Friday, October 14, 2016

Mike's Quest, Part 1 ("Thundermans: Secret Revealed")

Is Dan Schneider taking notes?

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. This is part one of Mike's Quest. I'm like that guy......that Spanish guy who fought the windmills. I don't know, Don Quixote or something. Anyway, I made a goal to review one episode of every current live-action sitcom on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel by the end of 2016. Some shows will be alright, and some shows will be terrible. But maybe, just maybe, one show will be good at least. My hopes aren't high, but I'm sticking to my promise. Just a few things to clarify:

1. Shows that I have already reviewed (Henry Danger, Girl Meets World) are off the table.

2. Despite Bella and the Bulldogs ending in June, I decided to make this one exception and review it anyway. It deserves the attention.

Okay, let's do this.



What is it? Half-hour multi-cam sitcom about the lives of a superhero family trying to conceal their identity and live a normal life in a new city.

Where does it air? Nickelodeon since the fall of 2013.

Who stars in it: Kira Kosarin, Jack Griffo, Addison Riecke, Diego Velazquez, Chris Tallman, Rosa Blasi.

Why are we reviewing this? It's part one of Mike's Quest.

Unknown really knew what he was doing by introducing shows this way. Gives the blog a more professional touch.

You might recognize this show because this isn't the very first time that The Thundermans is being talked about on this blog. However, this is the very first time that I'm going to look at an episode in-depth. I have two other Nickelodeon shows on tap, and I'm not looking forward to either of them. But you know what? I knew I had to start my quest off right. And when I found out about this episode a few days ago, I knew it had to be the first one. So why don't we kick this off with a bang?

The Thundermans is a good show. I'm not being sarcastic or just giving them a little credit. I genuinely like watching this show, and it has definitely improved since it first came out. Even in season one, I thought the show was entertaining and deserved props for being a live-action sitcom that's actually good. That's like a unicorn discovery in 2016, and while The Thundermans is nothing groundbreaking or out of this world, it's without a shadow of a doubt the best live-action sitcom Nick has. The jokes are actually funny, the characters are entertaining, the stories are interesting enough, and the superhero concept adds a great amount of suspense. I don't think this show would be anywhere near as good without the superhero stuff, but just take a look at Henry Danger. Even with the superhero stuff, that show has turned into a complete train wreck. The Thundermans does everything Henry Danger tries to do with actual competence and style.

The crossover didn't do The Thundermans justice. It's a much better show than that episode showed you, and with this episode, it's proof that an episode with actual stakes and actual hype.......can live up to expectations and doesn't always have to fall flat on its face. You want another comparison? Take this episode and put it next to "I Know Your Secret," where Jasper finds out that Henry is Kid Danger. That episode had inept storytelling and tried getting emotion out of characters who are nothing more than walking punchlines. The people working on The Thundermans actually care about these characters, and this episode is what happens when you invest time and effort into making your characters mean something.

So, why don't we just cut to the chase here? The title explains it all, but let me give you the details: The town of Hiddenville finds out that the Thundermans are superheroes when Mrs. Wong exposes them, and Max is finally pushed to the dark side. If you've been watching this show from the beginning, you know that Max's desire to be evil has been built up for a very long time. They addressed it in the Haunted Hathaways crossover, which was proof that Max looks at being evil the same way a little kid growing up in the hood might look at gangsta rappers. It's just something cool to him, and Max refuses to compete with Phoebe because he knows she will be a better superhero than him, so why not be the best supervillain? However, this is the first time in the actual series that Max does go there. It's surprisingly dramatic at times and I was genuinely invested in seeing where the plot was going.

One thing this episode knew was that it had to deliver something interesting, and we saw that. Max's desire to officially become a villain in this episode is affected by everything that happens to him. Dark Mayhem, the world's most dangerous bad guy, gives Max an orb designed to take away Phoebe's powers. He's not even one hundred percent behind doing this to Phoebe, and he struggles with his decision until Phoebe not only finds out about the orb, but takes away his powers and says that he did it to himself. Combine that with Hank and Barb turning Max's room into a family room, moving Dr. Colosso to their room and grounding him, it all plants the seeds for Max's eventual heel turn. I was genuinely shocked when Max's powers were taken away. It's very rare that a kids show these days can actually catch me off guard, but it did, and it says a lot about how much I care about these characters that it affected me.

