Written by on January 10, 2024

Toys as movies. It is not something new. When Transformers, GI JOE, He-Man, and Care Bears ruled the toy shelves they also ruled the TV airwaves after school and on Saturday mornings. So many were on TV that kids could recreate their favorite episodes or have enough imagination fuel to write their own adventures. Making millions on both fronts they decided to attack the big screen. Other than He-Man they were all cartoon versions, but none of them were very successful. The Queen of All Toys was and has been the iconic woman that does everything – Barbie. She held every job you could think of and is always at the height of fashion. Fans always wanted a movie about her, but no one could come up with a suitable concept. What job do you give her? Who is her antagonist? And above all, who could even come close to looking enough like the doll to play her? These were all legit questions because the movie could not do one thing in everyone’s eyes and that’s fail. This last year all these questions got the right answer.

Barbie came out this last year with a lot of hype around it. First, they made sure they finally had an actress that basically looks just like your standard, yet highly unattainable figure of Barbie in Margo Robbie. Then they hired Ryan Gosling as her boyfriend, Ken. But how do they make a story round her as a real person? Easy, keep her a toy that lives in a world separate from ours called “Barbieland” and everyone there is a different form of Barbie or Ken and all their jobs and personalities. Even the worst ones. Barbie has to travel to the real world when she starts not acting like herself due to someone in the real world playing with their Barbie toy which affects her in Barbieland. Weird but it works similar to “The Lego Movie”. She has to get that person to be happy again so she can go back to living in her perfect world where the Barbies rule everything and Ken is the equivalent of another pair of shoes. Ken goes to the real world with her and has his own adventures while Barbie seeks out the little girl that is unhappily playing with her. That girl actually turns out to be a mom named Gloria, played by America Ferrera who is pining for the days her and her daughter, Shasha played by Ariana Greenblatt got along better and played with the iconic dolls. Ken learns that in the real world men are more important than in Barbieland and has a revelation that he needs to bring that back with him. Unfortunately, this causes chaos in the imaginary land and amusingly enough back in the real world. How does Barbie fix everything and get things back to normal?

Director Greta Gerwig put together a really funny movie around this whole concept, which is hard to follow on paper, but works on the screen. Robbie and Gosling play the characters perfectly and are both truly funny in their roles. All the other “Barbies” are well placed too with their rolls and differences still letting girls know that they can be anything. Even weird with Kate McKinnon playing the Barbie that was played too hard with and has been drawn on and had her hair cut as so many little girls have done over the ages. There are several inside jokes that most people will get and some that only Barbie fans will recognize. The overall comedy of the film is good and gets a bit silly at times with the FBI and the company that makes Barbie, Mattel fully aware that Barbieland exists and coexists with the real world noting that Barbie being in the real world is a huge problem. The story of Barbie is that she can do and be anything she wants, and that idea was a way to inspire girls to feel like they could do the same. That they didn’t just have to be pretty and dress the best, but to aspire to be lawyers, doctors, astronauts, and even President. With that the film explores that being a woman isn’t all that easy and that there are many factors trying to hold them up while simultaneously hold them back. It shows that men have had advantages that woman have had to fight for or overcome to get ahead in the world. In a speech that Ferrera gives – that many are finding inspiration from she points out that not only do women feel pressure from men, but from other women that is hard to overcome. It gets a little preachy for a time even though the message is sound, but I did like how it didn’t become simple man-bashing and pointed out that woman sometimes put each other down just as much. For the most part you should find yourself laughing with the jokes and winks especially if you grew up a fan. That tempers the heavy messages and those that aren’t deep into Barbie culture should be amused enough. Put it on your HBO MAX or Amazon Prime watch list but know that this movie isn’t for everyone. And in the world of Barbie where you can be anything …. that’s OK.

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