Aug 7, 2023
Barbie sees success with its all-star cast and its underlying message for women everywhere
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 duck lips of approval
My wife and I don’t usually go out to see movies anymore, but she had been hearing about the Barbie movie from co-workers for a few days, so we bought tickets and went to the Broad Theater in New Orleans, Louisiana, to see it. The Saturday matinee was nearly full of adults of all ages, and a few families with young girls. The trailers rolled, and I finished my hot dog as a few latecomers filed into the last seats near the front of the theater.
The movie began with a nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey for the intro sequence, and it was a grin-worthy moment for me. I was quickly pulled into the Kool-Aid as an oversized Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad), dressed as the original Barbie, towered above little girls playing with their ordinary dolls. Director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) showed right away that she was going to have fun with the film as little girls destroyed their baby dolls in homage to this new doll, Barbie.
There were enjoyably wonderful supporting performances, and it was amusing to see some amazing actors having a good time with the roles they landed. Will Ferrell (Old School) as the Mattel CEO was silly, his presence perhaps a statement on how even a complete man-child can rise to the top of a company in a patriarchy, and Rhea Perlman (Cheers) as Barbie creator Ruth Handler was a high point for me. Michael Cera (Superbad) gave the discontinued Allan doll some life and a bit of comedic relief as the bony best friend of Barbie’s buff male counterparts, and Kate McKinnon (Office Christmas Party) was fabulous as Weird Barbie.
The plot centers on Barbie suddenly facing an existential crisis because of how someone in the real world is imagining her. We learn Weird Barbie is weird because she’s been played with too “hard,” and now Stereotypical Barbie’s perfect existence is suddenly threatened by flat feet, celluloid, and thoughts of impending death. Weird Barbie tells Stereotypical Barbie that to fix the situation, she must travel to the real world and find the person who is causing these changes in her. In the process, a stowaway Ken is introduced to the patriarchy, which he quickly adopts, albeit a bit clumsily, as he has always felt like he had no purpose without Barbie.
I felt the whole Real World vs Barbie Land plot was an unexpected but overused way to tell the story. It was never really fleshed out as to how these two places could co-exist but nonetheless gave a way to merge the make-believe world with the reality of today.
My favorite scene was when America Ferrera (Superstore) goes off about how impossible it is to be a woman in society in a monologue on the double standards of being a woman. This unlocks the answer the Barbies have been searching for to regain control of Barbie Land from the Kens, who have taken it over. Ryan Gosling (La La Land) does a great job as Ken, and the film doesn't make it a foregone conclusion that he and Barbie belong together, but rather that they should learn to know and love themselves without the confines of any pre-conceived gender roles or biases.
I will say that my wife, who was the catalyst for this outing, was not as impressed with the movie as I was. I find that often when something is talked about, and then built up in our minds, it's very hard to actually shine once it is experienced. Stephen King's The Stand (2020), for instance, has and probably never will live up to the movie I have created in my head.
Overall, I felt Barbie was a fun, interesting movie and, although skewed towards adults, was not vulgar or too grown up for maturing children. Barbie seems to have a good time with the franchise while also projecting the power of finding and being yourself for Barbies and Kens alike. I doubt you'll not enjoy your time with this one if you go in with an open mind.
Barbie also stars Issa Rae (Insecure), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Secret Invasion), John Cena (Peacemaker), and Simu Liu (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings).
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