Barbie Movie Review
Wait, am I a Barbie fan now? Funny and damned clever, this toy-turned-movie had every right to be an utterly bad cash grab but instead is one of the smartest takedowns of sexism and consumerism you’ll see in some time.
It’s also fascinating in that the movie is distributed by Warner Bros., whose CEO recently made headlines for getting a negative article about him snuffed from the web, but a product of toy company Mattel, which apparently gave carte blanche to filmmaker Greta Gerwig to say and do absolutely anything she wanted, including stomping on Mattel and twisting her heels into its bloody corpse.
The gamble pays off, because whether you’re guy or gal—or at least not someone who still believes a woman should be at home and subservient to her husband—you’ll likely walk out of the theater with much greater appreciation for the company for its willingness to be criticized and embarrassed, and for the title toy. You’ll also be buzzing, because this is the comedy that will have you laughing, giggling, and whatever else you do whenever you’re having a good time.
Co-written by indie darlings Gerwig and Noah Baumbach and directed by Gerwig, Barbie is a showcase for her talent. Barbie defies all odds and conventions to work as well as it does, from incredible set design to a ruthless satirical script (which also features several amusing musical numbers). The women around me were roaring and reacting to the screen in ways I haven’t seen since Crazy Rich Asians, and this is a much more clever film than that one (no offense meant). There’s plenty for the guys to like… well, as long as you don’t mind strong women.
Margot Robbie is terrific; when it was first announced the Oscar winner was cast as Barbie, my first reaction was “of course.” My second was “what a waste.” But she’s great here and takes the character to another level.
Even more impressive is Ryan Gosling; people sometimes forget how unsuspectingly funny he can be, and he is just downright awesome in this movie. It’s the kind of head-turning role that probably won’t get any attention at the end of the year, but should.
Barbie even gets a little deep; while Gerwig delivers the goods, I probably could have done with just a little less of the serious stuff. It’s not bad, but there are definitely moments of “wow, this seems awfully serious for a movie about a toy doll.”
But Barbie is nonetheless a fantastically made and highly entertaining movie. Don’t shrug it off because it’s a Barbie movie—this is some plastic worth investing in.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.