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'Barbie' Captivates With Magnificent Visuals, Songs and Themes

By Myles Wolf

Today’s blockbuster films seem homogeneous and bleak against Barbie (2023)’s vivacious visuals. Paying homage and innovating upon decades of iconic Barbie apparel and accessories, every costume, set piece, and special effect is exceptionally well curated. The production design provides an indispensable backdrop to the film’s narrative, which attempts to examine the gender norms and the capitalist mindset that has driven Mattel’s signature franchise for over 60 years.

It stars a Barbie actually called Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) who becomes aware of her own mortality and imperfections. Embarking on a journey of self discovery, with Beach Ken (Ryan Gosling), she leaves her home in the matriarchal Barbieland and explores a male dominated, real world. There she befriends Mattel secretary named Gloria (America Ferrara), and her daughter Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), who believes Barbies have set an unrealistic body standard for women. The three women work together to escape the clutches of Mattel CEO (Will Ferrel) who wants to literally put Stereotypical Barbie back in her box.

The premise is very even if aspects of its delivery and execution are flawed. It was a brilliant choice on the part of director Gretchen Gerwig to use this film to provide relevant commentary about the ways the Barbie brand has changed the perception and expectations of women in today’s society. I just wish the story was told more through action than words.

The male and female characters seem trapped in this endless verbal debate of the sexes, and seem to barely mature at all by the end of the film. They seem more concerned with making speeches or singing about how their gender is oppressed, than they are with growing as individuals. I appreciate that the film uplifts and speaks to the struggles women often face, I just feel it would have been more impactful if those sentiments were addressed gradually, through a well more well paced story.

Barbie is narratively at its best when it shows its main characters contemplating and growing internally from the experiences they are exposed to. The best scene occurs when Stereotypical Barbie, after having been exposed to the confusion of the real world, begins to cry, until she looks humblingly upon an old woman sitting next to her and tells her “you’re beautiful.” She looks at Barbie and replies “you know it.” In contrast to the film’s other scenes, this short conversation does not over explain, it keeps things subtle. I feel the film would have benefitted from more scenes like this one.

Despite the pitfalls in the film’s narrative, Barbie is a must see for those looking for an interactive, in person experience. It’s a unique threat to dress up with your friends, and take pictures in those life size Barbie boxes. The soundtrack is also phenomenal, featuring the talents of Nicky Manaj, Dua Lipa, Lizzo and more. You'll be singing these songs long after you leave the theater.

I give Barbie 3/5 stars.


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