To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Barbie is a meta fantasy comedy film based on the Mattel toy line of the same name directed by Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) from a screenplay written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story). Featuring Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Michael Cera, Ariana Greenblatt, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman, Helen Mirren, and Will Ferrell; it is the first live-action and theatrically released Barbie film. The story follows a Barbie who goes on a journey to the real world following an existential crisis.
As the film opens the narrator (Helen Mirren) explains the differences between Barbieland, a matriarchal society where women lead every aspect of society, and the “Real World” which is the complete opposite. We then follow Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) as she starts her morning routine. She wakes up and greets all her neighbor Barbies, showers, changes clothes, “eats” breakfast, and then floats down into her car. The rest of her morning is spent attending an interview with President Barbie (Issa Rae), a government seminar with Diplomat Barbie (Nicola Coughlan), and a Nobel Prize Ceremony with Writer Barbie (Alexandra Shipp) and Physicist Barbie (Emma Mackey).
After her full morning Stereotypical Barbie heads to the beach where Ken (Ryan Gosling) is happy to see her. After becoming jealous of all the other Kens, Barbies, and Allan (Michael Cera) also talking to Barbie, Ken decides to show off to her by shredding the “waves” on his surfboard, injuring himself. After being helped up by some of his fellow Kens, Ken gets into an altercation with Ken (Simu Liu) and is challenged to a beach off. Barbie steps in and stops the situation from escalating and Ken is treated by Dr. Barbie (Hari Nef). After being given a clean bill of health Ken asks Barbie if he can come over to her house at night. She says yes and invites him to her giant blowout party with all the Barbies, planned choreography, and a bespoke song.
As a child, I never played with Barbie dolls but I am well aware of their cultural significance. Barbie has been a part of the pop culture zeitgeist since before I was born I will probably still be around long after I’m gone. Considering how popular the character is it’s pretty crazy that we haven’t gotten a live-action movie before. The closest we’ve gotten is the Disney Channel Original Movie Life-Size – which this movie clearly gets some inspiration from. We’ve also seen Barbie and Ken appear in Toy Story 3 but that is animated. Now that it’s finally coming it is poised to be a big success. It’s a movie the entire family can enjoy as everybody knows what the main character is. Also, the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon is helping a lot with fans rushing out for double features of Barbie and Oppenheimer.
Margo Robbie turns in a good performance as Stereotypical Barbie. Robbie looks the part of a perfect Barbie – a point that even the narrator brings up. However, that doesn’t stop her from giving an emotional performance as someone who is struggling with their identity and figuring out what they want. The highlight of this movie is easily Ryan Gosling as Ken. We haven’t seen him have this much fun since his time on the Mickey Mouse Club. He sings he dances, he has washboard abs, etc. He’s another character that feels he is lacking purpose aside from being a companion to Barbie. By the end, he does realize he is “Kenough.” Will Ferrell’s role is small and silly but he made the most of what was given to him. As far as I’m concerned his character is the same as the dad from The Lego Movie franchise and these movies are set in a shared cinematic universe. The rest of the cast turn in solid performances as well.
Barbie feels like it’s ripped right out of the mid-2000s which is refreshing. The meta humor presented throughout the movie is pretty funny and I wish they would have leaned a little more into it. Sometimes things don’t quite make sense, (like the ghost of Ruth Handler) but Baumbach quickly glosses over it with a funny joke. Some of the subtext is pretty overt which I found funny, but I can see some people having a problem with it. I wouldn’t say the movie goes as far as putting all men down, but it certainly picks at a certain group of men. There are discussions about the patriarchy and how Barbie has both helped and failed women. Towards the end, it does get a little preachy with the character Gloria (America Ferrera) giving a big speech to all the Barbies about what women go through. Very similar to She-Hulk’s speech in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. That message was already made abundantly clear earlier in the film and overstating it took me out of the movie a bit.
Overall, Barbie made me laugh more often than it didn’t and that’s all I want from a comedy. The cast was stellar and the story was sweet. I’d be happy to see a Barbie 2 or even a Ken solo spinoff at some point in the future. I give Barbie a Decent 8.2/10. This film is practically one big ad from Mattel. I highly expect that Barbie products will be flying off the shelves this Christmas. And classic Barbies and their attire will probably start to sell for a premium online.