Barbie Review: Scary, Brave and a Little Miracle – LSB

13 Min Read

To Greta Gerwig Barbie the film dominated the world with an extensive and spectacular marketing campaign that was impossible to ignore. Now that the film is finally hitting theaters, can it live up to expectations? It’s complicated.

In some respects, Barbie is exactly what fans online, frothing over the Barbie selfie generator and those real doll looks on the red carpet, want. Gerwig—with the help of an army of amazing artisans—turned Barbieland into a wonderful reality of towering dream houses, impeccable fashion, and bright pink everything. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are masterfully matched as “The Stereotypical Barbie and Ken”, not only achieving the incredible physical perfection of this iconic duo, but also capturing the youthful whimsy one might assume they possess.

Plus, there’s a lot of silly humor about how kids play with Barbies and some of Mattel’s less glamorous moments. But the plot that is carefully hidden in the trailers, music videos, spicy dinner videos and music videos can lead many astray. And that’s pretty amazing in itself.


A parent’s guide to ‘Barbie’: What you need to know before watching it with the kids

What is Barbie regarding?

Barbie has flat feet!

Credit: Warner Bros.

The opening of the film, written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, is the funny teaser that parodies 2001: A Space Odyssey. Little girls in a sepia-toned desert play nonchalantly with baby dolls until Barbie rises as a majestic monolith in her debut swimsuit, and the children become her “monkeys.” A brief introduction suggests that Barbie was an icon, inspiring girls and solving all the problems of sexism—well, as far as the residents of Barbieland, a female-led utopia, know, anyway.


Everything you need to know about Barbie

In Barbieland, Barbies are doctors, lawyers, construction workers, Pulitzer Prize winners, and presidents. Every day is perfect, starting with a great night’s sleep and an adorable morning routine of costume changes and heart-shaped waffles, and every night ends with a massive dance party followed by a “girl’s night” — no Kens allowed. (While the Barbies do anything and everything, the Kens “beach”.) But all this seeming perfection begins to unravel when Stereotypical Barbie (Robbie) asks suddenly, in the middle of choreographing a group dance, “Have you guys ever thought about death? ”

Soon her sleep is not so restful. Her breakfast is burnt. Her perfectly arched feet become flat. She seeks advice from “Weird Barbie” (a perfectly cast Kate McKinnon), who tells her that the girl she plays with in the real world is in crisis and it’s up to Barbie to go there and help her. Ken (Gosling) is coming along for the ride, whether Barbie likes it or not.

Barbie is a marvel for a studio film.

Barbie introduces herself to some exhausted youngsters.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Barbie has long been a promise and a trap for women. On the one hand, she tells girls that they can be anything they dream of. On the other hand, she’s a standard we can never live up to with her unrealistic curves, her impassive smile, her completely bespoke wardrobe and her ability to be absolutely anything – with no barriers of institutionalized prejudice to stop her.

amazing, Barbie handles much of this terrain. Barbieland is an inclusive place made up of Barbies of color, Barbies with disabilities with assistive devices like wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs, Barbies with different body types, and Doctor Barbie, played by trans actor/model Harry Neff. It’s a stunning treat to see all these women working blissfully together, living our best fantasy lives where their basic rights aren’t attacked (and everything looks cute).

When Barbie visits the real world; however, she faces a rude awakening from catcalls, sexual harassment, and a Mattel boardroom full of businessmen who talk down to her. From there, the film becomes more direct in its discussion of sexism and issues of patriarchy. The dialogue on these issues ranges from comically broad to personal, but overall has a Feminism 101 vibe. While some may be outraged by even this level of discourse on gender equality politics in a film suitable for children, others will likely criticize that Gerwig doesn’t go far enough here. However, that seems to be Gerwig’s main focus Barbie is to give a voice to girls and young women who face the sexist double standards placed upon them by using a doll that has been a blessing and a curse for that matter. It’s a sweet introduction to feminism.

For one character, Barbie is a symbol of outdated and unfair standards to which women are shackled; for another, she is a shining symbol of the potential women possess if only given a chance to shine. This conflict not only drives the plot—and Barbie’s own identity crisis—but also allows for another political paradox in this big-budget studio film with a glossy IP.


