There’s so much anticipation surrounding the Barbie movie and for good reason. Greta Gerwig is an accomplished filmmaker, Margot Robbie has shown great versatility throughout her career, and Ryan Gosling just looks like he’s having more fun as Ken than in any previous role. But as a comedy first and foremost, how much you enjoy the Barbie movie will depend greatly on how well the humor clicks with you.
Barbie focuses on Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie), as she battles with thoughts and emotions that are new to her nearly perfect life in Barbieland. She seeks the infinite wisdom of Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) and eventually journeys to the real world where she teams up with Gloria (America Ferrera) and her daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt) for a wild ride.
Everything about Barbie is about as over the top and satirical as it gets. The movie goes to great lengths to make you laugh, but as this is a Greta Gerwig film, there’s also plenty of social commentary about patriarchy and female empowerment. As with any movie of this nature, some of the jokes land, and others do not. Likewise, some of the social commentaries feel spot on, while other times it feels heavy-handed.
Most of the jokes that landed for me were already spoiled in the trailers. These scenes got the most laughs from the theater audience, but beyond the best parts of the trailers, my theater was fairly quiet. That certainly won’t be everyone’s experience with the film, but I only laughed once outside of the trailer jokes. That dramatically lessened my enjoyment of the film, as it would with any other comedy.
Generally speaking, the movie is enjoyable, with a long list of A-list actors who you can tell really had a great time filming this movie and getting into their characters. You feel the bitter rivalries between the Kens, and how happy and joyful all of the Barbies are, which makes Stereotypical Barbie’s problems even more convincing. Even Michael Cera’s ‘Allan’ is just awkward enough to really add to the film, even in a limited role.
It’s difficult getting such a large ensemble cast together and even harder letting them all shine. For the most part that is well-done in the Barbie movie. The problem is that it’s just not consistent. While a fair amount of the dialogue is clearly aimed at older viewers, a majority of the script is geared toward a younger audience (as you might expect). This contrast is especially significant once Barbie gets to the real world, and the Mattel CEO (Will Ferrell) is introduced.
Ferrell is so far lost in the ridiculousness of it all, it’s on the verge of being out of place. Almost as if a juvenile variant of Ron Burgundy was dropped into the Barbie movie. These kinds of contrasting styles come up quite a bit throughout the film, and while they may work for some people (if everything aligns with your preferred style of humor), it was just too juvenile for my tastes.
There’s also a fair amount of social commentary. Some of it is very insightful, and really shines a light on problems with modern America, and across the world. However, it comes up so often, and in some cases, the messaging gets repeated over and over, that it feels a bit heavy-handed by the end of the film.
The Barbie movie is a balancing act between completely ridiculous, subtle comedic nods, astute social commentary, and a satirical war against the patriarchy. When everything is in alignment, the film works amazingly well. For me, this scarcely happened, with most of the film feeling lopsided, leaning too much in one direction or another. But it really comes down to the humor. If you’re laughing throughout the film, you’ll enjoy this quite a bit more than I did. For me, I’ll be in the adjacent theater watching Oppenheimer.
Synopsis: Barbie suffers a crisis that leads her to question her world and her existence.
Director: Greta Gerwig
Writers: Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach
Stars: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, Emma Mackey, Simu Liu, Will Ferrell, Issa Rae, Kate McKinnon, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Helen Mirren
Runtime: 1 Hour, 54 Minutes
Releases: July 21, 2023
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.