Barbie (Theatrical)

To live in Barbie Land is to be a perfect being in a perfect place. Unless you have a full-on existential crisis. Or you're a Ken.

July 26, 2023 5 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

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. The memes merging the title of another current film, Oppenheimer, have probably invaded your social media feed the last couple of weeks. Still, for the target audience and maybe more, the film offers a fun time at the movies.

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.

The Bottom Line

As of this writing, Barbie is already a hit. I think it’s mostly deserved, but I could’ve done without some of the little touches. It feels very much like a Barbie film made in 2023. It has the touches of a 90’s film, but I can’t help but wonder how that version might’ve gone. Still, the good outweighs the bad and I give the film a mild recommendation.