Barbie Review

Secretly, it was alluring to see which feature would try to top the either in this weekend’s movie battle of the flamboyant, imagined example of commerciality against an engrossing thriller of the insight of the first atomic bomb that would alter humanity. While yours indeed will not be available to hop on the “Barbenheimer” train due to time reshuffling, Nolan’s work awaits a separate discussion that touts cinephilic obedience and marveling over another classic on the coveted director’s hands.

Meanwhile, Director Greta Gerwig’s film might be one of this year’s most exuberant and Mattelian (reference to the manufacturing company) neorealistic features. Indubitably, there’s heavy zeitgeist appeasement present. Still, the film wonderfully parodies its sensational production set in the world of “Barbieland” with some clever humor, stellar performances, and an excellent dissection of proverbial themes regarding female empowerment and representation. The Barbie doll, created by Ruth Handler in 1959, embodies the essence of what women wish to be, and here, it’s a rare element of asking, “Is Barbie good or bad?” with an emulsion of sophistication and goofiness. Gerwig almost dares that discussion to be revitalized while also considering the doll’s evolution since its inception. Yes, many can argue that Barbie was a pioneer of sorts, but has also experienced a diminished cultural profile and has been attacked when it came to notions of “questionable intelligence,” “hourglass but perfect physique,” or “sexualized capitalism.”

The plot revolves around “Stereotypical Barbie” (played by Margot Robbie) living in the perfect world of Barbieland, a self-contained colorful world that preaches its artificiality. The typical day is the same as the day prior and the one arriving tomorrow, where she prepares herself and meets a myriad of other Barbies around the settling in various versions: President Barbie (Issa Rae), Writer Barbie (Alexandra Shipp), Doctor Barbie (Hari Nef), Journalist Barbie (Ritu Arya) and Diplomat Barbie (Nicola Coughlan), among others. Heck, we even get a fun dose of Kate McKinnon as “Weird Barbie,” the one doll ostracized from the land due to her abnormalities and loss of perfection. We can’t forget Ken, though, as Ryan Gosling poses with his rock-hard abs and desperate need of attention. At the same time, the other Kens (Simu Liu, Scott Evans, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ncuti Gatwa, Rob Brydon, and John Cena as Kenmaid) are the useless eye candy that panders to anyone.

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

But the crucial moment that shakes up Robbie’s Barbie is the thought of death, her feet going flat, and fear of skin conditions (not the skin conditions!) that leads her to venture with Gosling’s Ken to the human world, where Barbie learns that it’s not as bright and peachy as her world. At the same time, Ken adores the philosophy of patriarchy and wishes to bestow that upon where he came from, creating havoc for Barbieland as “Kenland” attempts to become the new norm. Meanwhile, Mattel’s company, led by the CEO (Will Ferrell), must put these escapees back in their box to ship them back to their world to avoid a catastrophe with their company’s sales with the brand. Barbie also meets Gloria (America Ferrera), who lends an excellent heart about the burdens of being a woman, and her hormonal teenage daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), to learn from their experiences in the human world.

Once again, this film broadly hammers the exaggeration and self-irony aspects while never hiding its social commentary about how women have evolved in this world. Gerwig still maintains that wicked sense of fun and heart, throwing out scenes of Kens fighting each other on the beach in a battle of music or corporate men retracing similar artificiality with their chasing of Barbie throughout the Mattel building. Robbie is perfectly (yes, perfectly) cast as Barbie, even with Helen Mirren’s voiceover making a cute fourth-wall break about her beautiful visual. She understands the quintessence of the doll’s habitual presence while bringing a witty, captivating performance and tremulous notes of vulnerability. Gosling basks in the self-mockery, sporting 90s workout gear and a luxurious coat, to unlock his self-esteem issues yet inadvertently opens a matter on patriarchal oppression. Ferrera definitively gets a shoutout for her potent performance in explaining a women’s troubles and how to stand up for herself.

The grandest aspect of this work is how Gerwig manages to imbue that mockery element while remaining faithful to the source material. It’s brilliantly done and even gives some nods to 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Truman Show, The Wizard of Oz, and Ryan Reynold’s Free Guy. Although Gerwig could’ve strayed away a bit more from the corporate-ribbing elements and (arguably) fleshed out Barbie’s character a tad more, this is still an insightful and entertaining summer motion picture to get dressed up in pink for.

Yes, even if John Cena as Kenmaid can make a pitstop for this production, so can the rest of the family. Barbie is a triumph of juvenile, flamboyant imagination.

(Don’t forget, with a tad of box office clashing with Oppenheimer‘s audacious yet elegant scope. Good luck to both!)

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