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Today’s Prayer Focus
MOVIE REVIEW

Barbie

also known as “Barbė,” “Barbi,” “Barbie芭比,” “Μπάρμπι,” “Барби,” “Барбі,” “バービー,” “芭比”
MPA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPA) for suggestive references and brief language. (Means parents are “strongly cautioned”, because “some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.”)

Reviewed by: Jim O'Neill
CONTRIBUTOR

Moral Rating: Average (somewhat offensive) —Not Recommended
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Young-Adults (not kids or teens)
Genre: Live-Action Comedy-Satire Adventure Fantasy Romance
Length: 1 hr. 54 min.
Year of Release: 2023
USA Release: July 21, 2023 (wide release—4,243 theaters)
DVD: October 17, 2023
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Companyclick photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company
Relevant Issues

Story based on the Mattel toy doll


Woke messaging in films

A feminist critique of capitalism

Barbie having an existential crisis

Films that appear to be for youngsters, but are NOT

Transgenderism promotion by Hollywood

Hollywood leftist deconstruction of ‘gender roles’ and increasing man bashing in movies

Feminism’s sexist anti-man messaging—painting masculinity as toxic and predatory / males as idiots, bigots or pathetic losers

Is the FEMINIST MOVEMENT the right answer to the mistreatment that some women endure in this sinful world? Answer


Social satire

Films that attempt to contrast fantasy and dark reality

Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company
Featuring Margot RobbieStereotypical Barbie
Ryan GoslingKen
Emma MackeyPhysicist Barbie
Hari NefDr. Barbie, a transgender
Nicola CoughlanDiplomat Barbie
Ritu AryaJournalist Barbie
Alexandra ShippWriter Barbie
Dua LipaMermaid Barbie
Kate McKinnonWeird Barbie, implied Gay Barbie
Issa RaePresident Barbie
Sharon Rooney … Lawyer Barbie
Ana Cruz Kayne … Judge Barbie
Kingsley Ben-AdirKen
John CenaMerman Ken
Simu LiuKen
Scott Evans … Ken
Ncuti Gatwa … Ken
Helen MirrenNarrator
Will FerrellMattel CEO
Michael CeraAllan
Rhea PerlmanRuth Handler, the real-life “creator” of Barbie and the first president of Mattel
America FerreraGloria, a Barbie-loving mom
See all »
Director Greta Gerwig
Producer Mattel Films
Mattel
See all »
Distributor Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures. Trademark logo.Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company

Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” has a cotton candy wispiness that would be fine for a movie about a doll that comes to life, but behind the pink frosting facade, Gerwig has spun candy that is hard—and sour.

Gerwig, and her partner, Noah Baumbach, who co-wrote the script, might appear to be apt choices to make a film about the odd person out trying to catch a break on the inside while still maintaining the quirkiness of an appealing outsider. Gerwig’s performances as an actress in Whit Stillman’s “Damsels in Distress” and Baumbach’s “Frances Ha” were iconoclastic and daringly funny. Her insouciant embodiments of “innocent as doves” but secretly “wise as serpents” space-cadets in the mold of Zasu Pitts, Billie Burke and Judy Holliday, were a breath of fresh air.

As a director, however, Gerwig’s focus and tone have become stale, dour and accusatory. The wrathful “Lady Bird” and the unfaithful (literally and scripturally) “Little Women” were both successes, taking her from “low-budget indie” wannabe to well-healed Hollywood A-lister. As such, she not only abides by the rules of the realm, but has become one of its most reliable and outspoken voices.

With “Barbie,” Gerwig does everything bigger, bolder and louder. There is no soft underbelly to this doll. The film is pepper-sprayed with bursts such as: “either you’re brainwashed or you’re weird and ugly; there’s no in-between,” and my favorite, spoken to Barbie by a teenage student (a re-run of the “Lady Bird” speech shouted by that film’s title character to a conservative religious woman, a favorite Gerwig target): “You represent everything wrong with our culture… you destroyed the planet… you set feminism back,” and so on, concluding her “j’accuse” diatribe by calling Barbie “a fascist.” That kind of red-faced hectoring never lets up. Too often I felt as though I was sitting through a “Libs of TikTok” marathon.

The movie’s plot is a terse throw-away. The main doll, “Stereotypical Barbie” (Margot Robbie) lives in a fantasy world called Barbieland with all kinds of other Barbies who live in dream houses and drive dream cars. It is a feminist, but peculiarly unfeminine, environment in which the president is a woman, all nine Supreme Court justices are women, health care is provided by women, and businesses are run by women. The men, labeled “superfluous” citizens, are not even relegated to the sidelines; they have no place on the field at all.

Q & A

Is the FEMINIST MOVEMENT the right answer to the mistreatment that some women endure in this sinful world? Answer

A crack develops in Barbieland allowing Barbie to travel from fantasy land to the real world, a contrived plot device and a cheap “Matrix” rip-off, the first of many such “borrowings” from or references to earlier classic films, ironically ones made by decidedly non-feminist, macho filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola and, astonishingly, Robert Evans.

Each Barbie in Barbieland may have a plastic doll counterpart in the real world. Evidently, whatever happens to the doll and her owner in that realm has a concomitant effect on the Barbieland inhabitant. When the main Barbie starts developing human maladies such as flat feet and a bit of cellulite, she does not consult a Barbieland podiatrist or luposucionist (both of whom one would suspect in a perfect Barbie world would be crackerjack practitioners of their specialties), but instead travels to the real world (yes, in a pink Cadillac, pink motorboat, and pinkish rocket ship) to find the little girl whose dark thoughts has brought on her distress. Little does she know that her existential trip, for a doll, will lead her to fall into the clutches of the dark and male infested hands of the toy company that makes her, Mattel.

