Barbie Review featured

‘Barbie’ – An ode to women, the world, and finding yourself

Growing up as a girl in the 80s, 90s and 2000s, it’s likely that you grew up with Barbie as a household name.

While not everyone could afford the doll, chances are you’ve watched one of the many animated Barbie movies as a kid.

Even if you weren’t a fan of the toy, you probably at least know what it is – a popular fashion doll that even appeared in Toy Story 2 (1999).

When teasers of the Barbie (2023) live action film appeared with the characters dancing in a plastic pink Barbie world, people were intrigued.

Barbie Review - Barbie & Ken Jail Meme
Photo: Barbie (2023)

With popular stars Margot Robbie of Suicide Squad (2016) and Ryan Gosling of La La Land (2016) portraying Barbie and Ken respectively, it’s no wonder crowds flocked to the cinema on opening day.

Seriously, when I was booking my tickets, almost all the available showings were half full on the first day.

As someone who’s not much of a Barbie fan but had a brief obsession with dolls of all kinds, I decided to check it out.

My verdict? I’m pretty glad that I did.

Plot: More than just a dumb fun movie

Barbie Review - A Perfect World
Photo: Barbie (2023)

One wonders what kind of movie can be created from such an odd premise, of what looks to be living Barbie and Ken dolls residing in a plastic world.

I honestly did not have high expectations – I thought it was going to be dumb but fun – something that you’re not supposed to take too seriously.

The movie plays with these expectations by throwing in a lot of childlike humour with double entendres, especially at the beginning.

For example, in one scene, two Kens keep talking about “beaching each other off” (they’re referring to fighting one another, but it sounds awfully like a certain sexual phrase).

Barbie Review - Ken Beach Off
Photo: Barbie (2023)

Yet once the plot begins to unfold, you start to sense that there’s something bigger going on with this movie, much like how the movie starts to portray that something big is happening to Barbie herself.

Without going into too much spoiler territory, a lot of political themes are cleverly portrayed in this movie in a light-hearted and relatable manner.

There’s a lot of references to feminism, patriarchy, discovering what you want to be, and even existentialism and free will.

Before you write it off the film for its feminist views, let me just tell you that the movie doesn’t push the idea of the angry type of feminism you see on the internet.

Instead, you’re able to hear characters giving examples of the difficulties women face every day, while still showing the men’s side of things and how they don’t have it easy too.

Because even though this is a Barbie movie, this is also very much Ken’s movie too.

Acting: A great cast of characters all around

Barbie Review - Helping Ken Up
Photo: Barbie (2023)

The casting of the movie is pretty perfect, with Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as the two unbelievably good-looking main characters.

Despite their characters being literal dolls, the two play the roles well. It really feels like they’re struggling to come to terms with ‘the real world’.

You can tell that both are giving it their all – it would be so easy to underplay or overplay the characters due to how cartoonish the premise sounds. Yet they manage to strike the perfect balance between silly, but still relatable.

Another thing to note are the excellent cast of side characters throughout the movie, especially the different dolls in Barbieland.

Every Barbie and Ken in Barbieland is different. It shows that these dolls were created to represent that children around the world can become anything they want.

Barbie Review - Simu Liu Ken
Photo: Barbie (2023)

This is why one of the Kens is played by Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) star Simu Liu.

Similarly, different iterations of Barbie are played by many women of differing ethnicities and body types like Issa Rae as President Barbie and Dua Lipa as Mermaid Barbie.

Even the characters that come from the real world are well-played. Despite being from reality, some people are cartoonish and others more realistic.

While the spotlight isn’t on the real-world characters, they do serve their role in the story to help our main character out.

Visuals: A serious attention to every detail

Barbie Review - Fun Slide
Photo: Barbie (2023)

Watching Barbie is a lot of fun, especially whenever they are in Barbieland because you get to see the logic of this amazing plastic world – and thankfully, they do spend a good chunk of the movie there.

It looks like everything about Barbieland was carefully crafted to resemble actual Barbie toys, from its citizens to its fashion and even its buildings.

I can imagine that a serious Barbie fan would have been gushing so hard in the cinema. At many points of the movie, the characters point out the different Barbie products that actually exist.

At the same time, the movie also hilariously includes some of the stranger and lesser-known iterations of the Barbie franchise like Midge, Barbie’s pregnant friend.

Barbie Review - Song & Dance
Photo: Barbie (2023)

Other than the sets, you really have to commend the dedication to the song and choreography.

The citizens of Barbieland often break into synchronised dance numbers where they perform almost mechanically, as if really driving home the fact that they’re living dolls.

These performances also don’t feel out of place either, it really feels like what these strange and peppy Barbies and Kens would do.

Plus, there’s only a few musical numbers in the movie, and they’re often used to portray the character’s feelings and struggles too.

Soundtrack: An album you could party to

Barbie Review - Original Barbie
Photo: Barbie (2023)

Barbieland is filled with a lot of party scenes in the beginning of the movie, so there are many upbeat and catchy tunes in the album.

One stand-out song is “Dance the Night” by Dua Lipa, which already has 50 million views on Youtube even though it was only released a month ago?!

And of course, what’s a Barbie movie without our favourite catchy tune from the 90s – “Barbie Girl” by Aqua?

Although Barbie Girl doesn’t play during the movie itself, it is excellently included in the credits in the form of “Barbie World” by Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice (with Aqua) – it’s basically a remix of the original song.

Just a glance at the full list of tracks on the Barbie the Album shows a lot of other notable music artists:

  • Lizzo – Pink
  • Charli XCX – Speed Drive
  • KAROL G – WATITI (feat. Aldo Ranks)
  • Tame Impala – Journey To The Real World
  • Ryan Gosling – I’m Just Ken
  • Dominic Fike – Hey Blondie
  • HAIM – Home
  • The Kid LAROI – Forever & Again
  • Khalid – Silver Platter
  • PinkPantheress – Angel
  • GAYLE – butterflies
  • Ava Max – Choose Your Fighter

While most of these songs are tunes that you could play at your next dance party, there’s actually one slow song that I enjoyed, and thought was very apt for the movie.

Try checking out this slow, emotional song that will tug on your heart strings: “What Was I Made For?” By Billie Eilish.

Memang conclusion: A surprisingly emotional treat

Barbie Review - Inspiring Girls
Photo: Barbie (2023)

📖 Plot4.2 out of 5.0 stars

🎭 Acting4.5 out of 5.0 stars

🎥 Visuals4.0 out of 5.0 stars

🎵 Soundtrack4.0 out of 5.0 stars

🍿 Memang score 4.2 out of 5.0 stars

I entered the cinema expecting a shallow movie, but what I got was so much more – and that’s precisely what the Barbie (2023) movie is all about.

It’s got more than childlike humour and jokes, which help to mask its themes of feminism, patriarchy, and even toxic ideation.

I feel like this is one movie that could be enjoyed by both older children and adults alike.

Because at its heart, Barbie is a sweet, emotional treat that lets us connect with our inner child and embrace the future.

It teaches us about finding ourselves and how we can strive to be whatever we want to be – much like how the creator of Barbie intended for her doll to represent.

And in this harsh world of real life, perhaps this idea is a welcome one.

Featured image: Warner Bros. Pictures

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