By Don Morton
Breaking the plastic mold
August 11, 2023
First off, this is way more than “Barbie: The Movie.” It is in fact nothing less than an existential examination of a dubious cultural icon as well as the patriarchy, a feminist fable, and, well, you’ll get as many descriptions as the number of people you ask. (Bill Maher called it, “A preachy, man-hating, zombie lie.” That’s just sad, Bill.) Go see it and make your own determination. Guys, too. You don’t really have to wear pink.
Director Greta Gerwig’s (Lady Bird, Little Women) infectiously delightful movie (co-written by her partner, Noah Baumbach) is a wonderful example of taking an established bit of corporate marketing and using it to send a message about the power of imagination. She both celebrates and satirizes the doll. It’s quite astounding. And there are so many spot-on jokes I may have to watch it again. Kudos to Mattel for allowing the movie to make fun of it (Will Farrell plays the CEO).
Margot Robbie has the title role. And while Hollywood has no shortage of capable blond actresses, I can’t imagine any of them filling the role better. Ryan Gosling is her beau, Ken, and the supporting cast includes Issa Rae, Dua Lipa, Emma Mackey, Scott Evans and John Cena, most of whom are named Barbie or Ken. Also terrific performances by America Ferrera, Rhea Perlman, Will Ferrell (as Mattel’s CEO), and a special nod to the incomparable Kate McKinnon. Helen Mirren narrates.
Bottom line: This is a truly original work. Fantastic but not plastic. It’s not what you think it is; it’s better. (114 min)