MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Will Ferrel
Runtime: 1 hr 54 mins
What It Is: Everything is perfect in Barbieland, where every day is the best day ever, that is until Barbie (Robbie) begins experiencing strange changes in her life. Her feet go flat, things don’t work quite as well, and she begins to think about death. Desperate to make things go back to the way they were, Barbie consoles herself with Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon), who advises her to go into the real world in order to find the girl who had last played with Barbie and figure out why she’s feeling the way she is. Barbie does, with Ken (Gosling) tagging along for the journey to set things right again and begin to understand the bigger picture.
What We Think: This movie has a lot to it, for everyone who has consumed it. It’s another one of those landmark commercial successes that don’t have to try hard to stir up controversy and hype. The reason? It’s about womanhood, and people HATE that. And that’s not a bad thing that this movie did, revealing a lot of people’s true colors, as well as the media. The funny thing is that on the subject of contemplating the female experience and feminism, this is literally feminism for babies. Although sadly unsurprising, it is shocking to see so many insecure and distracted folks having such an adverse reaction to it, considering this is ‘Beginners Guide to Girlhood: The Lego Movie.’ That being said, the movie is already topically, socially, and historically meaningful, but only in the sense that it’s well-applied. Acknowledging that just because something is right, that doesn’t mean it’s good–the Barbie movie itself is very, very good.
As I referenced before, this very much gives Lego Movie vibes, with its quirky, everyone-friendly sense of humor and childlike leads who have to explore adult things like relationships, maturity, and self-love through a more naive lens. Seeing the Barbies and Kens (and Allen) explore these themes are fun, charming, and engrossing, as well as the ‘real world’ characters–namely America Ferrera as the mother and Barbie’s real-life counterpart. It’s colorful and thankfully pretty to look at in spite of all the obviously fake sets, it really does feel like these are innocent toy entities living in their own little world, worlds that we would play with and build and imagine as kids. It’s really accurate to that nostalgic experience without feeling tacky or fake, everything feels extremely genuine and personal. Margot’s Barbie is lovable and heartfelt, though it’s strange how her run time does dwindle after Ken takes over. This may be a controversial opinion: but there was just too much Ken. Don’t get me wrong, Ken was great and had the biggest arc next to Barbie, but he also gets a fight scene and a whole song number, which went on for a little long when it could have just been a 30-60 second skit. Either give me less Ken or give me more Barbie, because we really needed more Barbie. A lot of plot points and themes also sometimes feel a bit expedited, but I understand that considering it appeals to all ages, its pacing couldn’t really ruminate on certain themes like its more mature contemporaries (aka, The Truman Show) have in the past. The last criticism I have is towards something more unavoidable that the Barbie movie couldn’t really help is about the ‘villains,’ the corporate heads of Mattel, which were played out to just be comedic cogs who just want their property in line, never actually criticizing corporations (though there was a light jab at the need for doll diversity and representation), but felt a little swept under the rug. Considering this is a commercial movie about a corporation’s most successful property, I could see how this couldn’t really be a huge deal in the story, so although it’s worth mentioning and regarding, it doesn’t take away from the film experience too much.
Otherwise, this movie was pretty stunning and moving, without resorting to tragedy or heartbreak (like women are often written in films by men in order to be sympathetic figures). Watching Barbie have a very real existential crisis is incredibly relatable, as she’s basically just a girl growing up and wanting more from life and herself than what’s been set up for her, something most girls and women experience. Ken on the other hand goes on an ’emasculated’ journey in order to prove his manhood and strength, when in reality he’s corrupting Barbieland and creating his own patriarchy… which is funny but also sad in a real way, considering this is also something that happens to a lot of boys growing up, thinking and feeling they need to prove they’re something bigger than everything when the issue is coming from insecurity or emotional needs. And this is all acknowledged in the film, which as a viewing experience has its ups and downs, but is done incredibly beautifully without losing touch with the viewers through an overarching sense of love, ache, and reality. The metaphors and similarities to tell a tale of womanhood are refreshingly real, and I can’t say that enough. The female figures in Barbie’s newfound life help lead and guide her, in the way that women have to lead the way for other women to ensure safety, growth, and self-love. It’s incredible and there are too many words for how much that hit me hard. All of us in the theater were laughing, gagging, screaming, kicking, and crying, and it was a hell of a great viewing in the theater.
Our Grade: B+, B is for Barbie! I might give this a higher grade upon seeing it again, or it may just be a solid B, but for now, I’m sure that this is a fantastic film that so intensely and gracefully represents girlhood, womanhood, and even motherhood. It hits hard, but not at the expense of draining the viewer, but rather filling them with joy and excitement. I can’t even wait to show this to my mom. Speaking of which, here’s me with my childhood Barbie at the AMC:
You can tell I really had the most wonderful time.