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(Review) Barbie

Full Disclosure:  I am a middle-age, heterosexual, white guy who never owned a Barbie or Ken doll when I was a little kid.  I'm also generally neutral about Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.  They're both fine actors, but neither one has pulled me to a movie theater.  In that case, why did I go to see Barbie?  1) I wanted to see incoming Doctor Who star Ncuti Gatwa on the big screen as one of the Kens.  2) Wolfgang Van Halen played on the soundtrack.  3) The angrier conservatives get about anything, the more interesting it becomes.

Now that we've got that out of the way, the verdict is in:  Barbie is the best movie of 2023.  Director/co-writer Greta Gerwig provides the audience with a brilliant satire about gender roles that everyone needs to see.  In addition, the movie is the total package:  Strong script, terrific acting performances, gorgeous visuals, and a soundtrack that will keep your head bobbing the entire time.  The record-setting opening weekend at the box office was no accident:  Barbie is why we go to the movies.

The movie is unabashedly pro-female empowerment, and it makes that clear right from the opening sequence (narrated by Helen Mirren.) "Stereotypical Barbie" (played by Robbie) has a perfect life every day in Barbieland, a world where women are in charge of everything, and it's smiles all around.  Barbie socializes with all of her friends, as well as Ken and his buddies (but they're clearly an afterthought.)  Everything is going smoothly, until one day Barbie randomly starts talking about death, and her feet go flat.  (Yikes.)  It turns out she's feeling the impact of whoever is playing with her in the real world, and she needs to fix things to restore order.

Ken, desperate for Barbie's attention, tags along for the ride, despite her mild protests.  When the two do finally cross over to our reality, they're both shocked to discover that we have something called "patriarchy."  Barbie is horrified, but Ken thinks it's cool.  He's thrilled to finally feel like he matters, and he turns from himbo to bro in a flash.  Barbie has to find the person who was playing with her, so they can set everything right.  However, even once they connect, the chaos spreads.

Greta Herwig and co-writer Noah Baumbach put together a multifaceted script which spares no prisoners, and they consistently hit their mark.  Much of this is laugh out loud funny, but there are also moments of seriousness and sadness.  It's impressive how well the duo juggle all of those elements for the 114 minutes.  While the patriarchy is the primary topic, we also get some contemplation about friendships, personal identity, and capitalism that are worth discussing long after the movie is over.  (Director Herwig also does a masterful job with the action and musical sequences.)

The casting is brilliant from top to bottom.  Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are outstanding in their roles.  Making you sympathize with two dolls is a lift, but they nail it.  Robbie is clearly the star of the movie, and she deserves the spotlight, from start to finish.  (Her performance also includes uttering what may be one of the all-time best final lines in a movie.)  She may be "Stereotypical Barbie," but this is no airhead.  She's smart and has a huge heart.  Gosling is perfectly cast as her well-intentioned/dim-witted friend.  He has no existence outside of Barbie's attention, so while he makes some bad decisions, you can still feel for him. 

The two leads also have perfect comedic timing, which makes them a blast to watch.  In all seriousness, next year's awards season should be kind to both of them.

Everyone in the supporting cast is terrific as well, but a couple of them have to be highlighted:  Kate McKinnon is a blast as "Weird Barbie."  (She's what happens when you play with a Barbie too hard.)  She is awkward as hell, but she clearly wants to help and crushes it every time she's on the screen.  There's also Michael Cera as Ken's odd friend Allan, who wants to get out of Barbieland at the first possible opportunity.  Unlike Ken, there's only one Allan, and that's probably all the world needs. 

Next is America Ferrera who plays Gloria, the woman whose daughter played with Barbie as a child.  Gloria gives a speech in the middle of the movie about how hard it is to be a woman, and audible agreements were heard in the audience.  There's also Will Ferrell as the Mattel CEO.  We're not huge Ferrell fans, but he's fine here.  Finally, there's Rhea Perlman as a mysterious older woman who turns out to have a large role in everything.

(There isn't nearly enough Ncuti Gatwa, but we'll let it slide.)

The soundtrack is out of this world, with tracks from the likes of Dua Lipa, Ice Spice/Nicki Manaj/Aqua, Brandi and Catherine Carlile, Billie Eillish, Lizzo, and more.  (Wolfgang Van Halen teams up with Slash during Ryan Gosling's performance of "I'm Just Ken," and it's tremendous as expected.)

Take note, studios:  The world needs many more movies like this, and the ticket sales totals are clear - if you make it, audiences will come.  Barbie is a smart, funny, emotional, and adamantly pro-women movie which should absolutely be seen by every girl out there.  It should also be seen by every guy.  Everyone who appreciates great film-making that tells a well-crafted, and sneaky-subversive-as-hell  story will enjoy Barbie.


Margot Robbie Barbie MovieMargot Robbie gives a stellar performance as Barbie.  (pic via




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