A plastic movie with a real heart and colorful laughs.
The routine of playing with Barbie dolls is simple. She wakes up all happy, takes showers with no running water, eats her plastic breakfast, drives her car to the beach, says Hi to Ken, has a party at her dream house, and goes to bed. But I’ve never played with dolls because I’m a boy, so what do I know?
Greta Gerwig directs and co-writes with Noah Baumbach once again, but this time, they’ve entered different territory. One that applies to the little girl in every adult women, and even the guys. “Barbie” is that movie, and it’s delightful from start to finish. Not only for its goofy and childish spirit, but also for the way it fights for feminism, and allows these dolls-sorry, I meant women-to learn how to be women, and not inanimate objects.
Margot Robbie stars as Stereotypical Barbie. You know the one with the blonde hair, and all the features that make her a symbol of sexism in the real world. She’s happy to get through the day.
There are many Barbie girls in a Barbie World. There’s Issa Rae as the President Barbie, Emma MacKay as Psychiatrist Barbie, Alexandra Shipp as Writer Barbie, and Kate McKinnon as Weird Barbie. And there are also many Ken versions, like Ryan Gosling as the original Ken, Simu Liu as Ken, Kingsley Ben-Adir as Ken, John Cena as mermaid Ken known as Ken-Maid, and Michael Cera as the one and (literally) only Allan.
Wait. What do I mean “the real world?”
Apparently, in a “Truman Show” tradition, there’s a real world out there. One that makes Barbie (remember that’s still Robbie) question her own reality and has to travel there for answers. Ken (remember that’s still Gosling) tags along, and when they get there, it turns out mostly the men rule the world. And this is when things get really interesting.
Among the humans Barbie meets, America Ferrera plays a Mattel employee named Gloria, who played with the doll as a kid, Ariana Greenblatt plays her daughter Sasha, who thinks the doll is a fascist, Rhea Perlman plays the Batbie creator Ruth Handler, and Will Ferrell plays the Mattel CEO, who must put Barbie back in her place.
The movie references from “2001: A Space Odyssey” to “The Truman Show” to “The Matrix” are hilarious and nostalgic enough for anyone’s tastes. And even Helen Mirren offers some comical mannerisms as the narrator who knows how to speak to the audience.
I saw this movie with a crowd of Barbie fans who screamed at Ken’s abs and laughed at the toy nostalgia. Again, I’ve never played with the dolls, so I wouldn’t be an expert. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with a movie like “Barbie.” And even though a Ken fight sequence goes on a little long, there’s still enough humor and colors to keep fans entertained.
Robbie is a young actress you have to appreciate for taking on such a role as Barbie, especially the way she transcends from the company’s product to a smart woman. Gosling is flat-out brilliant as Ken with the way he takes a break from his more serious roles. And Ferrara and Greenblatt are both charming as Barbie’s human friends.
This is a live-action cartoon that is smartly written by Gerwig and Baumbach, and I like the way they tone it down a notch. Not on a Nick, Jr. level, but more of a “Lego Movie” level. And the sets and decor of the Barbie World really knows what a live-action movie inspired by toys is. Even though this film is rated PG-13, I still think girls of all ages will have fun with it, and even the guys will go for it. I’m one of those guys.
This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.