Max is able to get the orb back from Colosso, and he's able to override the system so he can get his powers back and take away the powers of his own family. He also uses his superpower of being a human freeze ray to prevent the family from escaping. There were real stakes in this episode. Not only was the family secret revealed, compromising the reason the family moved to Hiddenville, but Max was finally becoming the villain he always imagined himself being. He did a legitimately evil thing in leaving his family in the house as helpless prisoners. The final confrontation between him and Phoebe actually had me guessing what was going to happen. The tone of the episode was a little more intense, more serious than usual because of what was on the line.

You see, when you have an episode like this, you have to up the ante a little bit. Being a sitcom isn't an excuse. No one said that it has to be nonstop comedy. With Henry Danger, the tone is usually over the top and the pacing is unbelievably slow at times. Because of this, they can't handle more intense stories without dropping the ball. The Thundermans writers understood they had to tell a more dramatic story, so they let the drama do what it had to do while still being able to tell jokes. However, the most important part was in making sure the story was coherent. No emphasis on gags, no overly long scenes, no phony attempts at emotion. It was an episode that was entertaining throughout the 44 minutes, with a strong story, decent jokes, and some much-needed character development for Max.

I say much-needed because Max is now a superhero, and with the show entering its fourth (and most likely, final) season this month, it's the right time to start telling different stories for the character. Max has officially sided with his family, started dating someone new, and made peace with Phoebe after taking down Dark Mayhem and his crew. Writing him in a slightly different way could be interesting. Maybe as an Alex Russo-type character that's prone to goofing off but is capable of being the best hero in the family when he takes things seriously. Just a thought.

It will also be interesting to see how the show deals with the family now being famous superheroes. I don't expect too much to change, but the whole point of moving to Hiddenville was so the Thundermans could protect their identity. Now with the secret exposed, what can the writers do to shake things up? One thing's for sure, I'm genuinely interested in where the show goes this season. The Thundermans is the longest-running live action show on Nick right now. It's survived changing dates and time slots, managed to improve over time, become more consistent with quality, and even outlasted The Haunted Hathaways like I predicted. If this episode is any indication, I'm going to miss the show when it's gone, and I appreciate the fact that this show actually tries its hardest to entertain.

When the stakes are high and the chips are down, The Thundermans comes through with great season finales. Season two brought us a baby, and season three brought us the exposure. What can we expect in season four? I have no idea, but at least there's something to look forward to.

Episode Grade: B+
Episode MVP: Kira Kosarin and Jack Griffo. Phoebe and Max really carry this episode but they both do a great job of being relatable and likable. I don't hate Max in this episode because this is the result of wanting to be the bad guy for three seasons, and Phoebe is the ultimate hero so in a way, I can understand her not caring too much that she took Max's powers. The character motivations make sense and help give the story legs instead of dragging it down. 

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-The next show I tackle will most likely be Game Shakers, followed by School of Rock. That's what it's looking like.

-Tonight's Girl Meets World was hot garbage. I stuck to my word by not being a part of the ratings for it, but watching it on DVR is really no less shameful. I'm interested in the next one where Topanga hits Riley with a steel chair. Should be exciting.

-There's an okay subplot here that deserves some attention. Billy and Nora want to fight crime but Hank and Barb tell them they're still too young, so they take the hero aptitude test to see how ready they are. Nora passes with flying colors, while Billy fails of course, because he's Billy and he's stupid. Nora switches the scores to boost Billy's confidence, Billy starts thinking he's a hero mastermind, Nora tells the truth, and during the big fight, Billy proves his mettle. I always wondered whether or not Billy has some kind of learning disorder. Either that or he's prone to severe mental problems but the show's never made that clear.

