Barbie is a 2023 American fantasy comedy film directed by Greta Gerwig, from a screenplay she wrote with Noah Baumbach. Based on the Barbie fashion dolls by Mattel, it is the first live-action Barbie film after numerous computer-animated films and specials. The film stars Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken, and follows the pair on a journey of self-discovery following an existential crisis. It features a supporting cast that includes America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman, and Will Ferrell. (Wikipedia)
S P O I L E R S
Toy movie adaptations are inherently ridiculous in that unlike books or graphic novels, there are no stories written around toys like Barbie or even Battleship (based on the board game of the same name). At least, there have been existing comics and animated TV series about G.I.Joe and Transformers with credible stories on which to base the film adaptations on. So what kind of story could Gerwig and Baumback come up with?
Well, how about something very relevant in post-pandemic times viz. something meta and absurdist? Which is the path the Barbie film takes, with varied results. the main characters are toys and therefore deliberately two-dimensional but the film also chooses to depict every single character as a cypher, even the ‘real’ ones. This makes it impossible to take the film seriously, and yet the film wants to present to its audience a serious social justice message. A big mistake.
When the film exploits its premise for laughs, it works, most of the time but when it tries to preach to the audience about social equality and prejudice, it falls flat and refuses to stick any landing. Is the film pro-matriachy and anti-patriachy? Frankly, it is neither. Is it about toys finding self-actualisation (like Pinocchio)? Probably, but in the heavy, ham-fisted manner that forces less subtle minds to take unnecessary sides in an American social wedge issue battle.
In the final analysis, Barbie is a cold, disconnected movie that fails to be clever and should have simply stuck with being an absurdist comedy. A deeply flawed movie that reflects the divided USA perfectly.
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