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For years now, I have been slightly obsessed with the legacy of THE LEGO MOVIE.  Before its release, I expected a forgettable, uninspired exercise in cash-grab cinema.  


A movie sponsored by a brand. I was gleefully proven wrong when Phil Lord and Christopher Miller released their incredible animated adventure that remains consistently hilarious after nearly a decade of repeated viewings. Perhaps because of this, I was a little more optimistic about BARBIE. But, this optimism wasn’t based solely on THE LEGO MOVIE. The fact that Greta Gerwig (LADYBIRD, LITTLE WOMEN) was serving as both co-writer (with Noah Baumbach) and director was a key selling point, as were the involvement of leads Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. The only question I had, was whether or not these names would be enough to get audiences to show up.

With a global gross of over $1.4 billion, it’s fair to say that BARBIE found its audience. 

Greta Gerwig’s whimsical yet profound comedy starts with Barbie (Robbie) living her best life. Every day is a party. Waking up in her dream house, hanging out with her Barbie friends (Issa Rae, Alexandra Ship, Hari Nef, Sharon Rooney), passively agreeable towards Ken’s (Gosling) corny overtures while the other Ken’s (Simon Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ncuti Gatwa) vie for her attention as well, she and her friends then end another perfect day by dancing the night away. Or at least, every day was perfect, until Barbie one day, mid-dance, suddenly questions her own mortality. From that point, things begin to change, culminating with her feet <GASP!> touching flatly on the ground.

Barbie braves a visit to Weird Barbie (the phenomenal Kate McKinnon) only to discover that something must be happening in the Real World to the girl playing with Barbie.  The only way she can get her normal life back is to go there herself, and fix whatever the problem may be. Seeing as Barbies only existed to empower girls and serve as a catalyst of happiness, she believes this shouldn’t be too tough. Little does she know, a harsh reality awaits her. Even with the help of trusty Ken, who joined the adventure despite not being invited, she is about to discover some harsh truths about life. 

Whereas the opening act in Barbieland was a bright, bizarre, beautiful wallop of sugary absurdity, when Barbie and Ken arrive in the real world, the film truly begins.  There are a number of hilarious moments here, many of which revolve around Ken’s realization that the Real World is NOTHING like Barbieland. Gerwig and co-writer Baumbach slip in a few insanely clever lines about the state of our world within the context of Ken’s ignorance, a theme that will prevail throughout. Meanwhile, Barbie starts to come to grips with what being a woman in a modern world means, especially when she returns to Barbieland and discovers that things have changed dramatically.

BARBIE is not only a box office dream, but may also find itself a major player in the upcoming awards season. Gerwig’s latest venture could easily result in nominations for Robbie, Gosling, and Gerwig herself for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film. I’d be shocked if it weren’t nominated for Best Production Design as well. It is the type of movie that I’ve found myself thinking about (and laughing about) days later, singing the songs and quoting the lines. It is silly yet witty, light-hearted yet introspective. There are those who have raised issues with some of the themes and ideas projected in BARBIE, which says more to me about those who espouse these views than anything else. At this point, I find it hard to imagine anyone who would have a qualm with a film that gives viewers (especially youngsters) a character that they can look up to and celebrate, and messages that preach equality, strength, respect, triumph, and admiration. To be able to pack all of these ideals in such a whimsically delightful way is beyond impressive, and once again illustrates why Gerwig is one of the sharpest voices in mainstream cinema.



RUN TIME: 1h 54min 

GENRE: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy 

STARRING:  Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling 

DIRECTOR: Greta Gerwig

Writers:  Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach 


Now playing in theaters and streaming on Amazon. 

Brian Miller