-Phoebe and her friends decide to go to the junior prom with each other and to demonstrate that, do the "Single Ladies" dance multiple times in the episode. I'm not even that upset that the show is referencing "Single Ladies" because I guess that song is going to end up being one of those timeless hits. I'm more upset at the fact that half the time when they do the dance, they're not even trying.

-At the museum, when Phoebe caught a jewel thief, she ended up exposing the Villain League's hideout so that's why Max ends up meeting them at the burger joint. I'm glad they actually bothered to explain why they were meeting there. If it was another superhero show, the scene would just go on without the characters wondering why the meeting wasn't at the hideout.

-I really like how pissed off Hank and Barb are for Max meeting up with Dark Mayhem. It's like, they know he's been interested in villainy for a long time but they never thought he would go as far as to consider taking Phoebe's powers so they really drop the hammer on him.

-I was wondering why Max was wearing different clothes once he got the orb back and took the family's powers. I guess he had time to change into a villainous outfit? I also like how nonchalant he was about walking into the prom dressed like Dean Ambrose and threatening Phoebe with the orb, like it was just a normal thing for him to do and no one would question why he was doing it.

-You might know Max's girlfriend from See Dad Run. I say might because that show didn't exist for a long time. Also, she has a high pitched voice and she's pretty short. I loved her attitude in this whole episode, just being freaked out and aggressive about everything. Her hypocrisy when it came to protesting prom until she found a nice dress, yelling at Phoebe because she didn't know where Max was, and just telling the boys in the hall that if they want to take her to prom, meet her outside. I had no idea Ryan Newman could actually play a funny character.

-The Thundermans' secret being exposed could have been its own episode, but I liked how they threw it in here without having it take away from the story of Max becoming a villain. I also had a suspicion that since Hiddenville knew the secret, the Hero League would force the family to move out, creating a cliffhanger for season four. However, that didn't happen. That was a surprise too, so seeing how the show handles the family's new status has me curious.

-A good joke in this episode is when Phoebe's friends are shocked that she's a superhero, and Cherry's just like, "I knew for a year." I was almost expecting the show to do a joke where Cherry forgets she knew the secret.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Swap Review (Disney Channel Original Movie)

Striker, Gunner and Jack? What, did they run out of cool names at the Cool Name Store?

What is it? DCOM (single-camera made-for-Disney Channel original movie)
Where did it air? Disney Channel
Who stars in it? Peyton List from Jessie/Bunk'd, Jacob Bertrand from Kirby Buckets (and the Lucas Cruikshank vehicle Marvin, Marvin prior to that but...I bet even Lucas Cruikshank wants to forget that one). 
Why are we reviewing this? Because it's a DCOM, so, yay!

If you've been reading the comments Spongey44 has posted on the review of The Swap: The Young Adult Novel, then yeah, the DCOM was decent. 

I guess I'll just get the biggest thing out of the way first: the whole Peyton List/Jacob Bertrand casting. Yeah.... Just as I had predicted/feared, it was a bit awkward to say the least. There's almost exactly a two year difference in age between the two and while that might not seem like a lot, yeah, it is a big difference for teens. And if nothing else, it just doesn't seem to match. It's like watching Rowan and The Other Peyton on Girl Meets World. If they were going to go for a Peyton vehicle (and they overwhelmingly were likely determined towards that) then I probably would've just had Peyton the Second - Peyton Meyer as Jack. If they were determined to keep Jacob Bertrand instead I would've cast Best Friend Whenever's Landry Bender instead. And I still think Francesca Capaldi and Isaak Presley are much closer to the characters in the book, though that might've been pushing for too young for the audience Disney's hoping for (the general rule of thumb for kids' shows is that it's easier to attract an audience younger than the stars as opposed to around the same age, let alone trying to hit above the stars' age).

Speaking of keeping faithful to the book, it...was close enough. The biggest, most substantial and quite frankly most bizarre change is changing Ellie from a soccer star to a gymnast, because I'd think having her as a soccer star would've been better-serving the type of image Disney Channel tries to go for, but whatever. It also meant no epic soccer showdown between Ellie and Sassy as in the book which I think would've also translated well into the movie, whether or not Disney Channel would've insisted they had Ellie barrel down and blast through her defenders to the point of literally causing them to knock and spin into the air, which I still maintain is the stupidest scene in all of DCOM history, and I've seen Read It and Weep (yes this is me knocking on Invisible Sister yet again). 

