Smart, Clever, and Inventive… Those are words I never thought I would use when I agreed to write a review for The Barbie Movie.
The bright pink lighthouse of feminism shines loud and proud today when theaters open up and women are hyped. I went to the previews yesterday with my wife at three in the afternoon. The theater was more full at three in the afternoon for the doll that can do it all, then it was at 7 p.m. when I went to the premieres of both The Flash and Indiana Jones.
The crowd was enthusiastic and lively. Not that many men were in the theater. That isn’t surprising. This movie isn’t for us. This movie is unapologetically, one hundred percent for women.
I say “women” because despite the cheery advertising and implied lightheartedness, this is not a kids movie. There are lighthearted moments. There is campy fun, but the subject matter is deeply political. The movie is deceptively dark at times and it is kind of jarring.
The end result is a sharp, pointed and wickedly intelligent piece of satire that (again, I can’t believe I’m typing this) will have people talking about it when award season comes back around.
The Good Barbie
The ensemble cast was about as eclectic as it gets. A mermaid John Cena having a “Brewski-Beer” with pop superstar Dua Lipa (also a mermaid) is something that I never thought I would see on a movie screen. Michael Cera plays the eternally frustrated Allan, Ken’s one time bestie with angst and hilarious awkwardness. Simu Liu plays Ken, a rival to Ryan Gosling’s… Ken. Liu portrays this role with such over the top machismo, it was hard to keep a straight face.
Ryan Gosling portrays Ken with delightfully dimwitted, innocent, naivete. Barbie is the star, but Gosling delivered his lines perfectly. When he unwittingly becomes the antagonist in the film, he bumbles and stumbles all over the place trying to prop up a masculine facade.
Will Ferrell plays the CEO of Mattel with whimsy and glee.
The songs were catchy and fun. The callback to all of the old and discontinued dolls was a really nice touch. It makes the viewer ask: Did Mattel really manufacture a Skipper doll with growing boobs? Yes… Yes they did.
Then there is the star of the movie: Barbie. Margot Robbie shines as “Stereotypical Barbie” the prototypical Barbie Doll who is going through an existential crisis thanks to her original owner, a working mom named Gloria played by America Ferrera, who delivers a monologue that is sure to be a rallying cry for feminist activists in the future.
The Bad Barbie
Technically speaking, there isn’t much to say about the movie that is bad. It did run a little long for my liking, clocking in at just under two hours. I think a hard ninety minutes would have sufficed.
Generally speaking, I don’t like the politicization of children. The character Sasha, played by Ariana Greenblatt comes off as insufferable at times. 12 year olds can’t vote, so I really don’t like having to listen to their opinion on political matters. The character came off as bratty, condescending and mean. Hearing her speak was like nails on a chalkboard at times. This was one of the few times the movie missed.
The Ugly Barbie
The worst thing this movie has going for it is its marketing. Advertising the film as a fun romp, or a fish out of water movie with Barbie and Ken is a mistake in my opinion and that might hurt at the box office. Some people might feel tricked and get upset, as movies with heavy political messages are not everyone’s cup of tea.
At times, the message the movie was sending was ham fisted and beaten into the viewer with a Louisville Slugger. The soapbox was starting to buckle by the end. I think the message would have been better sent with a softer touch.
As a reviewer, I have one job. To determine as to whether or not a movie is good. I don’t have to agree with the message that the movie is sending to make that determination. This is America and everyone deserves a voice. If the points raised in this movie are genuine concerns for a large population of women, then those women deserve to be heard the same as everyone else. If you don’t like what they have to say, nobody is forcing you to buy a ticket.
In this country, a lot of change occurs through discussion. That is why movies like this are necessary. It will be a topic of conversation and it may give somebody with an opposing viewpoint a good idea as to where somebody that they fundamentally disagree with is coming from. All we need to do is listen to one another.
Barbie is a great piece of satire that was well crafted. It delivers a fun experience for the audience with laughs and a surprisingly deep undertone. Love or hate the message sent, this is how films used to be made. I hope we can see more films of this quality in the future.
Thank you for reading! When I am not writing, I enjoy spending time with my wife Barbara, my three year old daughter Frances, and my loyal hound Marbles. Stay Geeky Everybody!