Movie Review: Barbie (2023)

Synopsis: Barbie lives in a perfect world run by other Barbies and has never had a bad day. So, when she wakes up one morning with thoughts about death in her mind and cellulite on her perfect body, she knows something is wrong and learns she needs to travel to the real world and find the girl playing with her doll and transmitting her dark thoughts and insecurities between the two worlds. When she arrives in the real world, however, she learns she isn't having the positive impact on women she thought she was and, thanks to her traveling companion, Ken, Barbieland is soon in danger as well.

Who's in it? The movie stars Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt and Will Ferrell.

Review: Normally, when I hear about a movie featuring a toy coming to life, I would prefer that movie to be about a toy going on a murderous rampage. However, since my daughters both had birthdays this month and wanted to see it, we had a family movie night at the theater yesterday evening. I'm going to admit it, the movie was a lot better than I was expecting it to be.

While I would probably still place this movie firmly in the "chick flick" category, it is a well-written film that has a good mix of goofy comedy and a surprising number of emotional ups and downs for the characters that range from Barbie (Robbie) going through an identity crisis to Ken (Gosling) learning about patriarchy and using that to his advantage.

I think the thing that impressed me most about this film was how the main characters managed to have some real depth to them. Barbie, for example, wasn't always all that nice of a person and may have even been a little too self-centered, at least when it came to Ken. That, in turn, made some of his actions later in the film make sense from a motivation standpoint. The Mattel CEO (Ferrell) meanwhile seems like the stereotypical greedy and chauvinistic businessman but then reveals he cares less about money and more about inspiring little girls (in the least creepy way possible).

Also, while there is a strong feminist message in the movie, emphasizing how women can do anything they dream of doing (and pointing out Barbie's mission to show that) but pointing out the obstacles they face, it doesn't do it in a way that necessarily makes men seem evil (unless you go out of your way to interpret the movie that way). Instead, it seemed like more of an emphasis on female empowerment through overcoming their own insecurities (and the film even uses that approach when giving Ken a happy ending too).

Probably the only complaint I heard about the film was from my wife, who thought the movie focused a little too much on the whole cellulite issue without taking enough of a step to normalize an imperfect body. Her and I both agreed that Robbie made an excellent Barbie but casting such an attractive actress might have also diminished any "body image" message the film might have been trying to get across (a point the movie itself also makes, by the way).

Final Opinion: The movie earns its PG-13 rating and I wouldn't recommend taking young kids to see it. However, it is a film that lives up to the hype and even though its message wasn't geared toward my gender, I enjoyed watching it as much as my wife and daughters did.

My Grade: A


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