Kate McKinnon’s quirky Barbie gets her own doll from Mattel

It’s easy to be cynical about movies based on toys, as one might rightly assume that they are produced mainly for merchandising. It’s hard to argue Barbie doesn’t play a role in this as Barbie-mania sweeps the globe with a vast array of tie-in products. Even in the film, specific clothes and dolls are given loving, kitschy close-ups. But incredibly, within a two-hour advertisement for Barbie dolls and all the hyper-feminine fashion accessories, Gerwig builds a thread about the evils of consumerism and the problems with Barbie. A politically minded woman (Ariana Greenblatt) begins speaking out about the doll’s problems, quickly giving voice to many of Barbie’s detractors.

But more powerfully, the third act challenges the concept that our identity is made up of what we own. Even in Barbieland, consumerism and the obsession with stuff is questioned, which feels pretty radical for a toy movie.

Barbie has classical and comic inspirations; Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are perfect.

Barbie in Barbieland.

Credit: Warner Bros.

During her acting career, Gerwig has repeatedly noted that she found inspiration in classic Hollywood musicals. And this is clear in Barbieland with its gorgeous hand-painted backgrounds 2001 parody, the pink brick road (wink to The Wizard of Oz) and a flashy dance number that recalls Gene Kelly’s dreamy ballet in the An American in Paris. Moviegoers have plenty of reasons to care about these details. Yet the tone of Barbie is distinctly modern, favoring a high-energy satirical approach that recalls Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont’s cult classic josie and the cats who also decried consumerism in pop culture, as well as recent comedy gem, Josh Greenbaum Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Marwhich also centers on an adorable couple who love the sand and the sun.

Simply put, Barbie is meticulously crafted, politically bold (for a studio film) and absolutely hilarious. But the film might not have worked if it weren’t for Robbie and Gosling, who fully understand and embrace Gerwig’s mix of classic and contemporary. Of course, Robbie looks like Barbie on screen and on the red carpet. However, there is more to the character than the initial coolness seen in much of the trailers. As existential dread creeps in, Barbie struggles with social pressure to appear endlessly happy, even as her mind is racked by self-doubt and anxiety. Robbie must navigate the difficult terrain to bring a doll’s existential crisis to a stake, and she does so with tender tears and a smile that shines but flickers.

Barbie stands between two Kens.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Gerwig’s sensational soundtrack gives expression to these feelings as Barbie struggles to find the words. Songs from Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish and Lizzo provide poignant and playful commentary, while Ken also breaks into song on several occasions. He once goes into a full musical number with all the Kens in the hilariously indulgent “I’m Just Ken.” The other time… it’s too good to spoil. It involves a guitar and is the hardest thing I laughed at in this very funny movie. And that’s to Gosling’s credit.

There are many great performances Barbie, starring Will Ferrell as a reliable con man to an arrogant man in charge, Issa Rae as no-nonsense President Barbie, America Ferrera as Barbie’s passionate human ally, and Michael Cera as the slyly hysterical Alan. Gosling is great though. He brought a lot of Kenergy to the casting for this film. But in Barbie he does much more. He lets himself be a clown in a way we haven’t seen since The nice guys. He’s not afraid to be absurd, like Jamie Dornan in Barb and Star. And in doing so, he becomes the perfect partner for Robbie’s radiant yet still-revealing Barbie.

After all, Gerwig has done something ambitious and remarkable. She took what could have been a cheap excuse to sell toys and turned it into an accessible political conversation about gender politics, consumerism, and a radical act of self-love. Her incredible team has built a dream world that feels so real and tangible that you can imagine yourself stepping onto its pink plastic floors and opening its various shiny doors. Her cast embraced her vision, throwing themselves into the physical comedy, fiery pathos, and the film’s wackiest moments with such abandon that it’s absolutely intoxicating. The result is a summer movie that has more depth than you might expect, and demands to be seen on the big screen to absorb every ounce of all the amazing craftsmanship in front of and behind the camera.

In short, Barbie it’s a miracle. Don’t miss it.

How to watch: Barbie is now available to watch at home. Here’s where to get it.

UPDATE: December 14, 2023, 5:31 PM EST This review was originally published on July 18, 2023, related to Barbie’s theatrical release. The article has been updated with how to watch information related to its streaming release.

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