Barbie : Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on July 20, 2023 in / No Comments

 

Rated PG-13 by the MPA for suggestive references and brief language (mostly found in the closing credits song). Running time: 114 minutes. Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Barbie, Warner Bros. PicturesA movie based on Barbie. Hell, why can’t we have it? We’ve already had numerous Transformers movies, a live-action adaptation of Jem and the Holograms, some G.I. Joe flicks, and multitudes of other toys that sparked the imaginations of America’s youth. It’s about time that this mainstay of popular culture got her time to shine.

And shine, she does. Lovingly and pointedly directed by Greta Gerwig, Barbie packs a major punch with smarts, drama, and humor balanced out with equal parts dumbness and surprising darkness – all wrapped up in a big “F**K YOU” to patriarchy and the systems it enables. Where Barbie earns its shine is by purposely avoiding and disavowing altogether every established notion that we have about gender roles and expectations, and it also dispenses with our preconceptions about who should be in a relationship and why.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Barbie, Warner Bros. PicturesInstead, the script – co-written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach – encourages us to stand up for ourselves, know when we’re not okay, ask questions, and love. But not romantic love; it’s more about self-acceptance, being good with who you are. That it’s all right not to be 100% all the time. It’s an incredibly humanistic movie driven by a doll made out of plastic, if you can dig that kind of thing, and it’s easy to get down with what Barbie has to impart to you.

Co-writers Gerwig and Noah Baumbach layer multiple plots and intertwine them with boundless affection for the toy’s history and legacy. Involving every possible permutation of the Barbie, Ken, and other ancillary or discontinued dolls of every color and ability (props for showing a Barbie in a wheelchair!), this film is incredibly inclusive and reflective of how the toy line evolved to match real life. In Barbieland, all of the women are Barbies, and all the men are Kens, with the notable exceptions of Midge (Emerald Fennell) and one version of Ken’s friend Allan (Michael Cera).

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Barbie, Warner Bros. PicturesStereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) may feel like the center of Barbieland, but she’s really just another Barbie among friends who are sharing their best day ever every day. Time is spent hanging out, going to the beach, dancing with “bespoke choreography,” and having a perpetual Girl’s Night party before waking up and doing it all over again the next day. But when Stereotypical Barbie starts having feelings out of step with this perfectly designed world and its perfect inhabitants, she learns that these emotions are a mirror of those felt by the girl playing with her in the real world.

With the irrepressibly crushing-on-Stereotypical Barbie, inarticulate, hangdog Stereotypical Ken (Ryan Gosling) stowing away, Stereotypical Barbie has to venture into the real world, where she finds the exact opposite of Barbieland. Even worse, she sees that all the things she thought Barbie stood for – empowerment, equality, and kindness – are a far cry from existing as she hoped. Instead, she’s sexually harassed and belittled for being…  Barbie. Oh, and Stereotypical Ken? He’s busy learning about how real-world men act through examples of toxic masculinity, which he takes to almost instantly in his own peculiar way.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Barbie, Warner Bros. PicturesIf you think you know where this movie’s going, you’d be dead wrong. Between low-hanging fruit-style jokes and more hard-earned laughter, Gerwig and Baumbach slip in a vast amount of intellectual fodder to chew on regarding the role of women in society – how they’re looked at, expected to behave, and other sadly true demands put upon them. Is it possible for a world to exist where women are allowed to just be, as Stereotypical Barbie hopes? This film knows full well that it currently doesn’t, but it doesn’t hesitate to make an impassioned plea for it.

Greta Gerwig knows exactly what she wants to say and how she wants to say it. By setting the pink-dominated world of Barbieland off against our dulled real world and examining the divide between Barbieland’s freedom to be against the real world’s hard-and-fast roles everyone must play, we’re shown that nobody’s perfect. Men don’t exactly come off well here; take a look at Stereotypical Ken and the gender makeup of the Barbie boardroom (and the person who heads it). The Barbies don’t fare much better; although shown in positions of power, there’s not much for them to do beyond looking good and feeling good.

DC Movie Critics, DC Movie Reviews, DC Film Critics, Eddie Pasa, Movie Critics, Film Critics, Movie Review, Film Review, Barbie, Warner Bros. PicturesWhich, truthfully, is what Barbie is all about. The freedom of feeling good about who you are and what you’re doing. Even Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) feels good about herself, despite her appearance and what’s been done to her (it’s better seen than described). While gripes about Barbie’s negative cultural impact do get aired, we also learn that Barbie was meant to be something other than a toy suggesting a certain body shape. It is this facet of Barbie guiding Gerwig’s film, and by making Stereotypical Barbie a kind, thoughtful, and smart real-life action figure, Barbie wins us over handily.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on 4k or Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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