When the trailer for “Barbie” first started making the rounds, I shrugged it off. As someone who wouldn’t know Barbie’s Malibu Dreamhouse from his old apartment, I couldn’t see myself putting on my best hot pink t-shirt for opening night.
My girlfriend, on the other hand, treated this movie as if it was the second coming. A longtime Barbie fan, she practically burst into tears of joy almost every time the trailer came on.
As the release date crept closer and closer, the hype train inevitably began to grab hold of me, and eventually, I hopped on the “Barbie” bandwagon. Now that “Barbenheimer” has officially arrived, here’s my take on the first half of that cinematic duo straight from someone who could’ve swore they would be more interested in the second.
Immediately, the movie is something to behold. Barbieland is filled with pastel-painted backdrops and brightly dressed inhabitants with just as colorful personalities. If you take nothing else from this review, it should be that this movie is stunning to look at.
The set design, the costumes, the choreography, and the music are aesthetically phenomenal. It immediately sucks you in with an incredibly charming introduction and a number of flashy dance sequences, so much so that when you have to leave Barbieland, it sort of deflates you, and for good reason.
The plot once Barbie hits the real world becomes a bit convoluted and unfocused. Narratively, it appears like the movie doesn’t know what to do with itself, which is unfortunate because the story it does provide is promising. If “Barbie” had scaled itself down a bit and stuck with a more singular narrative focus, I think it would have been more impactful and prevented the drag that comes mid-late runtime.
Luckily, the movie ends as strongly as it started, satisfyingly wrapping up characters and giving us a great, bombastic conclusion.
Of course, I need to mention the wonderful performances by the two leads, especially Ryan Gosling as Ken. Call me biased, but Gosling stole every scene he was in with his delivery of a bubbly, goofy Ken that was just a delight to watch. Margot Robbie also delivers an extremely impactful performance that manages to bring both depth and soul to a portrayal of a plastic doll.
I will say at first, I struggled to understand what the demographic was for this movie. “Barbie” is PG-13 and definitely leans into its rating with plenty of inside jokes and adult humor, some just shy of being outright crass. Through some rumination, I think the movie makes it clear who it’s for, though.
“Barbie” is a film for those who used to be fans of Barbie or grew up playing with her. A child will surely get decent mileage out of this movie – it’s bright and colorful, after all – but the intended message definitely hits hardest for an older audience who can fully grasp its well-delivered feminist themes.
I would implore skeptics not to blow off this film, especially if you’re a fan of the art of cinema.
Spotlight Score: 7.5/10 – I think that’s the highest rating I’ve given a movie for the Spotlighter