Surprising fun in Barbieworld

Out of all of the summer blockbusters that I was looking forward to this year, Barbie was not even a blip on my radar. Sure, I had heard that a great director was behind it, and who wouldn’t love seeing Ryan Gosling as a life-sized Ken doll? No, I felt that other things deserved my attention more. 

But seeing as how the next showing of Oppenheimer wasn’t for another hour or so and I didn’t feel like sitting around outside the theater twiddling my thumbs for that long, I found myself, a lone man in his 30s, watching Barbie instead and feeling only slightly awkward about it amongst all of the kids and their families. 

And I’m glad I did, because it turns out that Barbie is awesome. 

First of all, Barbie is very cool looking. Surreal, beautiful and very pink, it’s amazing how accurately and joyously director Greta Gerwig and company have managed to convey the Barbie doll experience on a life-sized scale. 

The sets are incredible and the cinematography is gorgeous, infectiously converting even the most jaded of non-believers into a fan of the world that has been created here. 

The cast, led by the shining Margot Robbie as the titular doll, brings a smart script to life with a sweet, naïve energy that is impossible not to appreciate, even when the veneer of Barbieworld begins to slip a bit and the ugly real world starts to seep through. When that happens there are genuinely nice emotional beats as Margot and Barbie prove once again that they are more than just pretty faces. 

And hey, the film is hilarious. Ryan Gosling as (a) Ken is everything you could hope for. He even sings! 

Speaking of music, I would not be at all surprised if Barbie was made into a Broadway musical at some point. In fact, I’d be shocked if it wasn’t. 

Barbie has some wonderful themes as well, but if there is one criticism I have towards the movie it’s that it simply has too many of them. This might sound a bit silly and pedestrian of me, but some real focus on one or two of the themes could have really hammered the messages home; as it stands, Barbie feels like it flies from topics of feminism to commercialism to existentialism to everything in between at a breakneck pace, diluting some of those messages just a bit in the whiplash. 

Speaking of diluting the message, I also found it an odd choice to constantly state how different Barbieland is from the real world but also portray the real world (mostly through Will Ferrell’s character and his corporate sidekicks) as almost equally goofy and surreal. But hey, it’s all in good fun and like the rest of the movie it is all done exceptionally well, so I’m not complaining. 

Like the advertisements said: If you love Barbie this movie is for you. If you hate Barbie, this movie is for you too. Pure joy with a nice lesson or two, you might regret it if you pass this one up. 

Barbie is showing exclusively in theaters.