It is very easy to meet the 'Barbie' films with a lot of dislike and scorn and they are all very lowly rated here (despite some favourable reviews). It is understandable to take issue with the dialogue (a fair few are ropy in this regard), the predictability of the stories, the odd annoying character, the animation in a few (not all are well animated) and whether there is enough for adults to keep interest.
Despite not being the main target audience, to me they are mostly better than given credit for, easy to take them for what they are and don't deserve to be dismissed as baby-ish and for little girls only (a very narrow minded generalisation). Are they animation masterpieces? No. Are they among the best films ever made? Again no. Are they worth watching if taken for what they are? Absolutely for most of them. Most of them look good if not having the polish of studios specialising in computer animation (Pixar for one), often great music, good lessons and messages, a good deal of charm, have their heart in the right place and have entertaining characters well voiced (some had actors of considerable calibre like Tim Curry, Anjelica Huston, Martin Short and Kelsey Grammar, all of them terrific in their respective outings Curry especially) and a likable title character that particularly young girls can relate to.
Like 'Barbie and the Secret Door', 'Barbie in Princess Power' didn't do much for me. Certainly it is much better than 'A Fairy Secret', 'A Fashion Fairytale' and 'The Princess and the Popstar', it would take a lot for a 'Barbie' film to be worse than those three. However, it is no 'Nutcracker', 'Diamond Castle', 'Island Princess', 'Pink Shoes', 'Prince and the Pauper' and '12 Dancing Princesses'. As far as 'Barbie' films go, 'Princess Power' is in the lower end.
First of all, the good things. The animation mostly really isn't bad, trust me anything from Video Brinquedo and Spark Plug Entertainment and all the (computer-animated) 'Swan Princess' sequels and those for 'Alpha and Omega' are far worse looking than any 'Barbie' film put together, have never felt physically ill watching a 'Barbie' film even the ones that are not good. There are some (not all) beautiful bright colours, handsome and imaginative backgrounds and the character designs and movements have natural freedom rather than being stiff.
The messaging is also very nicely done. Appreciated their positivity (like with team work, helping others and being brave) and how they were put across in the film, making their point without being preachy if perhaps not exactly subtle. The leading character Kara, like most of the Barbie heroines, is likable and resourceful, she's easy to relate to and she can be considered a decent role model.
Voice acting is pretty good and done with a lot of spirit. Cannot imagine Barbie without Kelly Sheridan (the 'Barbie' films without her did suffer from her absence on top of even bigger problems) and she continues to grow.
However, while the animation was mostly not bad, there were some colours that did get over-excessive in their brightness. The music did to me feel too loud and intrusive, often in need of a toning down so that it didn't drown out the dialogue. For my tastes too it was too teeny bop-ish even by modern 'Barbie' standards. The dialogue has rarely been a strong suit in a 'Barbie' film, even in the films in the better half of the series but not quite among the very best of it.
That's an understatement in the case of the dialogue here, which really doesn't flow and the worst of it makes the toes curl. Although the characters are nice enough, the lack of character development makes them bland and archetypal too. There could have been much more consistency with the villain, despite a clear motivation this was one underused villain and that the writers didn't know what to do with him was even clearer and more obvious than his motives.
Once again like 'Secret Door', even there was much more heart and charm in that (despite me generally not caring hugely for that either), the story is too much of a Hodge Podge of ideas tried, tested and already worn to the ground (well thin in this film), giving a real sense that the 'Barbie' series has run out of ideas. It means that the story-telling lacks any kind of surprises, which does take away from properly enjoying it, and that some of it is sometimes dull (while also too hectic, too makes it less forgivable.
Unlike most 'Barbie' films, there are target audience issues here too. Although how children handle films are often under-estimated, some of the peril (which is more so than usual) may be a bit too scary, even to an older viewer like me who saw the film as how it was meant to be the darkness was too out of place in the loud, colourful and kinetic nature of the rest of the film. Older audiences may find the film too tired, repetitive (there is a lot of action here but with very little variety) and also too saccharine, overly simplistic and sugary sweet.
In summation, not awful but one of the weaker 'Barbie' films. 4/10 Bethany Cox