That's all I can really think of that's worth discussing as for the most part everything else is more or less already covered in the novel review. It didn't diverge nearly as much as I had predicted/feared, so that's good I guess? Still, and even keeping in mind the original source material is a middle school-level book, there still feels something lost in translation. 

DCOM Grade: B-. I was wavering between this and a C+ to be honest (I think I openly shared this with Spongey in the comments from the novel review) but I'll give it the benefit of the doubt, especially after a weekend to think about it. It's definitely not as good as the last DCOM (Adventures in Babysitting), that's for sure.
DCOM MVP: Eh, I guess Peyton List is a safe enough choice. 

Extra Thoughts:

 - stupid random-person-gets-hit-so-hard-they-spin-in-the-air count: Exactly 1, and it's Jack who gets hit and spun by Porter very early in the movie. 

 - I was just re-reading my Adventures in Babysitting review and it just only occurred to me now how creepy my whole paragraph about awarding MVP to Sofia was so I apologize for that. She's still that DCOM's MVP I just wish I'd been more aware of just how fucking creepy I sounded about it.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Swap Review (Young Adult Novel)

peanut butter, grape jelly, banana slices, whole wheat bread #snackofchampions

What is it? Young adult novel (actually a bit lower in age than that even, appropriate for middle school students) in the "contemporary magical realistic sports fiction" genre at least according to Goodreads.com. It's also a whopping 388 pages which is definitely getting into doorstopper territory for any genre book, let alone a middle school-level book.
Where did it air? Umm, it's a book so...through Kindle? It also should be commonly available at your library, which is where I picked up my copy, because of course I'm a cheap bastard.
Who stars in it? Uhhh, it's a book so...a bunch of made-up characters with no corporeal form whatsoever. But it's written by Megan Schull and edited by a bunch of people over at HarperCollins Children's Books.
Why are we reviewing this? Because Disney Channel's going to air The Swap (it's 101st DCOM, supposedly) tomorrow which is allegedly based on this very book so why not?

DCOM adaptations of young adult or children's books were somewhat of a tradition since the DCOM was a thing, going all the way back to Zenon and even The Cheetah Girls (yes that's a book series, though the DCOMs far outstrip the originals in terms of notoriety and even they've pretty much fallen off the radar aside from Disney nostalgists such as myself). The previous DCOM prior to Adventures in Babysitting, Invisible Sister, is also based on the children's book My Invisible Sister (and yes I've read it, and yes I'm still sticking to my opinion that the movie was pretty bad, k?) So it shouldn't come as a surprise that The Swap continues the tradition, even though I only found out about it about a week ago, ordered it from the library and as soon as it came in that weekend I immediately dived into it specifically for this review ahead of the DCOM release. 

And again, it's 388 pages long.

Fortunately being a middle school-level book it's not that hard to read and I got through it pretty quickly. And, uh, you know, it turns out it's pretty decent. 

As you've probably gotten from the DCOM trailers The Swap is about a boy and a girl who switch places, and despite the tendency for DCOMs to differ radically from the book (we'll get to that in Extra Thoughts) it seems this time it more or less follows the basic plot. The DCOM seems to be implying that the two switch through some sort of phone mishap? ala Zapped (yet another one based on a book series) while in the book it's some sort of weird curse put on them by their school nurse? And I don't know what the DCOM is trying to imply or explicitly state with the relationship between the two characters but I think it's pretty clear that there's a significant age difference between Peyton List and Jacob Bertrand, while in the book there's only a one year difference, both are in middle school (Ellie, the girl being in seventh grade and Jack, the boy being in eight grade) and in fact they're each other's love interest which makes things kind of creepy if the DCOM goes that direction. 

