‘Barbie’ movie review: Pastel, plastic, and adorably savage

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling joyfully inhabit Greta Gerwig’s rumbustious vision of what happens when a stereotypical doll goes through an atypical existential crisis

July 21, 2023 04:03 pm | Updated 04:21 pm IST

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in ‘Barbie’

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in ‘Barbie’

Movies have to be fun and entertaining, and also blow our minds out with equal parts of thought-provoking questions and effects, acting, writing and sound. Greta Gerwig’s Barbie does all that and more, offering a 114-minute thrill ride filled with gorgeous eye candy, sharp costumes, spectacular writing, astounding performances (take a bow, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling) and peppy songs.

Barbie (English)
Director: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman, Will Ferrell
Running time: 114 minutes
Storyline: When the perfect doll starts exhibiting imperfect human traits, including having cellulite and thoughts of death, it is time to bring out the big, pink guns

Barbie (Robbie) is living her perfect Barbie life in Barbieland hanging out with all the other Barbies and smiling upon boyfriend Ken (Ryan Gosling) to give his existence meaning... till she is not. One day she wakes up to her heels touching the ground, burning her breakfast waffle, and getting wet in the shower (it always was pretend water).

While all the other Barbies are unable to find out what is wrong with Stereotypical Barbie, they urge her to check with Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) who suggests she go to the real world and find the child who is playing with her, and whose feelings of sadness and inadequacy are probably permeating into Barbie.

Barbie heads off to Los Angeles with Ken along for the ride, and both find the real world very different from what they imagined it to be. In the real world there is Gloria (America Ferrera), who works at Mattel, the company that created the Barbie doll. Gloria is going through an existential crisis of her own, feeling undervalued at work and her daughter, Sasha, (Ariana Greenblatt) fighting her with constantly.

When the CEO of Mattel (Will Ferrell) realises Barbie is in the real world, he orders his executives to track her down and put her in the ‘Box’. Director Greta Gerwig who wrote the film with partner Noah Baumbach, describes the film as “anarchic, unhinged, and humanist”. And it is, as combined with the “authentic artificiality” of musicals, Barbie is an affectionate and knowing tribute to growing up.

In Barbie’s pink, frothy world, the journey to the real world can be as wacky as one’s imagination. It is perfectly reasonable to have different versions of yourself following different careers, having a house that one can look into, and costume changes in the blink of an eye. It is perfectly alright for all the Kens to hang out at the beach despite not knowing how to swim or surf.

All the different iterations of Barbie, from President Barbie (Issa Rae) and Dr. Barbie (Hari Nef), to Physicist Barbie (Emma Mackey) and Mermaid Barbies (Dua Lipa) are based on real dolls. The creator of the Barbie doll, Ruth Handler (Rhea Perlman), also makes an appearance. When she says “humans have only one ending. Ideas live for ever,” it prompts Barbie to want to be the one having the ideas and not the product of someone’s imagination. Helen Mirren lends gravitas and playfulness to the proceedings as the narrator.

The costumes (Jacqueline Durran) are jolly and so is the music featuring songs by Nicki Minaj, Billie Eilish, PinkPantheress, Tame Impala, and Ryan Gosling and Dua Lipa from the cast. Barbie, the doll, not the movie, is made of contradictions and Gerwig has done a mighty fine job of giving those contradictions the sparkliest, shiniest, warmest visual avatar.

Barbie is currently running in theatres

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