I grew up with a small sister who adored Barbie growing up. Unfortunately, Barbies don’t ship to Vumbistan: only cheap knock offs exist here. Kids aren’t stupid though: they can tell their prized dolls don’t look like the ones in the Cartoon Network commercials.
I knew she wanted the real deal - the original artifact.
Fortunatey for her, movies don’t need shipping in this internet age, so she watched hours upon hours of Barbie animation movies while I sat in the background waiting for all of it to end, and end they did not. Barbie has a vast catalogue of watching material, ranging from spoofs of popular stories (Barbie and the three Musketeers), to funny original ideas (Barbie’s dreamhouse).
The only Barbie things made for me and my ilk are the Barbie shorts in Robot Chicken and I’d recommend you lads check those out.
So colour me pink and call me George Michael when the new Barbie had the tag line along the lines of “If you hate this Barbie, this movie is also for you.” Yep, they had me at ‘if’… I was gonna pirate this.
Barbie discovers that her existential crisis may be caused by the emotional state of girl playing with her in the real world- so she together with Ken, a male doll who pines for her love leaves Barbieland and embarks to the real world in a bid to restore normalcy in her life.
In the real world, Barbie is shocked to find out that her owner considers her a symbol of female oppression, and Ken is pleasantly surprised that men in the real world hold all the power.
Ken goes back to the gynocentric society of Barbieland to teach them the ways of Patriarchy and provides the foe for a returning Barbie, who in the process of societal liberation, learns what it is to be human.
My sister loved this movie. She sang all the songs, laughed at all the jokes and gasped at all the right moments. So did I… for the first act. I was curious to see the direction they’d take with this movie, and for the first act, all of my unspoken expectations were satisfied.
The musical exposition was masterfully handled, The Barbieland set pieces were very well made, and the dance scene was absolutely righteous. The trip to the real world was whimsical yet fitting, and the comedic timing in the Mattel boardroom scene was magnificent.
Gosling is really good at comedy acting. He can make you laugh without uttering a single word. Robbie fits perfectly in the role of Barbie and her acting choices were very appropriate for the kind of assured delusion that Barbie is purported to possess.
The movie in my humble opinion falls apart due to giving too much to the audience too early. Much like my younger self watching Barbie animated movies with my sister, this movie felt eternal especially in the last 30 minutes. Since the movie’s opening imbalance is to be solved by Barbie’s meeting with her owners, the fact that she meets them in the first half of the movie really makes the distal quarter of the movie feel like a drag.
This is compounded with the fact that these new characters are given nebulous wants and needs that are supposed to be delineated and met in the span of half a movie. They really did blow their load too early with this one.
As for the subject matter of the movie, I don’t have much to say. All the Barbie movies my sister watched as a kid vis a vis this one really has no difference bar the occasional adult joke. Much has been said about America’s Ferrera’s “Being a woman is literally impossible” speech. I’ve seen worse. I’ve seen better too. It was what it was - a final act rationalization of the film’s nebulous conflict choices.
It’s also funny how the Barbies trace their problems to a cognitive dissonance spawned from rationalizations by women while they attempt to traverse the world of Patriarchy, forgetting that the Barbies have only experienced Patriarchy for what cannot be more than two days. Maybe it’s a metaphor for feminism’s penchant for second-hand martyrdom? I also cannot ignore how they solve (satisfy?) this cognitive dissonance by taking advantage of the men’s own cognitive dissonance (men have to be helpful to women but not be too helpful lest they be labelled mansplainers) - or maybe they deem the Kens too stupid to have cognitive dissonance.
So was Barbie a great movie? Looking at the film’s grossing, many people certainly thought so. I say it was an okay movie.
2.5 out of 4 stars.
Anyway, thank you for reading this far down my ramblings.
Brevity is obviously not my strength, but I hope to remedy this as I aim to write more reviews and get better and stuff.