specials

Screen Stories: Reviewing the Polly Pocket Movies

I spent time working on this last summer while I wasn’t feeling well. Movies are stories, too, right?

I grew up with Polly Pockets. Not the freaky mutant ones that are out today, or even the minuscule ones that fit very snugly in your pocket. I’m talking about Fashion Polly dolls, slightly larger dolls with many rubbery clothing options. They were the highlight of Christmases, birthdays, and going to the toy store with Grandma and Grandpa. There was nothing like the pure joy of opening up a new Polly doll and thinking of all the wonderful new styles and adventures to be had, feeling the rubbery, buttery newness of the doll’s fresh outfits. Sometimes, I’d have to play with it immediately upon opening it, even if we were celebrating Christmas at a house that wasn’t my own and Polly had no other friends to play with at the moment. The possibilities!

Man, the world we created with these was so complex we could have actually made a TV show of them. So imagine our joy when DVDs came out. (Polly World is past my time, and technically so is 2 Cool if not for the fact that I played with these things longer than I should have; I had to go and watch Polly World more recently.) So today, I thought I’d go where no one else has gone before and review them. Someone has to do it, right? And let’s face it: I love the Nostalgia Critic, but he’d tear these apart. What the reviewers don’t know is that good, fun doll movies have a place too. So I’ll be taking that stuff into account.

Mattel came out with two DVDs and a full-length movie. I will not be discussing the poorly animated online webisodes. Not only have I not seen them but they look hideous. I’m sorry to have to be that person, but it’s true: my generation’s Polly was better than your gen Z version.

To rank them, then, I will put each DVD in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place. They will get 3 points for first, 2 points for 2nd, and one point for third.

Story

Generic “Polly Pocket!” DVD (came with a playset): Polly and friends are assigned a science project on the eclipse. To get a great grade for Lila (who will be banned from playing in the band at the school dance if she does as poorly as her last project), they travel to Pocket Island to get good pictures. But what if mean girl Beth tries to sabotage their project first? And what if a dolphin rescue mission distracts them from their photo taking? Will they still ace their project so the band can play at the dance?

2 Cool at the Pocket Plaza: For the opening of Polly’s dad’s new hotel, Polly and friends will be staying in the penthouse suite over the weekend and will perform the opening number for Eric Wilder’s concert. She invites her British cousin Pia to come too, and when Pia asks to join the band for the performance, they of course say yes. But chaperone Miss Throckmorton isn’t so sure. Maybe if Pia and Polly dress and act alike, they can just switch places in rehearsal when Miss T isn’t around. But things get complicated when Polly’s dad needs Polly to give the dedication speech, and when Beth finds out about the plan–and tries to expose Polly so she can become the most popular girl in school instead.

Polly World: Polly and her classmates are headed to the Polly World amusement park for a scavenger hunt competition. Together they’ll hit all the rides and take part in a few contests to try and get the win. Disrupting the weekend is Polly’s dad’s girlfriend Lorelei, who is jealous of Polly–and it sounds like Polly isn’t a fan either. When Lorelei teams up with mean girl Beth to get rid of Polly, does the weekend stand a chance?

***

As with all these types of movies, there’s a lot of wish fulfillment here that allows viewers to delve into a different world for another day. Polly and friends go to amusement parks, try on clothes, live in fancy houses, and just have fun together. Some of the scenes are just devoted to these things, as one should expect with girly doll movies. However, the target audience will be fine with this. Sometimes you just need plain fun, and you’re probably not looking for much more in 20-minute DVDs (one of which comes with a playset). In the generic DVD, though, the fun wish fulfillment actually helps to fill in the lackluster plot of completing a school project. It’s just fun to watch the girls have adventures at home and on the island.

