What happens when a doll who has everything she could possibly want has an existential crisis? This is director and co-writer Greta Gerwig’s BARBIE. Sporting every shade of pink imaginable and starring the magnificent Margot Robbie as the Stereotypical Barbie, Gerwig and her partner, Noah Baumbach, have penned a script that is both laugh-out-loud funny and surprisingly poignant.
Beginning with a visually stunning desert scene narrated by Helen Mirren (who voices commentary throughout) in which little girls are all alone playing with their baby dolls, suddenly a statuesque female appears bewitching the children causing them to smash the dolls to bits. Seriously, who wants to play “mommy” to a babydoll when you can own something as spectacular as Barbie --- and dream about becoming whatever or whomever you desire?
And Barbie --- all of them --- is extraordinary. Stereotypical Barbie leads the pack, waking up every day in Barbie Land in her beautiful Barbie DreamHouse, waving to all her fellow Barbies, including President Barbie (Issa Rae), Dr. Barbie (Hari Nef), Writer Barbie (Alexandra Shipp), Physicist Barbie (Emma Mackey), Lawyer Barbie (Sharon Rooney), Mermaid Barbies (Dua Lipa), Diplomat Barbie (Nicola Coughlan), Judge Barbie (Ann Cruz Kayne) and Journalist Barbie (Ritu Arya).
There isn’t much for Ken (Ryan Gosling) to do except “exist within the warmth of Barbie’s gaze”. His job is “beach”, but he’s not quite sure what it entails. He and the other Kens, Ken #1 (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Ken #2 (Simu Liu), Ken #3 (Scott Evans) and Ken #4 (Ncuti Gatwa), hang around waiting to be noticed by the beautiful Barbies.
Every night is a blowout party at Barbie’s DreamHouse, with Ken and Ken #2 constantly vying for Barbie’s attention. That is until Barbie wakes up one morning with flat feet and she’s forced to visit Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) for help. She’s subsequently packed off to the Real World to find the girl who has played with her too much. Ken decides that as her “boyfriend”, he must tag along.
Arriving in Los Angeles begins a new set of problems for the dazzling duo. And once the executives at Mattel, led by the CEO (Will Ferrell), find out a Barbie is out and about in LA, all hell breaks loose. Rescued by Gloria (America Ferrera), a Mattel employee, and her daughter, Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), the three escape back to Barbie Land. Meanwhile Ken has learned a few new things about the status of men in the Real World and returns to implement them with the help of his fellow Kens.
Gerwig’s and Baumbach’s notions about Barbie experiencing an identity crisis are pure genius. Whether you love Barbie like Gloria or loathe what she exemplifies like Sasha, Barbie’s world has been turned upside down. But she’s determined to regain her --- and all the other Barbies’ --- status. And a conversation with Ruth Handler (Rhea Perlman), her creator at Mattel, sends Barbie in another direction completely.
Making a live-action film about an icon is never easy, especially one as potentially divisive as the “perfect” doll. BARBIE is energizing, hilarious, full of bright and mesmerizing colors, all while being marvelously entertaining. Robbie is just divine in every way. It’s difficult to imagine any other actor bringing this legend --- who has been around since 1959 --- to life. She simply is the quintessential Barbie, despite the occasional doubts she has regarding her existence.
And like Robbie, Gosling is the ideal Ken --- buff, blonde, playing dimwitted to the hilt. He’s a hoot, with the singing and dancing skills to match. In fact, the Ken Doll dance number led by Gosling is phenomenal! The entire cast is superb --- each and every Barbie and Ken well suited for their specific roles, especially McKinnon as Weird Barbie and Rae as President Barbie. Michael Cera also stands out as the lesser-known doll, Allan, who so desperately wants to fit in with the Kens.
But what would BARBIE be without the unbelievable production designs by Sarah Greenwood, the incredible costumes by Jacqueline Durran, amazing cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto and a smashing score by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt, featuring a soundtrack that includes hits from the current hottest artists.
BARBIE is a blast from start to finish. But don’t be fooled --- it isn’t just a movie about a doll. She’s an icon --- a well-deserved status after 60-plus years!
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
BARBIE writer/director Greta Gerwig’s take on the world’s most iconic doll is her career best work. The film features stellar performances by its two lead stars, Margot Robbie as the main Barbie and Ryan Gosling as the main Ken with a ripped physique. And Gosling’s flair for comedy is unquestionable. As for Robbie, she was born to play Barbie. She is fantastic! And there are marvelous turns by the entire supporting cast, including multiple Barbies and Kens.
The movie boasts an impressive pedigree with a cast and crew having a combined 50 Academy Award nominations and eight Oscar wins. Helen Mirren narrates BARBIE and offers one hilarious editorial aside about Robbie that is a stroke of genius from Gerwig and her co-writer Noah Baumbach. In fact, the movie is replete with sight gags and one liners that further justify the past writing awards for Gerwig and Baumbach.
When Barbie realizes she has flat feet after parading around her whole existence with arched feet in high heels, and also ponders about actually dying, she leaves Barbie Land and sets out for the Real World with Ken in tow. The scenes in Barbie Land and the Real World are hysterical and entertaining. Much of the fun involves the varied wardrobes of the Barbies and Kens by costume designer Jacqueline Durran, an eight-time Academy Award nominee with two Oscar wins.
While Robbie plays Stereotypical Barbie, with her blonde hair, slim figure and beautiful face, the film’s many other Barbies are perhaps more relatable to girls who were Barbie enthusiasts. Issa Rae is President Barbie and lives in the “Pink” House and Kate McKinnon is Weird Barbie with a marked-up face courtesy of the little girl who played with her. Barbie Land is clearly the domain of the women who, among other things, comprise the entire Supreme Court.
Other cast standouts are Will Ferrell as the Mattel CEO, and America Ferrera as Gloria, a Mattel employee and Barbie fanatic. Gloria’s daughter Sasha, played by Ariana Greenblatt, is not a fan. Ferrell, as you might expect, is beyond amusing and Ferrera renders a momentous speech about life choices that alone is worth seeing BARBIE. Michael Cera plays Allan, a nerdy doll not on a par with the Kens, but a vicious combatant in one sequence. Gerwig even manages to pay tribute to Barbie creator and co-founder of Mattel, Ruth Handler, played divinely by Rhea Perlman. And there is a brief cameo by John Cena as Kenmaid, yet another six-pack Ken.
Early on, the film features a raucous and mesmerizing dance sequence of Barbies and Kens, courtesy of choreographer Jennifer White. BARBIE is a comedy that is simultaneously rollicking, affecting and political --- immensely enjoyable and worth at least a second viewing.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!