"Barbie" doesn't merely recreate a collection of Barbies representing her extensive history, adorned with diverse outfits and hairstyles, and placed in pristine dream houses. It goes beyond that, breathing infectious vitality and a knowing sense of playfulness into these beloved figures, bringing them to life in a way that resonates with the audience.
At its core, the Barbie Movie narrates a timeless tale of friendship and adventure. Set in a whimsical kingdom, the film follows the journey of Barbie, a spirited and courageous princess, and her loyal companions. The plot weaves a heartwarming story of overcoming challenges, embracing one's true self, and the power of friendship to conquer any obstacle.
"Barbie," the brainchild of director and co-writer Greta Gerwig, makes an awe-inspiring impact, both technically and emotionally. The costume design, overseen by two-time Oscar winner Jacqueline Durran, and the production design, led by six-time Oscar nominee Sarah Greenwood, brim with cleverness and vibrant colors, perfectly suited for the ever-evolving icon. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, a three-time Oscar nominee, infuses every scene with glossy brilliance. This cinematic gem captivates with its stunning visuals and distinctive ambiance. It seamlessly blends delightful escapism with a resounding call to action. The film is so meticulously crafted that absorbing every intricate detail in one viewing seems impossible; one would need an entire dedicated session solely for appreciating the plethora of accessories, for instance. In this movie, you will find:
A Timeless Tale of Friendship and Adventure
Unraveling the Characters: Barbie and Her Companions
Mesmerizing Animation: A Feast for the Eyes
Empowering Themes: Inspiring Generations
A Captivating Soundtrack: Melodies that Stay with You
"Barbie" delivers a riotously funny experience, generously sprinkling giant laugh-out-loud moments throughout the film. These comedic gems emerge from the insular and picturesque pink-hued realm, blending with the physical humor of fish-out-of-water situations and clever pop culture references, all while the outside world increasingly encroaches on Barbie's world.
By now, you're likely familiar with the fundamental premise: Barbie (portrayed by Margot Robbie), the most renowned figure in Barbie Land, grapples with an existential crisis. To comprehend her true essence and purpose, she embarks on a journey into the human world. Accompanying her on this odyssey is her somewhat romantic interest, Ken (played by Ryan Gosling), whose very existence hinges on Barbie's acknowledgment. Along the way, both encounter stark truths and forge new connections, all while navigating the path to enlightenment.
This film bravely confronts Barbie's unrealistic physical proportions and the very real body image issues they can instill in young girls. Simultaneously, it celebrates Barbie as a feminist symbol. Notably, the movie acknowledges that an astronaut Barbie doll predates the inclusion of women in NASA's astronaut corps, a historical milestone commemorated as two suited-up women exchange a high-five amid the stars while Earth-bound Barbie salutes them with a sunny "Yay, space!" Such moments reinforce Barbie's status as an empowering icon.
Furthermore, the film playfully engages with Mattel, the doll's manufacturer, and Warner Bros., the film's distributor, who seem to be in on the subtly pointed jokes aimed at them. A prime example is the depiction of Mattel headquarters, featuring a top-floor conference room solely populated by men, accompanied by a heart-shaped, "Dr. Strangelove"-inspired lamp suspended above the table. Interestingly, the CEO, portrayed by Will Ferrell, defensively touts the company's "gender-neutral bathrooms up the wazoo" as evidence of their commitment to diversity—a clever twist indeed.
Margot Robbie, as the film's leading lady, impeccably strikes the delicate balance between satire and sincerity. Her casting as Barbie is a stroke of genius; it's inconceivable to envision anyone else in the role. Beyond her natural resemblance to the character with her blonde hair and blue eyes, Robbie exudes an unwavering and exaggerated optimism perfectly suited for the whimsical, candy-coated world of the film. As Barbie's understanding expands, she effortlessly navigates the intricacies of Gerwig and co-writer Noah Baumbach's sophisticated dialogue, displaying a range of emotions from radiant smiles to poignant tears with flawless finesse. Robbie's performance is an absolute delight to witness, capturing the essence of the character in every aspect.
Ryan Gosling, on the other hand, consistently steals the scene with his portrayal of Ken, embracing the character's endearing himbo frailty. He effortlessly transitions from being Barbie's needy companion to a swaggering, macho buffoon, fully immersing himself in his perception of how a "real man" should behave. Familiarity with Los Angeles geography will particularly amuse viewers as they recognize the locations inspiring Ken's antics. Gosling effectively portrays his square-jawed character's sincerity while showcasing his musical theater roots from his "All New Mickey Mouse Club" days. His performance is a total hoot, leaving the audience thoroughly entertained.
Amid the film's vast ensemble, predominantly consisting of women as Barbies and men as Kens, several standout performances shine. The eccentric Kate McKinnon takes on the role of "Weird Barbie," the character who sets Robbie's Barbie on her path. Issa Rae exudes no-nonsense authority as President Barbie, while Alexandra Shipp embodies kindness and competence as Doctor Barbie. Simu Liu stands out as the trash-talking Ken who gives Gosling's Ken a hard time. America Ferrera delivers a crucial performance as a Mattel employee, and Michael Cera adds comedic charm as the awkward Allan, blending into a sea of attractive Kens, much to everyone else's obliviousness.
"Barbie" exudes wild ambition in an exhilarating manner, but it occasionally suffers from unevenness, which can be frustrating. The film begins with an energetic flurry of zippy hilarity, captivating the audience with its comedic brilliance. However, it loses some of its momentum in the middle as it delves into more serious themes. Greta Gerwig's audacious approach to exploring profound concepts during the mindless blockbuster season is undeniably admirable. Nevertheless, the abundance of ideas sometimes leads to the movie pausing its propulsive pace to clarify and reiterate its points, disrupting the flow.
Initially, the film's breezy and satirical tone proved more effective in conveying its ideas about toxic masculinity, entitlement, and the strength of female confidence and collaboration.
However, in the middle, one character delivers a lengthy third-act speech, delving into the complex conundrum faced by women and society's contradictory standards imposed upon them. While the middle-aged mom in me resonated with this moment, feeling seen and understood, the longtime film critic in me found it somewhat preachy and heavy-handed. Despite the insights it offered, the scene came across as too on-the-nose, momentarily halting the movie's momentum.
A Cinematic Marvel to Cherish
Still, if such a crowd-pleasing extravaganza can also offer some fodder for thoughtful conversations afterward, it’s accomplished several goals simultaneously. The Barbie Movie has undoubtedly captured the hearts of audiences worldwide with its enchanting narrative, beautifully animated visuals, and empowering themes. This timeless masterpiece not only entertains but also leaves a positive impact on its viewers. If you're looking for a movie that combines adventure, friendship, and inspiration, The Barbie Movie is an absolute must-watch. Join Barbie and her companions on their captivating journey, and be prepared to be enchanted like never before. Experience the magic, feel the emotions, and immerse yourself in a world where dreams come true.