In a world where dreams have no boundaries, one iconic doll has stood the test of time. Barbie, with her timeless appeal, has been a symbol of inspiration for millions of girls and women across generations, defying stereotypes and embracing change with grace. As the cultural landscape evolves, so does Barbie, continuously adapting to remain relevant and empowering young minds to envision a limitless future.
Now, in a long-awaited and triumphant moment, Mattel’s iconic doll has finally leaped from toy shelves to the silver screen in Barbie, a stunning live-action adaptation directed and co-written by Greta Gerwig. As the film unfolds, we witness Barbie (a perfectly cast Margot Robbie) facing an unexpected existential crisis. She embarks on a quest to understand her place in the world, leaving behind the picture-perfect utopia of Barbieland to explore the complexities of the real world alongside the quirky and unpredictable Ken, brought to life with comedic brilliance by Ryan Gosling.
As Barbie and Ken explore the real world, they uncover a connection between Barbie’s existential crisis and her owner Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) and her mother Gloria (America Ferrera), who works at Mattel. Together, they return to Barbieland, pursued by relentless Mattel executives. Meanwhile, Ken learns about the patriarchal system and persuades other Kens to take over, resulting in the Barbies assuming submissive roles.
Initially rebuffed in her attempts to restore their previous society, Barbie regains her self-confidence when Gloria gives an inspiring speech. With the Barbies’ collective efforts, they break free from submissive behaviors and prevent the multiple Kens from enforcing male superiority, leading to positive changes in Barbieland for everyone.
However, the heart of the film lies in Robbie’s portrayal of Barbie. With Gerwig and co-writer Noah Baumbach at the helm, Barbie is no longer just a plastic figure; she becomes a complex and relatable character. Through a skillful blend of humor and introspection, the film explores Barbie’s identity and her impact on the world throughout her existence. Robbie’s performance brings depth and authenticity to the beloved doll, and we can’t help but be moved by her emotional journey.
Despite the laughs and heartwarming moments, the film’s commentary on feminism and societal expectations feels like a rehash of ideas already circulating in online discussions. Gerwig’s directorial vision attempts to shed light on women’s challenges in a patriarchal society through satire and storytelling, but it lacks originality. While America Ferrera’s powerful monologue as Gloria might resonate with audiences unfamiliar with feminist themes, for those more acquainted with the subject, it might come across as predictable and lacking in depth. Overall, the film falls short of delivering a truly impactful and fresh perspective on these important issues.
The film’s production design and costumes are stunning, effectively immersing viewers in the enchanting world of Barbieland and beyond. The attention to detail in recreating Barbie’s dreamhouse and the nostalgic nods to Barbie and Ken’s iconic looks add a visually brilliant touch to the movie. However, Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography lacks innovation, never fully utilizing the enchanting setting. And while the film features an impressive soundtrack that lights up the movie’s multiple dance numbers, the score falls somewhat flat, missing an opportunity to enhance emotional moments.
The film’s runtime of just under two hours makes it an easy and enjoyable watch, enhanced by the charming performances of Gosling’s fellow Kens, Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Nchuti Gatwa, who bring humor and charisma to the screen. While talented actresses like Issa Rae, Emma Mackey, Alexandra Shipp, Hari Nef, and Sharon Rooney portray the Barbies, their characters seem to lack depth, hinting at a subtle commentary on the homogeneity of the dolls themselves. Despite this aspect, Helen Mirren’s exceptional narration, filled with dry wit and meta humor, adds another layer of enjoyment to the film.
I enjoyed Barbie for what it was: a fun and lighthearted movie that provides a delightful escape without requiring too much thought. The film’s greatest strength lies in its exceptional cast, with Gosling’s Ken stealing the show. The stunning production design and iconic costumes only add to the visual brilliance of the film, but I couldn’t help but feel somewhat unfulfilled by its portrayal of a feminist message. Ultimately, though, I think Barbie is a perfect movie for our current cultural landscape. After all, my showing was sold out – a sight not seen in quite some time – and the audience was a sea of pink attire. Who else could do that? Good job, Barbie!