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Film Reviews

Barbie (dir. by Greta Gerwig) 

90.0
Score

Pros

  • Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling were meant for this. This warrants a Barbie/Babylon or Barbie/La La Land Double Feature.
  • Ariana Greenblatt and America Ferrera make a good pair, nearly stealing the film from Robbie & Gosling..
  • Takes pot shots at the Incel / Snyder Cut crowd.
  • The pacing is quick, and the movie is over before you know it.
  • Awesome supporting cast, from Simu Liu to Michael Cera and Issa Rae.
  • Helen Mirren is the Strawberry on top of the sundae, as the Narrator.
  • Takes a movie about a doll and makes it so much more.
  • Margot Robbie dopplegangers strike again, this time with Emma Mackey.

Cons

  • I still have to wait at least 45 days to start a Babylon/Barbie Double Feature.
Cinematography
8
Plot / Theme
8
Acting / Casting
9
Sound / Music
8

Final Verdict

Barbie is fun ride, with a number of laughs throughout. Robbie and Gosling are a perfect Barbie and Ken. It doesn't take itself too seriously at first, but does hammer down on notions of what some women have to deal with, just being women in it's 2nd half. Gerwig approaches it all with love and respect.

I may be the wrong person to be writing about Barbie. As a guy, I can’t really empathize with all of the elements of womanhood. I’ll never experience childbirth, nor fully understand all of the issues women have to deal with (though watching the women in my family proved insightful over the years). The closest I’ll know is either through writing or having a girl character in Grand Theft Auto Online and having to deal with players shooting my character to hell for not getting into their ride when I clearly have one of my own.

Still, I can appreciate both the fun and the serious notes that Barbie offered.

I spent last Christmas with a friend’s family, watching as they passed gifts between each other. During the gift giving, my friend passed along a small wrapped box to his wife. She smiled up at him from the sofa, but looked at the box with a hint of confusion. Tearing into it, she gasped and then broke into tears, which silenced the room.

The unwrapped present was a Barbie Doll, complete in a luxurious dress. I think it might have been the Oscar De La Renta one.

She explained that when she was little, living in Colombia, she had always wanted a Barbie. Sure, there were dolls to be had, but nothing like a Barbie. I listened to this and smiled, associating it as the female equivalent of asking your parents for a Transformer but only ever receiving GoBots instead. I could relate.

It also reminded me of my little sister, who had the Dream House, the Car, and a box full of clothes. She’d humor me with my Transformers, I’d humor her with Barbie life, either borrowing a Ken or her Kimber from her Jem line. We’d hop in the convertible and drive.

I can imagine James Earl Jones’ character in Field of Dreams noting that Barbie “has marked the time” throughout history.

So, when it was announced that there was an actual Barbie movie being made, I knew I’d check it out, especially with all of the Oppenheimer madness on the same weekend. I decided to watch Oppenheimer first (a 5pm showing), and then Barbie (at 9:30pm) this past Thursday. This proved to be a good idea. Barbie‘s lighthearted approach was a stark contrast to Oppenheimer’s tone.

I enjoyed Barbie, which opens with a homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey and a narration by Dame Helen Mirren. It’s the tale of a Barbie – Stereotypical Barbie, if you need particulars (Margot Robbie, Babylon) who lives her life in Barbieland with all of the Barbies and the Kens. One Ken (Ryan Gosling, The Gray Man) has his heart set on Barbie. Life is nice in Barbieland, sunning by the beach during the day and partying at night. However, once our Barbie begins to have thoughts about death and her existence, the magic around her begins to be disrupted. With the help of a Crazy Barbie (Kate McKinnon, DC’s League of SuperPets), our Barbie finds herself on a quest towards the Real World to find her companion – similar to Toy Story‘s toys and their owners – and fix what’s gone wrong. Adding to the mayhem is Mattel, whose CEO (Will Farrell) discovers the breach between Barbie Land and the Real World and sends his own agents after Ken and Barbie.

Can Barbie make things right? Will Ken just tag along for the ride?

Written by Greta Gerwig & her husband, Noah Baumbach, Barbie‘s plot is pretty straightforward. Barbie is lighthearted throughout and the audience (which was pretty packed) seemed to enjoy it. My showing lost a mother and two kids in the front row around the time the story reached the Real World, however. Or perhaps they moved back to a higher row. The story gets itself involved with the complex role of women in society, which is both welcome and expected. While it’s not as heavy handed as The Handmaiden’s Tale in what it’s trying to say, I thought the story worked well and was extremely accessible, for the most part. Like many movies these days, Barbie has something to say about the times we live in. I’m not entirely sure how everyone else will handle it. I’m curious to know more about Gerwig’s other works. Although the film is shy of the 2 hour mark, it moves quite quickly.

Barbie is on par with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer for the casting. There’s such a great line up here. Simu Liu (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Marvel’s Secret Invasion), and John Cena (Fast X) as some of the Ken’s in town. From Netflix’s Sex Education, you have Ncuti Gatwa, Emma Mackey and Connor Swindels They’re paired off with Alexandra Shipp (Love, Simon), Nicola Coughlin (Netflix’s Bridgerton), Rhea Perlman (Matilda) and singer Dua Lipa. Longtime Barbie fans will also recognize Midge (Emerald Fennell, director of Promising Young Woman) and Allen (Michael Cera) in the mix. Barbie feels like a labor of love, with both the acting and the set design. Gosling and Robbie as the leads are fantastic. I can’t imagine a better person than Robbie for Barbie and Gosling gets a bit more with the songs he gets to sing. All in all, it’s a great party, and they’re both at their comedic best here.

The standouts, though happen to be both America Ferrera (How to Train Your Dragon) and Ariana Greenblatt (65). If Robbie and Gosling are the perfect Ken and Barbie, than I would argue that Ariana and America had the perfect characters for helping the audience understand some of the parts we (guys, in particular) don’t get. The audience loved their interactions, and there was at least one part that garnered some applause and cheers from the crowd.

From a production design standpoint, everything is there in Barbie Land. The Barbie Dream house, the car, the pool. Whoever worked on these designs obviously played with the toys growing up and made a near flawless recreation. It felt like Bumblebee, with Transformers that were more like their animated counterparts than jagged pieces of shrapnel.

While there isn’t anything particularly special in the sound department (that’s more Oppenheimer‘s territory), music plays a big part in the Barbie experience. Whether it’s Gosling singing his heart out while pining for Barbie, or a lovely piece by Billie Eilish, it’s all fun and caring.

Overall, Barbie really surprised me. It manages to take something extremely simple – a doll loved by many – and surprisingly turn it into a thought provoking piece that may have you thinking differently about your mothers & grandmothers (or any of the women around you). At least, after you’ve stopped chuckling and or nodding with the music.

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