‘Barbie’ Movie Review

For some time, popular toys and games from kids’ childhoods from the 1970s and 80s have become popular movie topics. From Transformers and G.I Joe to Battleship and The Lego Movie, movie studios have been on their heels to find source material for new movie projects for the past few decades. While the Barbie doll had appeared before in her own line of animated cartoon movies for young girls and even made a cameo in the Toy Story franchise, she now gets a full-blown big-screen adaptation with a new film from WB, Barbie. 

From Greta Gerwig, the Oscar-nominated writer/director behind the Best Picture nominees Lady Bird and the 2019 version of Little WomenGerwig now tries at something different. The Barbie movie is a comedy, straight up. Although not all the elements of the film work, and some of the comedy bits are absurdist and even downright goofy, it mostly succeeds in its efforts to produce some pretty great, laugh-out-loud moments. 

The Barbie movie juggles many themes, some it handles better than others, such as male and female stereotypes, misogyny, progressive feminism, toxic masculinity, and others. But the film’s stars, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, are fantastic together. General audiences and critics alike will find themselves saying, “Come on Barbie, let’s go party.” even if in the end, the film Greta Gerwig has created isn’t as perfect as the shiny plastic toy, Barbie is just too much fun to resist.

The story of the Barbie Movie

This trip to Barbieland starts with a recreation of The Dawn Of Man intro from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey; we see identical shots of the sun rising over the desert, and the voice of Helen Mirren fills our ears. Her voice of wisdom declares, “Since the beginning of time since the first little girl ever existed, there have been dolls.” Several little girls in vintage 1950s dresses play with baby dolls, pretending to be mommies among the rocks and boulders of the continuing Dawn Of Man sequence. 

But as Mirren’s narration continues and the classic 2001 theme cues up, a monument-sized Barbie doll (Margot Robbie) finally appears in a classic black and white swimsuit and sunglasses. As the little girls prefer to play pretend to be grown-up ladies, the drum beats pound along as they begin smashing their old baby dolls in favor of playing with the superior toy. Mirren tells us the story of how the doll revolutionized girl’s toys and eventually branched out to become a multi-cultural symbol of beauty and what is possible for girls and women everywhere, “thanks to Barbie, all problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved, at least that’s what the Barbies think.” 

We then get a tour of Barbieland and follow Barbie around her morning routine as Lizzo’s Pink plays in the background, from her morning waterless shower to pouring herself a milk-less glass of milk and heart-shaped waffles for breakfast.

Straight out of the gate, Barbie’s world looks amazing. Of course, many bright shades of pink accessories are everywhere, but if this were a theme park section somewhere, I’d certainly walk around this set with great amusement. As a director, Gerwig wisely keeps the sexuality of Barbie and the costumes, even the bathing suits, well in check, although Robbie certainly gets to show off a whole lot of leg. 

Barbie drives around town, visiting their fellow Barbie president (Issa Rae), waving at the fellow Barbie pilots flying by and astronauts in space, before finally arriving at the beach, where we meet Ken (Ryan Gosling). But day after perfect day of the same old perfect monotony, the first signs of trouble appear as Barbie throws a dance party and in the middle of Dua Lipa’s Dance The Night dance sequence, Barbie blurts out, “You guys ever think about dying?“. 

The next day, Barbie wakes up with bad breath, a cold shower, and a burned waffle. After going to the beach and stepping off her shoes, her arched feet fall to lay flat on the ground; she falls over, and everyone comes running to her rescue, confused. Eventually, after visiting the “weird” Barbie (Kate McKinnon), we’re informed that two worlds co-exist: the Barbie world and the real world that we humans inhabit. Something must be awry with the girl playing with the Margot Robbie Barbie for her to have such troubling thoughts and terrible things happening to her. 

Barbie must leave her world and cross to ours to solve the problem. Ken tags along to keep her company, and upon arrival in our world, Barbie and Ken begin to search for her owner, but not before Ken wanders off and gets introduced to our patriarchal society and begins to get some crazy ideas about men running the world and develops a weird but hilarious love for horses. Thus begins an adventure to save Barbie’s world from patriarchal destruction and to set things right with Barbie’s owner to restore peace and harmony to Barbieland.

What stuck out about the Barbie movie

First, although Greta Gerwig is taking us in a completely new direction from what we’re used to seeing from her with the Barbie movie, this screenplay she’s created along with partner Noah Baumbach) is a delight. It is both intellectually stimulating and chock full of great one-liners and amusing scenarios. Her directorial skills are evident as she breaks away from her grounded stories and takes us into this larger-than-life fantasy world of plastic toys and humanized dolls. 

Although one aspect I wasn’t fond of, I thought Will Ferrell wasn’t utilized well as the Mattel CEO, and the plot line of his character traveling with his board group to Barbieland honestly was not only unnecessary, it wasn’t that funny and added nothing interesting to the story. Ferrell aside, as previously mentioned, the film’s stars work great together; they play off each other incredibly well, and it looks like they must’ve had a blast making this film. 

Stunning costume and production design

Gosling, in particular, was a highlight for me. I found his performance hilarious, especially when he started donning the Derek Zoolander headband and Dave Chapelle’s Silky Johnson’s mink coat from the Playa Haters sketch; things ticked up a notch. Speaking of the costumes in this film, they are incredible and costume designer Jacqueline Durran deserves so much credit. They are featured continuously, and this film deserves an Oscar nomination for the work and design of the wardrobe on display. The production design (thanks to Sarah Greenwood) is almost equally impressive. Barbie’s world and all the shiny, pink plastic accessories in it all look great, and it really feels like we’ve been shrunk down and stuck in a life-size Barbie house and neighborhood. 

As a boy with no sisters, I never grew up playing with Barbies or having them around, so the experience isn’t something I can draw off of or relate to. But GretaMargotRyan, and co. make for one of the more entertaining times you can have in the theatres this summer.

Final thoughts on the Barbie movie

 Granted, the wacky humor that Gerwig is working with will not be for everyone, but most moviegoers, especially the younger crowd, will tune in just fine and have a fun-watching experience. The Barbie movie may not be among the best films of 2023, but it will be among the wittiest and funniest, so grab yourself a ticket, tear off the packaging, and sit down to play with these Barbie and Ken dolls.

Barbie is now streaming.

Have you watched Barbie yet? What did you think? Connect with us on social media at X @MoviesWeTexted to share your thoughts.

Note: This review was originally published in 2023. It is part of our 96th Academy Awards series. 

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