that he noticed Barbie wearing a necklace that literally spells ‘Barbie.’ Wow. Dumb move there, Barbie.
Alfonso says that he will look for the princess. In the meantime, Barbie has to keep acting as Princess Amelia.
The next event is a royal horse brigade, where Barbie, as Princess Amelia, performs a very bizarre routine with Morning Star, which includes standing up on Morning Star’s back and shuffling – a popular dance move from 2012. Yikes. A bit corny there. The horse also does a flip in the air because, of course.
After the show, Barbie has a “serious talk” with Alfonso about letting Amelia make her own decisions. “Life doesn’t happen on camera, life happens when the cameras are off!” Wow, Barbie. So inspirational.
Barbie then steals away a random child (?) from a crowd of people touring the palace and then sings an “inspiring song” to her. Honestly, this film is just getting worse and worse. This song is called “Life in Colour” and it’s about, well, living your life in colour. Again, it’s pretty bland. Halfway through, Princess Amelia joins in the song and the random child is literally abandonded.
The next scene is Barbie and Princess Amelia’s interview. Princess Amelia says that for the first time, she has been able to pick her own flavour of ice-cream, and that led her to discovering all about her hopes, fears, opinions and dreams (a bit of a jump there, but whatever.)
Trey then tries to get in with Barbie, thinking it is Princess Amelia, and starts singing about how he wants to rule the world. (Literally.) This song, called “King of the Kingdom” has similar vibes to “How Can I Refuse” – in the vein that both Preminger and Trey are stuck-up and think they deserve to rule. Expect, of course, “How Can I Refuse” is actually a banger, and “King of the Kingdom” is not.
However – I will say that it is probably the best song of the film so far. Not that that is a particularly amazing achievement, because it’s still not very good.
We cut to Barbie’s folk dancing lesson with Prince Johan. Johan explains that once his kingdom joins with Floravia, Princess Amelia will rule over everyone. In a twist of events, Johan turns to Taffy (Barbie’s dog), once Barbie is out of eyesight, and explains to Taffy that he is planning on becoming king.
So, once again, we have a MAJOR copycat moment between Barbie: Princess Adventure and Barbie: The Princess and the Pauper. Preminger’s whole plan was basically to marry into the royal family by marrying Princess Annaliese, and then becoming the king himself. Which is exactly Johan’s plan, too.
It’s a bit of a bizarre plan, because Johanistan would obviously already have a King or Queen. What about them? Are they going to be happy handing over control to Princess Amelia? How far down the line is Johan? Perhaps he would become a King anyway. It’s all very confusing.
We cut to Princess Amelia, who is chasing her pet rabbit, Snowy, along the streets of Floravia. She is then followed by Reggie, who scoops her up in a brown sack. Literally, this exact, exact plot device happens in Barbie: The Princess and the Pauper. Princess Annaliese is chasing her cat and is then kidnapped in a brown sack by the antagonist’s sidekick.
Wow. They aren’t even being subtle anymore, are they?
Barbie and her friends are having a slumber party, when Snowy, the rabbit, taps on Princess Amelia’s closet. She is leading them to a secret passageway. Again, this same device has happened in two other Barbie movies before:
-Princess Annaliese’s cat leads Julian to where Annaliese is being held after being kidnapepd
-Princess Tori’s dog (from Barbie: The Princess and the Popstar (2012)), leads Kiera to a secret passageway when she is locked in Princess Tori’s bedroom
Snowy leads Barbie and her friends to Princess Amelia’s “secret hangout room.” Hidden from the safety of Amelia’s closet, Barbie and her friends overhear Reggie and some other guards kidnapping Snowy. They realise that Princess Amelia is in trouble!
Barbie and her friends get ready for the coronation. Her friends leave when Barbie gets a call from Rose. You remember the interview that Barbie and Amelia filmed together? Rose has totally edited it, making Barbie and Princess Amelia look stuck-up and shallow. She is horrified and basically tells Rose to get f*cked.
“Time to get real,” Barbie says and starts to launch into a rendition of “Not a Picture Perfect Girl.”
She is interrupted by Prince Johan, who reveals that he knew all about Princess Amelia and Barbie’s switch. Barbie demands to know where Princess Amelia is. Prince Johan says that she is “thousands of miles away” and Barbie immediately guesses that she is on the yacht from earlier.
Barbie heads over to the yacht, where she promptly gets locked up with Princess Amelia.
Prince Johan tells Alfonso the news. “It appears Princess Amelia has run away,” he says, which is the exact same thing that Preminger told Queen Genevieve after kidnapping Princess Annaliese.
Alfonso discovers that Johan is behind the scheme. “You’re behind this!” He is visibly angry.
“If she doesn’t show up (to the coronation), I will claim the crown and become King of both countries!” Johan explains. “And no one can stop me!”
Cue the exciting chase scene, where Princess Amelia and Barbie escape the yacht, somehow make their way onto Teresa, Nicki and Daisy’s speedboat, which has arrived just in time, ride through the streets of Floravia and then bust in to stop the coronation ceremony.
“Imposter!” shouts Johan, which again, is exactly what Preminger shouts as Princess Annaliese busts in to stop the wedding between Queen Genevive and Preminger.
Princess Annaliese, er, I mean, Princess Amelia, gives a little speech about how she is now confident to take over the kingdom and become Queen of Floravia. Johan is arrested and, I assume, sent back to Johanistan.
The real coronation ceremony begins. Barbie and Ken watch in the front row. They are both wearing crowns, which is pretty bizarre, because neither of them are royalty. (Especially not you, Ken! You weren’t involved in any of this!)
Afterwards, Princess Amelia explains to Alfonso that she wants to start a “royal vlog.” Alfonso is like “sure, I trust you now.”
Barbie and Ken dance together and Princess Amelia sings a song. It’s not very good. I skipped it.
Overall, I would give this film a rank of Do Not Watch. It’s not bad (I’ve certainly seen worse Barbie films – Barbie and the Secret Door (2014) springs to mind, which, now that I think of it, has a very similar concept to the whole “shy princess is afraid to make a change in her own kingdom” thing), but it’s not good either.
The music is lacklustre. The costumes and animation are sub-par (that castle literally looks like it came out of the Windows XP game Purble Palace). The plot is literally a copy of Barbie: The Princess and the Pauper and Barbie: The Princess and the Popstar put together.
Personally, I just think it’s not very interesting. The only people I would suggest who watch it are either very young children (like, we are talking between ages 4 to 7 here), or people who hate themselves and want to torture themselves by watching 1:12 hours of bland songs and a painful, obvious plot.