2 Cool definitely had the most solid story, if not with some logic flaws that really present themselves once you’re an adult. (Miss Throckmorton isn’t angry with Pia for dying her hair, or somehow doesn’t even notice that Pia was literally just speaking in her accent before and now is impersonating Polly’s American one? Pia just starts randomly giving a speech about following her dreams instead of the dedication speech that was supposed to happen?) Pia is instantly likable, and the idea is a lot of fun that we haven’t seen a lot before (at least not before Hallmark’s Princess and the Pauper trope took over years later). But it also tries maybe a little too hard to throw a moral about being yourself in. When Pia ends up on stage playing violin, something the girls didn’t want her to do at first, Polly says that it would have been better if they had accepted Pia right from the start. But they kind of had to disguise her anyway, because of Miss Throckmorton’s disapproval. And the central story really wasn’t about what instrument Pia played? Oh well. That’s super nitpicky.

Polly World lost me with some of the fantasy-esque storylines…how many more evil stepmothers do we need? And the idea of her conspiring with Beth was just silly. Never mind that Polly’s dad enrolls her and de-enrolls her in boarding school in the span of an hour, under the recommendation of a woman who doesn’t even know Polly. Lorelei’s story seemed a bit far-fetched as they are engaged without Polly even having met her yet. Also cliche was the girls not winning the contest, despite the fact that Beth’s team forfeited and the boys had their final act ruined. Whenever there is a contest in a movie like this, the leading ladies typically don’t win, maybe to promote the idea that fun and teamwork are more important. It just didn’t make sense here; they were clearly in first place. And despite, or maybe because of the long running time, a considerable amount of the movie is filler. On the other hand, the idea of going to a theme park for a contest is much more interesting then working on a school project. This is a movie you appreciate because it’s fun, not because it’s logical.

The general DVD could have had a snooze-worthy plot, but it is actually saved by the”fun” scenes that also bring some conflict. It’s a fun escapist story without the crazy drama, but there’s also not a lot of solid plot holding it together. Like, basically none. Despite Polly World’s corny subplotting, I would much rather watch the girls go to an amusement park than work on a project. Of course this too has its share of silly things, from traveling around the world and back in a day, a three-minute montage of watching everyone enjoy a water park, and a dolphin rescue mission.

Still, long story short, there is a clear order.

1st place: 2 Cool
2nd place: Polly World
3rd place: Generic DVD

Animation

Easily the best-looking of the three is 2 Cool. The girls look exactly like their animated drawn counterparts and it is obviously a Polly Pocket film. The colors are nice and everything is very well drawn. Of course, you have to look past people standing still in the background and a random cut to a guy holding a violin, but you know.

Polly World is… not bad, I…guess. But the non-people of color are very washed out. They hurt to look at and Lea actually looks like a ghost. A couple of Beth’s friends appear to be albino, but I don’t know if this was because they were or because the animators wanted to give them a different skin tone that happened to be light. So are some of the backgrounds. This is the same drawing style that the later playsets used, but it doesn’t come off well on TV. Note to animators: “peach people” are better than “white people.” Another problem I had with Polly World was some character appearances. Polly’s dad and future stepmom look like characters in a Disney movie. Dad has the “dapper guy walking around in 1900s Central Park” look going on and Lorelei looks like the villain in a princess movie. They just don’t look like real people. The scenery is also a bit blurrier here.

And, oh dear, the generic DVD. I honestly wondered if this was made by a different company. The backgrounds are lovely and saturated and remind me of some children’s books I used to read. But they really screwed up on Polly’s design….the animators could have decided she was Barbie and it wouldn’t have made a difference, because they are both equally far from this character’s design. She does not look like Polly Pocket. The strange part? Nearly everyone else, including Beth and Polly’s butler Samuel, looks like a Polly universe character. It’s only the five girls who ran into design mishaps for some reason. Ana probably looks the best of the five. However, the generic DVD doesn’t hurt my eyes when I look at white people, and the colors are again nice…and most of the other characters are fine there. I can probably even forgive Polly’s friends, who aren’t spot on either, because they still resemble the characters. I’ll have to give the edge to the generic DVD for second place, because the colors are much better and in the end, the girls don’t look *that* much different than they do in Polly World.

1st place: 2 Cool
2nd place: Generic DVD
3rd place: Polly World

Music

I have to say, the music here is pretty fun for these types of movies. Each one features the song “Perfect Kind of Day,” a peppy song that Polly’s band performs in the first DVD and is used for background music in the other two. Songs performed by the band include 2 Cool’s Work the Angles and Polly World’s Rock This Town. Concert scenes themselves are again wish fulfillment, but that’s to be expected and they’re not bad songs. And it’s not like they don’t have a purpose; they all fit into the story. The lead singer’s voice is quite good in both.

