Monday, November 13, 2023

Movie Monday: Barbie

Now that Barbie is available on streaming, I wanted to review it here because it is such a fun movie! Forget any preconceived notions or even whether or not you like Barbie (or even the idea of Barbie) because this movie doesn't take itself too seriously and pokes fun at its own main character and the commercial world built around her. My husband actually went with me to the theater to see it, and we were both thoroughly entertained.

The movie opens with very stereotypical Barbie scenes: a pretty, pink, perfect world occupied by beautiful Barbies (and Kens). The houses, cars, and everything else look exactly like the Barbie accoutrements you may have played with as a child. But that perfect world comes to a screeching halt when the main Barbie, played perfectly by Margot Robbie, starts to see "the real world" creep into her life and asks her friends--during an epic dance party--if they ever think of death. She's advised to go visit Weird Barbie, played wonderfully by Kate McKinnon, who everyone who was ever a little girl will instantly recognize as the poor Barbie doll tortured by brothers, boys in the neighborhood, or even little girls themselves who just didn't fit the Barbie mold. Weird Barbie advises Barbie to go visit the real world to get some answers to her increasingly unsettling questions. She takes off in her pink convertible and soon discovers that Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, has stowed away. The two of them arrive in Los Angeles, with some epic, hilarious scenes of Barbie-world clashing with the real world. Word gets out that Barbie has escaped Barbie Land, and the executives at Mattel (all men, including Will Ferrell as CEO) turn to a lower-level employee named Gloria, played by America Ferrara, for help. Gloria has happy memories of her days playing Barbie, and her teen daughter, Sasha (played by Ariana Greenblatt), is much too cool for Barbie now. The two of them set out to set things right and find a way to send Barbie back to Barbie Land. Meanwhile, Ken, who has lived his life playing second fiddle to all the Barbies, discovers something called the patriarchy, and can't wait to get back home to tell all the other Kens. Eventually, Barbie and Ken both return to Barbie Land, but with new perspectives and some changes to their world.

Greta Gerwig, renowned for directing Lady Bird and Little Women, both directed and co-wrote Barbie, and brings her smart, feminist viewpoint to Barbie Land. This script is so clever and funny! I'd really like to watch it again because the writing and the set pieces are so chock-full of interesting, smart, funny things that I'm, sure I missed some of them. Robbie and Gosling are excellent as Barbie and Ken, and I loved Ferrara and Greenblatt in the real world. My husband did not play with Barbies as a kid (and instinctively doesn't like the whole concept since his name is Ken and he endured a lot of teasing as a child!) but found the movie entertaining. If you did play with Barbies as a kid, then there are a whole bunch of Easter eggs here you will recognize and delight in, including the outfits, accessories, and friends. Even if you aren't in the know, there are some real-world Barbie facts shown at the end, like explaining Michael Cera's hilarious role as Allan, a real-life short-lived toy introduced as "Ken's best friend." Gerwig has woven in smart, thoughtful concepts throughout, and you can see in the trailer below that the whole production is absolutely eye-popping. This original movie is eye candy but also so much more, with plenty of heart and thoughtfulness woven in among the nostalgia and fun. Highly entertaining.

Barbie is available to buy on several streaming services, including Amazon Prime. If $19.95 is too much for you (though it's reasonable if you watch with family or friends), and you still have a DVD player, try a Redbox kiosk, where you can rent the DVD for just $2.25.

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