As for the book itself? Again, pretty decent. There's a lot of typical middle school narrative tropes stacked on top of each other, especially in the first half or so, and the whole "bro" nature of Jack's, well, bros is both a little overwhelming and frankly stereotypically stupid (but hey, I can let it slide because again, middle school audience). In these alternating viewpoint stories that involve counterpoint male and female characters, I do find myself finding the female perspective more interesting (I don't know if this is the result of me just finding a different perspective interesting or if young adult writers just tend to be better at writing from the female perspective - you'll find that young adult novels like this are overwhelmingly from the female perspective. Yeah the whole genre is pretty much High School Chick Lit) and I find The Swap to be no exception - except I find Jack's situation in Ellie's body more interesting while I find Ellie's actual perspective from Jack's body more interesting (yeah even I got confused about how I should find which more interesting). Again with the middle school tropes - the whole story is about how Ellie should find more confidence in herself to stand up for herself (whether it be directly learning this through the perspective of Jack's body and family or Jack in Ellie's body teaching the other girls to respect her) and Jack in how he should have more confidence to stand up to his brothers and dad, but I get the overwhelming stance that this is primarily Ellie's story, Jack just happens to live in it. And again, given how interesting I found Ellie's story to be, I don't consider that a problem at all. In fact, in terms of straightforward play of the "girl gains confidence, girl gets empowered, YAY GIRL POWER!" genre, I've actually found Ellie's story to be one of the most deeply satisfying ones I've encountered so far (not that there's a shortage of satisfying stories in that genre either).

Given the ready availability and relative easy reading level of this book I'm not in a hurry to spoil it, but I am interested in seeing how it compares to the DCOM. Expect a review of that as I get to it. 

Episode Grade: Well I gave it a full five stars on its Goodreads page but it would be a rather weak five stars. I've always thought the five-star rating system was rather clunky and stupid because it forces a more restrictive pigeon-hole on reviews without a lengthy written summary to provide qualifiers (something my young adult novel professor didn't appreciate me hijacking the whole class on sharing - and yes, that is a real course and yes I took it) which is why I either like a straight up "it's worth watching/reading or not" and just give us an explanation why or why not or the grade system we've stolen from GirlMeetsWorldReviewed. Speaking of which, on that scale I'd give it a B+.
Episode MVP: Uhhh...again being a novel there's no real creative players involved other than author Megan Schull herself so...Megan Schull by default? You can read the book's afterward to see who she herself picks for MVP for making the book a reality for what it's worth.

Extra Thoughts:

 - fun fact: this blog (yes this one you're reading) was originally going to be a young adult novel review blog at the suggestion of a professor, about a year or so before Christian and Sean even started GMWReviewed (the name "Unknown" was actually specifically invented for it because I have the creative imagination of a brick). I never got to it because frankly I got discouraged by the large number of already high-quality young adult literature review blogs out there and it seemed a bit redundant and, uh, I'm also lazy. Then Christian and Sean did their thing and I decided maybe there'd be an audience for a blog covering the rest of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon so, uh, thanks, the five or so of you who are my audience.

 - on that note there's certainly no reason why we can't review other young adult novels anyway, whether they be ones that were adapted into DCOMs (like say Geek Charming) or more mainstream movies (like The Fault in Our Stars and yes I'm not ashamed to admit I've both read and seen The Fault in Our Stars) or ones that haven't been adapted at all yet (like The Probability of Miracles aka That One Book That Hack John Greene Ripped Off to Make The Fault In Our Stars [not true], although I understand that's being adapted into a movie too).If the five of you reading this or so happen to have any suggestions, I'm open - hell chances are I've probably already read it. 

