Plot: What’s it about?
It’s surprising that it has taken us till 2023 to get a Barbie film. It is the first major motion picture based on the Mattel toy line, and the fact that it isn’t a total disaster is all the more surprising. It seems like the kind of film that would’ve felt snuggly dead smack in the 90’s. There were some grumblings a few years back when Amy Schumer was cast as the title character. Let’s just say that thank heavens that didn’t come to fruition as Margot Robbie fills her shoes (or heels, should I say?) perfectly. With some editing and a bit less signing (there’s a lot of that) the film surprised me by how entertaining it was. It isn’t something I will revisit often, but it more than got the job done, and as of this writing, the film is a huge success.
We open in Barbie Land where everything is sunny and seemingly perfect. There’s our lead Ken (Ryan Gosling) as well as various other ones. These are real life dolls living in this world. Don’t ask me or think too hard about what they eat, how they maintain their shape or anything of that nature. I will admit to wondering how exactly to interpret this world, but it’s something best to just accept and not think too hard about. It’s routine as usual until one day, Barbie (Margot Robbie) notices that her feet are no longer pointy and begins to think about death. This leads to a fun cameo by Kate McKinnon as a weird Barbie (one that was painted on and abused in the real world) who advises Barbie on what she needs to do. Barbie heads to the real world to confront the Mattel CEO played by Will Ferrell. Much to her surprise, Ken comes along for the ride. The plot follows a basic formula where the CEO and his team want to box Barbie up and get rid of her. Ferrell has some fun here, but the whole subplot with the company is more than a little silly at times. Then there’s Ken dealing with his self-worth and coming into his own. The film certainly earns the PG-13 rating with some suggestive humor. I would’ve liked to have seen the film have more of an edge to it, but I understand a big property like this, in today’s world must appeal to the masses. And that’s fair.
Much has been said about the film losing some steam when it enters the real world. I don’t think that’s entirely true. I feel spending too much time in Barbie Land would’ve proved to be redundant. I am not so sure what direction this would’ve taken to have the whole film set in that world. I do think the film has its share of problems, however. It can become a bit too preachy at times. Its views on a male-dominated society can become a bit off-putting after a while. And Ryan Gosling certainly looks the part of Ken (though some have commented that he’s too old), but the film makes him a bit of a buffoon. I could’ve done with a lot less singing. It isn’t excessive to the point of becoming a musical, but there’s just a bit too much of it. Still, there is still a lot of fun to be had here and the film moves along nicely. I think a sharper script and a bit of editing would’ve helped things, but it was a fun time overall.
Video: How’s it look?
Does Barbie have flaws? I think not. Let’s face it, a movie based on a doll with perfect features has got to look good on the big screen, right? Right. Well, thankfully it does. If it’s the entire color spectrum you’re after (especially pink), then you’re in luck. Because we’ve got color folks, and lots of it. The 2.00:1 HEVC 4K image (yes, you read that correctly – 2.00:1) fills out a good majority of your screen. It’s a bit wider than the 1.85:1 and a bit more narrow than 2.39:1. In other words, “its just right.” And that’s a good way to describe this image. It’s flawless. The blonde hair on both Barbie and Ken are fabulous, if there’s a flaw to be found on Margot Robbie or Ryan Gosling, I couldn’t find it. Colors pop. Detail is second to none and the HDR give a bit more depth to some of the other scenes. If you’ve seen the movie or even the trailer, Barbie on 4K looks just as we thought it would – fantastic.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Would anyone want to live in a world in which Barbie didn’t come with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack? I think we all know the answer to that. And, thankfully, this is what we’ve got. To be fair, it sounds pretty darn amazing. I’d have not thought this would be one that I’d actually have to turn down at a few moments, but no – they belt out songs and sound shoots out of every speaker at your disposal. And that’s the point, right? The front stage is active from the get go, the surrounds (all of ’em) churn out the effects, offering some rather “unique” sounds as well. Vocals are pure and crisp. Let’s face it, some might not care for the film but I have to say – this rocks.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Welcome to Barbie Land – A good, overall view of the film that serves more of a glorified trailer.
- Becoming Barbie – Essentially the obligatory “how they brought the film to life” and what Margot Robbie did to embrace her role.
- Playing Dress-Up – As we might expect with Barbie, this is a costume design featurette that shows the myriad of outfits used in the film.
- Musical Make-Believe – If you’ve ever wanted to see a bunch of folks on horses on sticks during a “war” on a beach, then this is all you.
- All-Star Barbie Party – This shines a light on the casting and cameos in the Barbie movie, Oscar-winning legend Helen Mirren—who voices the narrator in Barbie. Mirren also flips off the camera, but this was deleted from the final cut.
- It’s A Weird World – Evidently Margot Robbie’s character was supposed to be a hybrid of David Bowie and a hairless cat. Not quite the analogy I’d have come up with, but Robbie seems satisfied with that as she tells us us what a “weird world” this is.
The Bottom Line
When all was said and done, Barbie took in over $1.5 billion dollars worldwide. Yes, billion – with a capital “B.” I wouldn’t have thought that possible. But here we are. To be fair, I was guilty of judging a book by its cover (it is Barbie, after all), but there’s something so endearing about it that I couldn’t help but like it. Your experience may differ. But if you’re a fan, and evidently many are, you owe it to yourself to add this to your collection. If you’re not a fan, I doubt you made it this far in the review.