2 Cool also has Not Just Make Believe as a background choice, but it’s not memorable and is literally straight from a Disney Princess DVD. Polly World has several tween pop selections too, none of which are extremely interesting but fit the spirit a little better. As such, I’ll give a slight edge to Polly World here because Rock This Town is so solid and because the music fits the tone. I don’t have a lot to add regarding the generic DVD because there isn’t much at all.

1st place: Polly World
2nd place: 2 Cool
3rd place: Generic DVD

Acting

You can thank Polly World for having me select this as a category , because the voice acting was so awful here. It was just bad. For one thing, most characters’ voices were squeaky, super girly, and high-pitched. Beth and Lorelei’s actors didn’t know how to read a script, though they did speak just like cliches, and Beth especially was super dumb here. I couldn’t believe them as people for a second. Don’t believe me? Look at her conversations with Lorelei and on the big screen at the concert.

Also, let’s talk voices. Everyone is so high-pitched and squeaky. Maybe that’s one reason why Polly World feels more like a generic doll brand movie–more on that later.

2 Cool and the generic movie were better. I don’t have complaints about either.

1st place: 2 Cool and generic DVD
3rd place: Polly World

Characters

Yeah, you’re looking at Mary Sues here. For sure. But again, that’s the kind of movies these are supposed to be, so they’re on even ground in that respect. Polly and friends don’t have a ton of time to gather personality in any, but we still pick up tidbits. Ana and Lila are good artists, with Lila being snarky, Shani is funky, Ana is shy, Polly is a levelheaded leader, etc. They’re all equally developed. In all 3 is also Samuel, Polly’s butler/driver/chaperone. He could be bland, but you learn to care about the guy because of their good relationship. So mostly, I’ll be taking a look at the side characters.

So what makes them different? Polly World obviously gets points here for having more time to develop the main characters and probably does the best job of the three. However, it again loses points for very bland side characters-. Beth is very one-sided and cares only about popularity and fame and nothing else over the course of the movie. I think her lines are meant to be funny but end up being pretty cringey. Lorelai too is a very one-dimensional villain and cares about–what else?–getting Polly’s dad’s money. These things hurt the movie a bit.

And Polly is WAY too perfect here. She literally catches Lorelei tangled in a plot to get her dad’s money and decides not to tell her dad because “he’s happy with her.” Gah. Points off for Polly World.

2 Cool introduces side characters that do have personality in Pia and Miss Throckmorton. Miss T is strict but also caring, and Pia is somewhat insecure and idealistic. On the other hand, the Polly friends aren’t developed as much, but they’re still there. We do see Shani with a goofy fangirl personality, Lila as somewhat sassy, and Polly as levelheaded. But Pia and Miss T do it well, and I am placing more emphasis on side characters here. The characters here, in general, also seemed the most real.

There were no particularly bad characters except in Polly World, so that one gets last place. Overall, although there wasn’t a ton of development, they did a good job.

1st place: 2 Cool for overall for best job
2nd place: Generic DVD for being neutral
3rd place: Polly World for slightly stronger main characters, but with bad side characters

A winner here? Congratulations to 2 Cool for being the winner with 13 points. The generic DVD was second with ten points and Polly World winds up with seven. I guess that’s pretty fair. 2 Cool was obviously the most accurate to the franchise in looks, personalities, and everything else. The generic DVD wasn’t a bad first effort; the characters were true to self but the animation and plotlines were clearly ones that you’d put into a DVD you were including with a playset. That’s exactly what they did, so no harm there I suppose. Quite frankly, for what it’s worth, it was pretty good quality. Polly World wasn’t terrible and tried to do something new by coming out with a longer movie. Actually, it’s even an enjoyable watch for a Polly fan. The original music was well done, but the animation (literal white people!!!!), plot, and characters were a little bare-bones for it to be considered great. It also felt a little more like a Barbie or Bratz movie, whereas I felt the others were more authentic to the Polly universe.

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