Director: Conrad Helten
Writer: Marsha Griffin, Kacey Arnold
Stars: Erica Lindbeck, Stephanie Sheh, Jenny Pellicer, Alyssya Swales
Runtime: 75 min
Genre: Animation, Family
Released: 01 Mar 2016
Synopsis: Three gymnasts become secret agents.
Barbie: Spy Squad is everything one would expect of Barbie meets Bond, from the gadgets and gizmos to an elder British mentor. Though it features precious few original ideas beyond putting its own spin on familiar standby plot devices, action scenes, and bits of character growth, it has enough fun along the way that its enthusiasm covers up its inability to stretch the material. The result is a movie that’s definitely made to fill a niche, but it might find broader appeal — like, walking into the room and giving it a few minutes — just because it copycats some of the more popular franchises around.
Barbie (voiced by Erica Lindbeck) and her friends are top-talent gymnasts with a real shot at winning a major competition, but Barbie’s failure to trust in her talents nearly costs them a spot in the finals when her performance flops under self-inflicted mental pressure. She and her teammates head out to the Hollywood sign for a picnic, but no sooner do they get there does the sign open up. They eagerly go inside to check it out and discover a high tech laboratory teeming with all sorts of cool gadgets and gizmos. But their arrival is no accident. Their gymnastic talents mean that they’re the perfect choice to become super secret agents and stop a gem thief before she can use her plunder to set off a disastrous electromagnetic pulse. The girls are given plenty of cool gadgets that every superhero needs, including an invisibility suit. But none of that matters unless they can learn to trust their talents and work together to save the world from certain destruction.
Barbie: Spy Squad is less about story and more about dazzle. That’s sometimes obvious by plot and sometimes only obvious by the assault of pinks, purples, and blues that saturate most every frame. The movie is nothing if not immodest, like every other Barbie movie (though it’s certainly not as eyeball damaging as Barbie in Princess Power in terms of full-on color assault). Color certainly seems to the series’ trademark, but so too is the way the franchise, and this film in particular, always works in fun little bits that blur the line between reality and fantasy. Here, that comes by way of Barbie and friends’ many spy gadgets. Rather than utility belts crammed with items, the girls instead rely on all of the standbys they normally carry in their purses, all modified to save the day, not just help them look the part. Brushes, compacts, lipstick, and press-on nails are actually nifty tools that help them along the way. There are all sorts of Spy movie staples scattered throughout, including the obligatory acrobatics through a crisscrossed laser field, training montages, and other little bits that will be familiar to adults and exciting enough for the kids.
Barbie: Spy Squad lacks plot creativity, but there’s enough support detail made up from the Barbie universe that it feels original, even if it’s really not. Fans should find the movie a pleasant and abundantly colorful diversion from the largely boy-centric superhero and spy genres it imitates. Universal’s Blu-ray release offers decent video and audio. Supplements are skimpy. Recommended for Barbie movie fans.