It opens, after all, with an homage to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A House Odyssey.” A blinding dawn stretches over a barren desert, populated solely with sad-eyed Mud Bowl-era ladies and their unblinking child dolls, as Helen Mirren (!!) narrates us by way of what life was like pre-Barbie. It wasn’t simply boring (although it was actually boring), but it surely was restricted (oh, was it restricted). For thus many little ladies, dolls had been solely ever child dolls, which meant that their playtime may solely ever revolve round motherhood, servitude, and no enjoyable in any respect.
However simply as Kubrick’s apes eventually met by an alien monolith that completely modified their world and worldview, Greta Gerwig’s little ladies are about to be descended upon by a world-altering and brain-breaking new entity: an enormous, one may even say monolithic, Barbie doll, within the type of a smiling Margot Robbie, kitted out like the very first Barbie doll ever made. And thus spake Barbie. That’s the place Gerwig’s funny, feminist, and wildly original “Barbie” begins. It would solely get greater, weirder, smarter, and higher from there.
Think about, when you can, a world cut up in two upon the discharge of the primary Barbie doll in 1959. There’s the actual world (recognized within the film as, after all, “The Actual World”), after which there’s the seemingly idyllic (and really plastic) Barbie Land, which exists on the premise that the invention of Barbie (the doll) so drastically, so utterly, and so positively impacted the actual world that she (the doll) principally solved feminism. So far as the Barbies (and attendant Kens) who populate Barbie Land know, the Actual World is an excellent place for ladies (as a result of Barbie Land very a lot is), and the female-forward world they fortunately clatter by way of is only a reflection of what occurs within the flesh-and-blood universe.
In Barbie Land, it’s the ladies who rule (Issa Rae is President Barbie, Alexandra Shipp is Author Barbie, Emmy Mackey is Physicist Barbie, the checklist goes on and on). Oh, the Kens? Yeah, yeah, they’re there, too. However it’s referred to as Barbie Land for a purpose. And whereas all Barbies are equally proficient, fulfilled, completely happy, and free (each evening is ladies’ evening!), for the aim of Gerwig’s “Barbie,” our consideration lands on one who’s about to go on a really sudden journey: Stereotypical Barbie (Robbie).
This Barbie (like, it appears, all Barbies) has an excellent day day-after-day. Her Stereotypical Ken (a delightfully unhinged Ryan Gosling)? He solely has a superb day when Barbie pays consideration to him, and Barbie is fairly busy. Gerwig guides us by way of a typical Barbie day with meticulous consideration to element (each spectacular and extremely amusing). Her Barbie Dream Home? It doesn’t have home windows, or working stairs, or working water. She will get wherever she desires to go by merely leaping (identical to a baby may transfer their doll, foisting them from spot to identify with little take care of logic). Her fingers are stiff. Her meals is nonexistent. Her life is ideal. Robbie’s dedication to the gag, together with co-stars Rae, Shipp, Mackey, Hari Nef, and Nicola Coughlan is profound, and boy, does it repay.
However there are cracks within the Barbie Land facade. (Like, if this Barbie Land actually is so feminist, why are the boys handled like second-class residents, arm sweet, afterthoughts?) Quickly, our personal Stereotypical Barbie is struggling. Her toes? Abruptly flat. Her thighs? Besieged by a spreading patch of cellulite. Her mind? Irrepressibly stuffed with ideas of loss of life. By some means, it appears, the angst of the Actual World has seeped into Barbie (normal angst appears to have way back seeped into Ken), and it’s solely Bizarre Barbie (Kate McKinnon) who can information this Barbie towards the reality.
That fact: She should go to the Actual World and mend the rip within the temporal material that retains Barbie Land and the Actual World distinctly completely different. And whereas Barbie, initially proof against the destiny earlier than her, finally takes on the problem with verve and vigor, the questions begin piling up: How completely different are Barbie Land and the Actual World? If what occurs within the Actual World can influence Barbie Land, is the reverse true? And why the hell is Ken within the backseat of Barbie’s scorching pink automobile because it cruises straight into La-La Land?
As soon as within the Actual World, Barbie and Ken’s twinned realizations of what it’s truly like unfold at a lopsided tempo. Barbie is confused by everybody’s habits, not simply the boys who leer and the ladies who scoff, however particularly that of Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), a sassy teen whom she believes is her longtime proprietor, the very particular person affected by angst so deep it ripped a gap between the Actual World and Barbie Land. Gerwig and co-writer and longtime companion Noah Baumbach steadily elevate the veil (or, because the case could also be, rip their very own temporal material) as Barbie is beset by the reality of the Actual World (not feminist), Barbie Land (additionally not feminist), and her place in each.
Ken, in the meantime, is residing. When Barbie, deep in her considering, sends out Ken out on a stroll (don’t go far!), the starry-eyed sidekick finally ends up wandering LA’s Century Metropolis (a selected joke that works wonders) the place he will get hip to the best way issues actually work. The boys rule! The patriarchy may be very actual! That is superior! (Ken additionally believes manhood and the patriarchy is inextricably tied to horses, which ends up in all kinds of hilarious confusion and great visible gags, all of which Gosling delivers at an Oscars-level comedic pitch.)
Gerwig and Baumbach’s enterprise into the Actual World is completely needed — it unlocks the movie’s thesis after besieging us with diverting enjoyable, offers us the darling Greenblatt and her Barbie-obsessed mother Gloria (America Ferrera, who runs off with the movie’s final act), and permits Will Ferrell to go nuts because the wacky (male!) CEO of Mattel. Nonetheless, it’s not practically as enjoyable, improbable, and entertaining because the wealthy world of Barbie Land — that’s the purpose. Fortunately, we’re again there quickly sufficient, although it’s been massively altered by the total pressure of a returning (and, dare we are saying it, red-pilled) Ken, who makes use of all his newfound male rage and patriarchal energy to upend what was as soon as a lady-powered idyll. Barbie? She’s having a dangerous day.
What hope is there for Barbie Land? What hope is there for the Actual World? And may Barbie actually save each this time, full with a real message of feminism (Earth to Mattel brass: this film is deeply feminist)? The methods by which Gerwig and Baumbach unspool these difficult questions are solely a part of the movie’s pleasure, which stays at a really excessive stage, even when it’s coping with heady, heavy questions. Alongside the best way, Gerwig and Baumbach discover each humor and nuance in every thing from mini-fridges to the Matchbox Twenty hit “Push,” the male urge to elucidate “The Godfather” to the Supreme Courtroom, the bounds of contemporary feminism to neon-bright Rollerblades. Barbie isn’t simply every thing, “Barbie” is every thing.
Gerwig, as ever, has assembled a stellar supporting solid. All Barbies delight, however the Kens, appropriately sufficient, launch an actual sneak assault, particularly Simu Liu and Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Michael Cera practically makes off with the entire thing because the singular sidekick Allan. There’s additionally a assassin’s row of below-the-line expertise: Opuses can and will probably be written about Sarah Greenwood’s manufacturing design and Jacqueline Durran’s costumes. “Barbie” is a lovingly crafted blockbuster with so much on its thoughts, the form of characteristic that may certainly profit from repeat viewings (there may be a lot to see, so many jokes to catch) and continues to be purely entertaining even in a single watch.
It’s Barbie’s world, and we’re all simply residing in it. How improbable.
Warner Bros. releases “Barbie” in theaters on Friday, July 21.