THE Bratz are headed to rehab, courtesy of Hollywood.
Since introducing the overtly sexy dolls in 2001, MGA
Entertainment has sold more than 150 million Bratz, giving Mattel's Barbie a migraine and spawning an empire that stretches from animated direct-to-DVD movies to clothes.
But negative public perception has prevented the Bratz from blossoming into a full-scale phenomenon. Parents and child advocacy groups have long argued that the dolls, with their fishnet stockings, pouty lips and micro-mini skirts, encourage sexuality in pre-adolescent girls.
With Bratz: The Movie
and Lionsgate want to change that image. The live-action film, to be released on August 3, portrays the four characters as misunderstood teenage prodigies who decipher complicated algebra problems and apply lip gloss with the same gusto. They volunteer to do household chores and chirp lines like: 'My mum is my hero'.
'The goal is to broaden the appeal by demonstrating to parents and children alike that there is more to these characters than what they think,' said Lionsgate president Steve Beeks. 'The one thing we didn't want is for this movie to be sassy.'
The makeover risks alienating Bratz fans, but MGA
decided the movie's potential to spruce up the brand was too great to ignore. Consumers may spend hundreds of millions annually on Bratz dolls and related merchandise, according to the company, but MGA
chief executive Isaac Larian said the dolls, now six-years-old, were losing some sizzle in the marketplace.
, which is privately held, does not release financial data, but Larian said second-quarter doll sales increased 12 per cent from the year-earlier period. 'It's a bit lower than in the past, but we would have been happy if it was just flat,' Larian said.
According to market research firm the NPD Group, doll sales in the US fell 3 per cent to $US1.34 billion ($A1.54 billion) between 2004 and last year.
Lionsgate is hoping for a lift, too. The independent studio wants to make a name in the family film business, much as it has done in the horror niche with movies like the Saw
The studio needs the effort to succeed now more than ever: over the past few months, horror movies, and some Lionsgate releases in particular, have performed poorly.
Hollywood holds an advanced degree in repackaging brands for the big screen — Transformers
raked in $US187 million at US theatres in its first 10 days of release, but Bratz: The Movie
is far from a guaranteed success.