 - And yeah, there's an equally proud tradition of DCOMs veering significantly from the books. Off the top of my head Geek Charming was one of the ones most faithful, and even there given that Geek Charming is an Upper-High School level book they've had to, well, make some creative changes more suitable for the target audience (not to mention buggered up the ending to make it more Disney Princess-ish). I've never read the Twitches books (yes that's another book series) but I understand that's more or less faithful if a little condensed, though the eponymous Twitches are supposed to be redheads (as you probably know by now, a detail I really appreciate it, but after having been a big fan of Sister, Sister and recording Instant Mom on my DVR, yeah I think Tia Mowry-Hardict is hot as hell so whatever. Also, I'll shut up now). Lemonade Mouth was a pretty faithful adaptation too although the author of that book later released a "movie tie-in edition" with cleaned-up language (apparently a lot of parents got the book for their kids after the DCOM, actually read it, and went all please think of the children! when they actually bothered to read it). There's supposedly a "movie tie-in" edition of The Swap coming out too though I don't know why since it's already aiming at 11-13 year olds.

 - And then you have DCOMs that have no resemeblence to their source material. Remember the Debby Ryan DCOM Radio Rebel? It's based on a book called Shrinking Violet and besides a title change (IMHO "Radio Rebel" kinda sounds a little generic into stupid territory, I wish they'd just keep the title) they did do a bunch to change the basic plot and content (in Radio Rebel, Tara has her podcast of course but in the book she's actually interning at her stepdad's radio station - yeah, kinda like what the DCOM eventually does but in the book she starts out as an intern and then gets a radio gig when they just find themselves short-handed. Also there's no subplot about the principal getting all buttmad and BTFO about Radio Rebel and music - in fact, in the book the principal's actually pretty supportive of the whole thing, it's just that the radio station keeps it a secret as part of a giveaway contest [no points for guessing who in the book wins that one, if you've seen the movie] and to "keep the mystique." Oh, and they tone the sexual aspects of the book way the hell down including the detail that not even Tara's own mother knows who her father is) but the overall plot and message more or less stay the same. Not so with Zapped, Invisible Sister and Frenemies - based on Boys are Dogs, My Invisible Sister and, um, well, Frenemies, respectively.  In both Zapped and Frenemies, they just about keep some of the names and that's it. In Boys are Dogs, there's no magical or fantastic elements whatsoever (other than the main character sometimes wishing she can understand boys, there's no indication why and how Disney Channel thought to introduce the whole "boy control app" thing in the first place) and it's actually pretty much standard "realistic fiction" middle school fare. Being a four-part book series (the last one came out shortly after the DCOM) it's sometimes compared to The Secret Language of Girls series and Saffy's Angel/The Casson Family series (both series which are increasingly becoming accepted into the middle school canon, especially in The Casson Family series' native Britain) and in, like, the whole combined collection of a dozen or so books from these three series except for the third Boys are Dogs book being centered around a talent show there's zero magical stuff going on whatsoever. Also, Jackson, the main love interest in the DCOM, is actually the main character's bully in the book series (although by the fourth book he starts to come around to being a love interest, perhaps influenced by the DCOM - remember, the fourth book came after the DCOM). 

 - And don't get me started on Frenemies, where almost literally it just borrowed the names "Halley" and "Avalon" from the book. The Frenemies book series actually has a lot more resemblance to The Clique (a book series I mentioned in my last young adult novel post) and it's basically a series about the reader slowly watching Halley and Avalon's friendship completely break down until they become enemies, except it's even more poorly written than The Clique and it got to the point where the last book or so was made available as an e-book only (the book equivalent of being Straight-to-DVD, don't let all the people proclaiming e-books are the future most people read e-books now! fool you). And then there's Invisible Sister (don't worry Mike I'm not going to bang on the movie anymore) but again, not a lot of resemblance. In the book the eponymous invisible sister is actually born invisible as a deformity (yeah it's, um, pretty out there - it's also meant for an elementary school-level audience) and it's about how her brother feels so inconvenienced about her deformity until he learns to accept it and at the end of the book on Christmas Day they take advantage of snowfall so that she can appear visible if only in general outline form. It's actually, well...I *guess* it could be an emotional ending if you're, like, 8 and into that kind of thing and, yeah, like, totally, if you happen to be into that. *sniff*

 - As for the actual DCOM, The Swap, it seems to be a no-show on Disney Channel OnDemand or Watch Disney Channel so I guess I'll have to wait for tomorrow like everyone else.

