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On every score, 'Bratz' just stinkz

In 'Bratz,' Logan Browning, Janel Parrish, Nathalia Ramos, and Skyler Shaye (from left) play characters based on the children's dolls. In "Bratz," Logan Browning, Janel Parrish, Nathalia Ramos, and Skyler Shaye (from left) play characters based on the children's dolls. (Chuck Zlotnick)

If you ever wanted a movie to put in the time capsule so future generations can puzzle over the bankruptcy of our current kiddie culture, "Bratz" is it. A live-action film based on a line of dolls, it's pure marketing chum for tweeners: a proudly shallow, purposefully bland ode to girly-girl narcissism. I could actually feel my brain stem shrivel up as I watched it.

The Bratz dolls have caused some concern over the past few years because, well . . . because they look like hookers. Critics worry that these hyper-sexualized figurines, with their attendant bling obsession, will send the wrong message to girls. My own daughters just think the dolls are creepy and can't understand why their feet come off rather than their shoes. In a face-off with the American Girls line, the Bratz would go down hard.

The movie, cheaply shot and raggedly edited, is set in a plastic neverland suburbia. It casts four relative newcomers: Nathalia Ramos as Hispanic Yasmin, Janel Parrish as Asian-American Jade, Logan Browning as African- American Sasha, and Skyler Shaye as Cloe, the designated pallid white girl. They're best-friends-forever who compare clothing notes via computer before every school day. The dialogue runs along the lines of "Shorties and leopard kicks!" and "Work the IQ, girl, but don't lose your passion for fashion!" OMG -- wrst screenplae of the yr!

Now they're in high school and the social dynamic threatens to split the gang up. "Bratz" has one decent, obvious idea in its tiny head -- Cliques R Bad -- and while our heroines are at first drawn to separate groups, they eventually join together to teach the jocks and the nerds and the goths and the loners to all get along. Why anyone would follow four college-age women who act like hyperactive 10-year-olds is beyond me.

Against our girlz stands Meredith Baxter Dimly (Chelsea Staub), diva queen of Carry Nation High and an egomaniac of titanic proportions. She has to be extra-loathsome so we'll be able to root for the Bratz without holding our noses. Some vague dreamboats stand on the sidelines -- loved Ian Nelson as Dylan, the deaf DJ -- and a few interminable musical numbers are thrown in at the end, making Disney's "High School Musical" look like Puccini in comparison.

The most depressing thing about "Bratz" -- besides its belief that shopping is a girl's best route to happiness -- may be the appearances of Lainie Kazan as Yasmin's heavily accented mamecita (mother and daughter dance around singing "La Cucaracha" at one point, possibly the movie's idea of ethnic cleansing) and Oscar winner Jon Voight as the uptight school principal. That's right, the former Joe Buck is now Mr. Weatherbee. Rent your children "Midnight Cowboy" instead -- it can't do more damage to their psyches than this soulless mallrat of a movie.

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com. For more on movies, go to boston.com/ae/ movies/blog.

'Related'

Bratz

Directed by: Sean McNamara

Written by: Susan Estelle Jansen, David Eilenberg, Adam de la Pena

Starring: Nathalia Ramos, Janel Parrish, Logan Browning, Skyler Shaye, Jon Voight, Lainie Kazan

At: Boston Common, Fenway, Boston, and suburbs

Running time: 90 minutes

Rated: PG (thematic elements, soul-sucking consumerism) No stars

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