Saturday 16 December 2023

Movie Review: Barbie (2023)

Genre: Satirical Comedy Musical
Director: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Kate McKinnon, Will Ferrell
Running Time: 114 minutes

Synopsis: Barbie (Margot Robbie) lives in Barbieland, an idyllic matriarchy where the resident Barbies believe they have solved all of women's problems. Ken (Ryan Gosling) and the other men play subsidiary roles, mostly as beach decoration. When Barbie suddenly starts thinking about death and her feet turn flat, Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) advises a trip to the real world to find her troubled owner. Barbie and Ken are shocked to discover that Los Angeles is a patriarchy, and Ken uses his awakening to transform Barbieland. Meanwhile Barbie learns about real women from the mother-daughter pair of Gloria (America Ferrera) and Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt).

What Works Well: For a movie about an iconic doll coveted by pre-teens, the script (by director Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach) is ambitious: snide comments about feminism, the male-female power imbalance (in all directions), ditzyness, faux intellectualism, and performative enlightenment pepper Barbie's adventure. The humour is steady and harmless, while the production design animates a doll's vivid world with imaginative plastic. Extra points for an opening inspired by a classic, and Helen Mirren's narration. 

What Does Not Work As Well: The none-too-serious throw-everything-at-the-wall attitude is suitable for child attention spans, but in the search for humanity behind symbolism, not much sticks beyond the obvious lecturing about impossible expectations placed on women. Most of the musical interludes smack of padding, as does the would-be intervention of Will Ferrell as the Mattel CEO and his doofus band of men-in-suits. 

Conclusion: As an industrial-scaled marketing machine, nobody is putting Barbie back in a box.

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