Year:  2023

Director:  Greta Gerwig

Rated:  PG

Release:  July 20, 2023

Distributor: Warner/Universal

Running time: 114 minutes

Worth: $13.50
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Rhea Perlman, Will Ferrell, Kate McKinnon, Ariana Greenblatt

… a fun little flick that manages to be quirky and engaging, for the most part.

Has there been a more effective marketing campaign than that of Warner Brothers’ live action Barbie flick? Honestly, the pink-hued branding combined with a series of genuinely clever trailers and charming appearances from stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling has made this one of the most universally anticipated flicks of the year. It’s a legit cultural phenomenon! Not bad work for a film that, when first heard about, most people muttered “crikey, that’s a terrible bloody idea.” Well, now the Greta Gerwig-directed film is finally here, and does it live up to the hype? Not quite, but honestly nothing crafted by human hands could ever match the wildly unrealistic expectations for this one. It is, however, a fun little flick that manages to be quirky and engaging, for the most part.

Barbie is, appropriately enough, the story of Barbie (Margot Robbie) who lives an idyllic life in Barbieland with the many other Barbies and the various Kens, including (just) Ken (Ryan Gosling). Every day is Barbie’s best day ever… until it isn’t, and she experiences an existential crisis, begins contemplating mortality and, worst of all, her feet go flat. So, joined by Ken, Barbie must head into the real world to find out why she’s experiencing these unwelcome feelings and perhaps learn a lesson or two along the way.

The thing about Barbie is, when it works it works really well. There are a good dozen or so genuinely hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny scenes that showcase Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling’s excellent comic timing and Greta Gerwig’s clever use of old school Golden era Hollywood style sets and costumes. When Barbie is being a tongue-in-cheek, meta comedy, it’s an absolute riot. The problem is, Barbie also wants to be a socially conscious, politically aware message movie and when it tries to deliver on that front, it’s a little less successful.

Several times during Barbie, characters will stop the film in its tracks and try to make a larger point about society, gender politics and the world in which we live. Now, don’t get us wrong, movies with social subtext are great, but the script by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach doesn’t seem to quite know how to incorporate the loftier themes with much elegance. There are also tonal disconnects with “real world” characters like the CEO of Mattel (Will Ferrell) feeling more cartoonish than the sentient toys lobbing about the place.

Still and all, there’s a lot to like here. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling are consistently fabulous (even if Gosling gets a more interesting character arc) and so too is America Ferrera, a woman from the real world who has a close connection to our hero Barbie. The sets are superb and the costumes vivid. There’s also a standout musical number that’s almost worth the price of admission alone. Taking all that into consideration, even the ill-judged, heavy-handed moments don’t detract too much and add up to a film that’s far more enjoyable than anything based on a 64-year-old toy has any right to be.