Monday, August 28, 2023


It's a Barbie world. Writer/director Greta Gerwig brings Mattel's famous doll to life in this comedy that lovingly recreates, and then plays with, the world of Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) who discovers her effect on the real world is quite different than she believes. Robbie is perfect for the role on the rollercoaster of the doll's existential crisis and journey to self-discovery.

There's much to celebrate here including the gorgeous sets for Barbieland and the crazy script with some meaty subjects weaved in involving social commentary of Barbie's utopic feminist world, that was still flawed enough to allow events caused by Ken's exposure to the patriarchy (or his limited understanding of it) in the real world, and a discussion of the positive and negative reactions to Barbie over the years. Along for the ride are Ken (Ryan Gosling), and also several other versions of both Barbie and Ken, and lesser known dolls such as Skipper (Erica Ford) and Allan (Michael Cera).

Real world characters central to the plot are single mother Gloria (America Ferrera) and her disaffected mean tween daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) responsible for Barbie's crisis, along with the all-male Mattel board of directors led by Will Ferrell intent on getting Barbie back home and resetting her world back to the status quo. Gerwig and co-writer Noah Baumbach succeed in both celebrating and, when necessary, critiquing and lampooning Barbie while not shying away from negative aspects of Barbie critics of the doll have argued over the decades.

While at nearly two-hours the movie runs a bit long, as at times do some of the gags, and Barbie does stumble in its choice to ultimately settle for a self-aware gender reversal of the real world, failing to address the gender inequality its setup also produces (and the Barbies appear mostly at ease with), rather than offer a path to a more enlightened version of the world for all to strive towards. The Ken-patriarchy plot takes over the second-half of the film. While it does allow Barbie to shine and break through her doubts into a better understanding of Barbie in both worlds, it also means her voice is lost for a bit under Ken's horse-obsessed male chauvinistic agenda (which, to be fair, is brought forth in part by Barbieland's complete disregard for all Kens as anything more than an additional accessory for Barbie).

Barbie is an unusual road trip movie making terrific use of its star with a Zoolander-ish final act and more than a little social commentary at its core. While there are some individually strong emotional beats, such as Barbie's dialogue with Ruth (Rhea Perlman), a film filled with mostly caricatures struggles at times to find the emotional weight necessary to push home its ideas and become more than just a stylistic and smart summer romp. That said, even if Barbie doesn't ever quite transcend from a good film to a great one it aspires to be, Barbie still knows how to throw a party.

  • Title: Barbie
  • IMDb: link

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