Barbie (2023) Movie reviewor movie run by Greta Gerwigwritten by Noah Baumbach AND Greta Gerwig and playing Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Ariana Greenblatt, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Emma Mackey, Nephi Day, Will Ferrell, Nicola Coughlan, John Cena, I love Lipa, Helen Mirren, Simu Liu, Michael Cera, Alexandra Shipp, Anne Mumolo AND Ritu Arya.
Director Greta Gerwig has directed a comedy that has a little bit of everything going for it, even if it occasionally stumbles from an all-too-familiar fish-out-of-water basic story line. In any case, Margot Robbie does Gerwig’s new film, Barbie, extremely entertaining to watch. Based on the popular line of Mattel Barbie dolls, Gerwig’s latest defiant film could have been better if not for a series of crazy chase scenes and sequences where the film’s central Ken (Ryan Gosling) goes off on his own personal tangents. However, Robbie’s performance is everything here and she is supported by some fine character actresses as well.
As the film opens, we see the rise of the Barbie doll as Helen Mirren recounts how the original doll was actually a doll. until the introduction of the “stereotypical” blonde Barbie. This blonde Barbie became a female heroine of sorts, paving the way for other types of successful barbies who all live together in Barbieland. The whole concept of Barbieland is loaded with suitably rosy scenery, but it feels a bit like it was lifted from a thriller Don’t worry dear from last year. There are some differences. The neighbors all have the same names for the most part (Barbie and Ken) and the nights are filled with fun parties and dancing. One of the best scenes has all the Barbies dancing together and Gosling’s Ken tries to get the stereotypical Barbie played by Robbie to notice him.
One day, Barbie starts having darker thoughts than she should and, soon, she has flat feet that don’t go so well with high heels. She seeks out a “weird” Barbie (Kate McKinnon) who is weird like her because her former owner cut her hair differently and played with her in different ways than usual. McKinnon’s Barbie tells Rob’s Barbie that she needs to go out into the real world to get more perspective on her situation, and to cure her case of flat feet, she’ll have to make some big decisions. So, Barbie is about to enter the real world, but Gosling’s Ken reluctantly tags along with her because he really likes her. However, the stereotypical Barbie isn’t necessarily sure of her true feelings for Ken.
It turns out that the young daughter of a Mattel employee who used to play with Barbies named Gloria (the perfect America Ferrera) is having a hard time, and Gloria isn’t too happy these days either. When Barbie enters the real world and Mattel’s CEO (Will Ferrell) captures her, Gloria takes Barbie away in an attempt to help her. Ken, meanwhile, ends up in “la la land” where he thinks the cool styles and trends he sees in the real world will carry over to Barbieland. Ken wants to make Barbieland a little more male-friendly, which complicates an already weird situation.
Michael Cera plays one of the few characters with a different name (Allan) in Barbieland, and while Cera has his moments, he’s a character who doesn’t add much to the film overall. The same can be said for John Cena’s Mermaid Ken, who, if he closes his eyes, could probably get lost in the movie’s colorful shuffle.
There are some inspired scenes such as when Barbie and Ken are arrested in the real world and the pair realize how heavy the real male world seems to be compared to Barbieland. Many of the scenes in the real world are not up to Gerwig’s usual level of perfection until the character Gloria comes into the picture. Ferrera is absolutely amazing as she shows Barbie the differences between what is expected of women versus the unattainable goals that women in America aim to achieve. Gerwig’s writing proves terrific through the spoken dialogue of Ferrera’s Gloria. Noah Baumbach also wrote the screenplay and deserves credit for some of the sharper observations the film presents.
This movie takes an emotional turn at the end as it explores humanity and teaches us some important lessons about the fact that all humans (and dolls, I suppose) need to be themselves in order to be happy. Love is an added emotion, but it doesn’t define a person or a doll. Business leaders from Mattel also learn a few things along the way. One funny scene has Ferrell’s character trying to put the stereotypical Barbie back in her box to get her to start a new “journey” and shut up.
Some of the Barbies work better than others. Emma Mackey, Hari Nef and Issa Rae play the film’s most memorable Barbies with their distinct personalities intact in the Barbies these performers portray. I wish Gosling’s Ken didn’t do what he does in the movie, which is try to be his own “man” in order to change Barbieland. He feels more like a villain than Ferrell’s character. The scenes where the Kens briefly invade Barbieland are funny, but feel a little tainted in relation to the film’s views on the supposed male dominance of the world (real or imagined).
That said, Robbie is golden in the part he was born to play. Robbie brings a complex range of emotions to her character, and her scenes with Ferrera are particularly effective. Robbie and Gosling also have a nice interaction together before the film ends with a series of scenes where Gosling’s Ken gets too confident and cocky for his own good. Gosling has received rave reviews in several places for his performance here, but it’s Robbie who really makes Gerwig’s film so special. Robbie brings really real emotion, confusion and wonder to the character of Barbie and Robbie fans will love having fun in the worlds the film surrounds her with. Helen Mirren even breaks the fourth wall to hilariously comment on Robbie’s casting as Barbie.
Barbie it’s a really fun movie that should definitely be seen despite its flaws. Gerwig’s direction has its problems, but it still manages to put a smile on viewers’ faces before the end credits roll. Gerwig delves deep into the world of Barbies and the real-world people who play with them and, in the end, is more observant than not. Stay tuned to the end of the movie for images of real Barbie dolls that have appeared over the years. This movie also brings the creator of the Barbie doll into the story line, which makes for heartwarming scenes that may bring tears to some viewers’ eyes, so bring some Kleenex just in case.
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