 - And one last thing typing those last two things together: if they were really trying to follow the book I'd more imagine Dog With a Blog's Francesca Capaldi (she's explicitly mentioned as being a redhead in the book) and Stuck in the Middle's Isaak Presley in the roles of Ellie and Jack, respectively (really, if you read the book and follow the character descriptions I swear Megan Schull had Francesca and Isaak in mind specifically when she was imagining these characters), or I guess maybe Jacob's still young enough to pull it off (remember, middle school students). But yeah Peyton List is way too old if they were really sticking with the source material, and given the cell phone angle it makes me think it's going to be another Zapped/Boys are Dogs relationship.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Barbie: Star Light Adventure Review

WHY DID I LIKE THIS SO MUCH?!

What is it? 1 hour 30 minute (approx. 1 hour 20 minutes without commercial breaks) CGI animated Barbie direct-to-TV/DVD/streaming movie
Where did it air? Nickelodeon in this instance, although I imagine most people will end up either just going out to buy the DVD or buy it on a streaming service (I also imagine most of the people who are going to see it have already seen it long before it hit Nick's airwaves)
Who stars in it? Well it's CGI so it's going to be an all-voice actor cast, and knowing the typical nature of a beast like this a bunch of people who are likely quite contempt with their voice acting careers but not really going to be big names in the industry. Veteran anime and English-produced cartoon voice actress Erica Lindbeck does Barbie, as she has in many, many previous Barbie CGI movies; Kimberly Woods pretty much does the rest of the heavy voice-acting-lifting as Sal-Lee (yes that's seriously the character's names).
Why are we reviewing this? A bigger question is WHY DID I LIKE IT SO MUCH?!

WHY DID I LIKE IT SO MUCH?!

NO, SERIOUSLY, WHY DID IT LIKE IT SO MUCH?!

Episode Grade: B. WHY DID I LIKE IT SO MUCH?!

Episode MVP: Well it's a CGI movie so the criteria is going to be vastly different than for a live-action show or even a "traditional"/2D animation since the "acting" is done through as much the software (or its limitations) as the voice work...I guess it's a tie between Kimberly Woods since Sal-Lee was, of the characters even approaching developed, by far the most interesting and Ben Bledsoe who "voices" Pupcorn because that floating little furball was just so darn adorable.

Extra Thoughts:

 - WHY DID I LIKE IT SO MUCH?!

 - One thing I have to readily admit: especially for what it is, the visuals are actually pretty dang impressive (particularly the starscape backgrounds and such, but the close-up visuals aren't bad either). Mattel isn't exactly going to break the bank when they make these Barbie Direct-to-TV/DVD/Streaming movies so they actually provide an interesting and insightful barometer regarding where the state of CGI animation is (and for the exact same reasons, so will most of your regularly televised CGI animation shows, whether it'd be Star Wars: Rebels, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [you can tell a huge difference between S1 and S4, for example], Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir [another series I admittedly guilty pleasure-ly enjoy] or Doc McStuffins [yeah about that one, umm...sure]).

 - That said, the actual characters themselves look as if they're just as literally made from plastic as their doll counterparts.

 - I'm willing to bet this is still going to be better than almost nearly any given random episode of Star Wars: Rebels S1

 - I'll admit the whole reason why this thing even caught my attention was because of how adorable Pupcorn was in the previews/trailer:


Taken from the Barbie Movie Wikia, apparently that's a thing

But then it had to change into a boring ole' cat.


Taken from the official Barbie site

 - Why were there two Barbie doll-sized Barbie dolls talking with and interacting with the human-sized Barbie dolls?

 - Why are there clunky robots colored pink and wearing skirts?

 - WHY DID I LIKE THIS SO MUCH?!?!

 - This is several months after the fact looking back on this review, but I'm adding this because it seemed ambiguous and even exactly the opposite of what I was trying to say at first, so - yes, I also love Doc McStuffins.

Xfinity vs. DirecTV: The Nickelodeon and Disney Channel Reviewed, uh, Review (or at least Unknown's Opinion)

So for this "review" we're doing something different: comparing two subscription TV providers, head-to-head. We're doing t...