Barbie Review

Barbie is a toy commercial that delivers surface-level girl boss feminism with a subtlety of a hammer, but it’s still a funny campy movie nonetheless.

In the pink-utopian paradise Barbieland, Stereotypical Barbie spends her day the same every day – waking up at her dreamhouse, hanging out at the beach, and hosting a girl’s night. In the middle of a dance sequence, Barbie questions her mortality, and this random thought sparks a series of events that changes everything she knows about Barbieland and herself.

How would Barbie, an anatomically impossible feminist icon, fit in the 21st century? Greta Gerwig answers this question with a sleigh of hand, taking a corporate IP into places you wouldn’t expect.

The costume, set design, and cinematography brought to life a period-accurate Barbieland. Production design perfectly captures the artificiality of toys made life-size, complete with a cul-de-sac of three-story fuchsia dreamhouses with no walls and windows. The movie favored practical effects over CGI, such as a transportation sequence presented as 2D tracking shots against cut-out backdrops.

The script wisely taps into the ridiculousness of an alternate universe where Barbies and Kens exist, taking advantage of every meta-joke it can make while slipping in nostalgic fan service.

The Barbieland cast stands out. Ryan Gosling may not be everyone’s first pick, but Crazy, Stupid, Love, and Dead Man’s Bones proved he has the Kenergy all along. Margot Robbie has been hustling for that franchise money but you won’t see anyone else as Stereotypical Barbie after the opening sequence. Micheal Cera as Allan is a pleasant surprise.

The movie utilizes the talents of its cast well by adding a believable hero journey. Barbie gains self-awareness of what she is and the image she represents beyond Barbieland. Ken too, must grapple with these new developments that further make him feel useless.

In one scene, Barbie realizes the beauty in the short yet complex human life and compliments an old woman sitting next to her. It’s a poignant moment that perfectly captures what this movie is about.

You need to figure out who you are instead of blindly following rigid gender roles and the impractical image of what it’s supposed to look like. If that means existing as an ordinary work in progress, that and all its imperfections, is perfectly okay. We’re all Kenough.

However, Barbie is still an ornately made toy commercial. Barbie The Movie is selling feel-good feminism the same way Barbie The Doll is still selling commoditized female empowerment.

The movie’s commentary about feminism and patriarchy is timely but shallow. Mattel’s self-insert as a pack of suits is ham-fisted. The real-world elements of the plot are clunky. America Ferrera is the only one watchable on that side of the story.

But this is unsurprising. Gerwig has to work within the commercial parameters of a cartoonish live adaptation. The movie could’ve been worse – a story so generic it might as well be written by AI starring Sydney Sweeney’s boobs and directed by a hired hand.

Mattel is doing what Marvel does in a different package. But the creators behind Barbie take a jab at consumerism and commodification to transcend its corporate IP, which includes an earnest message and an unpredictable ending.



Barbie celebrates and satirizes an icon, delivering a campy movie with memorable worldbuilding, performances, and irreverent humor.

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