On paper, doing a full-length film about Barbie the doll seems absurd. Greta Gerwig, however, has not only written a tale but also assembled an amazing cast to direct the film version. As a result, Barbie has become one of this year’s most anticipated films to see in theatres, garnering a slew of excellent reviews before its official release on July 20, 2023. I must admit that I was swayed by the hoopla, which naturally increased my curiosity and expectations. Unfortunately, my elevated hopes were not fully met.
The film started off well enough, as we are introduced to the origins of dolls and how they evolved from baby dolls to Barbie dolls, with a lighthearted nod to Kubrick’s iconic opening to 2001: A Space Odessey. Then we’re transported into Barbie’s imagined toy world, where various versions of Barbie and Ken live happily, totally unaware of the outside world. I enjoyed this first half of the film since it was entertaining and made me smile. The brightly coloured sets and quips about living in a Barbie world were a visual joy, as were the hip music and songs that kept the flow moving beautifully. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling both looked fantastic in their roles as the girl and boy toy figures and they both had some good funny moments. Then things got a little serious, and before we know it, Barbie and Ken are transported to the real world to try to figure out what was causing Barbie’s unusual feelings. This created further opportunity for some amusing interactions between Barbie and Ken and the actual world. Then we get some sanctimonious dialogue about how women are being marginalised in a mostly male-dominated environment, and the whole thing starts to feel like a public relations campaign for women’s rights. The real world is conveniently presented as an exaggerated version of reality in which men rule over all. This is to provide fonder for the men bashing and support for the women’s cause.
When they return to their toy world, things start to feel a little repetitious and contrived, and my mind started to wander as the plot focuses on the conflict between males and women. Along the way we have some cameos from some familiar faces like John Cena as Mermaid Ken and a lots of situations for the characters to be running around. For me, the best thing about the movie was the beautiful theme song sung by Billie Eilish “What Was I Made For”. The lyrics to her song carried far more weight and substance to the story than the movie and suggests a different direction to how the story development could have gone. The song focus on Barbie’s confusion and struggle to come to terms with her discovery that she is a doll and her conflicts over her inability to feel like a human. It provided an interesting angle to the plot which could have been further explored instead of all the silly trappings involving the fight for feminism. What we have is something that started off feeling very different, creative and fun, but ending up being just another Hollywood attempt to promote woke propaganda.