The Mattel conglomerate is located in Los Angeles, and traveling from one LaLa land to another could be fodder for some good jokes about how real and imaginary places may not be so different (remember the Star Trek movie scenario of the Enterprise landing in San Francisco, a place weirder than any extraterrestrial sphere could be?), but that nerve is never touched. Gerwig and Baumbach do know what side their bread is buttered on. There’s nothing new brought to this battlefield, even with Will Ferrell playing Will Ferrell playing a Ken-like dodo playing a past-his-prime jerk.

With each new performance, Ferrell is morphing into an A.I. version of himself, but in this case he sputters lines that an A.I. program, or even a Barbieland doll, would roll their eyes at.

In the real world, Stereotypical Barbie is absconded by secret service like Mattel minions while a befuddled Ken debates whether to rescue her or seek help. You may have already guessed that the film does not miss the opportunity to further emasculate Ken as he chooses to run back to Barbieland for help. Adding further insult to injury, he never returns for her either.

Meanwhile, Ferrell and his boardroom cohorts, all men in dark suits, prove to be easy, cookie-cutter targets. The strongest corporate retort to Barbie’s criticisms of their non-inclusiveness and all around non-niceness is a timid: “Some of my best friends are Jewish.”

This from Hollywood’s A-list original screenplay team?

Gerwig’s Barbie does not grow into a flesh and blood girl in the same way Pinocchio evolved into a boy through humility and self-sacrifice. She is inordinately cruel to Ken and seems to have a cold core, one that Margot Robbie sometimes brings to the surface, channeling the murderous character she played in the “Suicide Squad” movies, and giving her doll an edge that is sharp, if at times a bit rusty. Robbie has an inviting and generous smile which Quentin Tarantino used to enchanting effect in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” but she can turn that smile to something sinister and deadly, as she did in the underrated “Mary, Queen of Scots,” in which she used her grin as a mask to soften, or conceal, the human monster, and political genius, that was Queen Elizabeth I. In “Barbie,” Robbie can’t seem to get the balance right. She holds onto the Mattel plastic while keeping the vulnerable humanity at bay.

The film begins with Barbie, standing as a tall bathing-suit clad monolith surrounded by a bevy of very young girls who defiantly smash and toss away their baby dolls. It’s not just a cheesy rendition of Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” opening where the apes bang bones they learned to use as weapons, but a cold and cynical cry for emancipation from the binds of what motherhood, and traditional womanhood, represent to the modern Hollywood sensibility.

As the movie unfolds, its makers herald the positives of such liberation, but shy away from its downsides. Barbie nonetheless develops a crisis of confidence, and then one of existence itself. Her anxiety is deep, the result we’re told, of patriarchal oppression, leading Barbie to have “irrepressible thoughts of death.”

When a tale starts, not with life as the Genesis story does, but with death, and that is what the baby destroying scene represents, it is fated to come full circle. Barbie’s “irrepressible thoughts” are about more than chauvinism. Those thoughts cry out for redemption and rebirth.

Despite her eschatological concerns, this living doll has no spiritual dismay and no sense of what she was created for. Does she look to Someone who, before she was formed, knew her? Her self-reliance, cynically referred to as empowerment, blinds her to seeing that “all things in heaven and earth, the visible and the invisible…were created through Him and for Him.” Barbie jumps from battle to battle, emulating the Director’s own personal fight for the rights of marginalized women everywhere, but by never putting on “the shield of Christ,” she is ultimately unequipped to “fight the good fight.” No wonder she and her real world counterpart have thoughts of despair and death.

Did I mention those thoughts are applauded by film’s end?

You know a movie’s script and production are weak when so much depends on a bevy of supporting and cameo appearances by underused, underwritten, or just miscast performers such as America Ferrera, Michael Cera, Issa Rae, Rhea Perlman, and John Cena who seem mostly befuddled by the polemic drivel they have to speak.

Helen Mirren is inexplicably and shamefully used as a narrator trying to elucidate the film’s mangled background story. Her commentary only makes this hapless doll world murkier and more punishing, declaring that playing with dolls might be fun, but ultimately harms little girls everywhere. Her voice, meant to be authoritative and instructive, is actually authoritarian and beguiling, like that of a matronly garden serpent.

Almost all the performances are amateurish and attention-seeking in the worst way, none more so than Kate McKinnon’s whose lack of comic skill is hidden behind by a tremendous well of self-regard. She plays “Weird Barbie”, not in a knowing and endearing sidekick-style in the vein of Eve Arden or Joan Cusack, but in a shrill and geyser-like fashion that is as jarring as her costume and inconsistent make-up.

There are several Kens, each different looking, but each behaving in basically the same way. Ryan Gosling plays the main Ken, and he almost brings it off. While watching him in all his tanned and bleached splendor, I wondered if his entire performance was nothing more than attempt to humor his director and co-star. He constantly tosses off his ridiculous costumes in the same style he throws away the beach taunts aimed at his co-Kens. Those exchanges, meant to be in-the-know jokes that would go over the heads of kids but tickle the ear of hip adults, are witless and sophomoric in their barely disguised homoeroticism.

Ken tags along uninvited on Barbie’s trip to the real world. She drives, of course, while he straddles the back seat. Unlike Barbie, Ken is captivated by the male energy of Los Angeles. He tries to bring that equine force back to Barbieland and build a society where men sport great biceps and abs, and have a great time drinking beer and dominating their female counterparts. There’s lots of male bonding in the new realm called Kendom, with men co-decorating their houses in horse motifs, exchanging outfits that include fancy furs, and doing bump, grind and male on male cheek-to-cheek kiss ala Busby Berkeley style dance routines on the beach and somewhere in the sky. This is presented as a patriarchy on steroids, a male world out of control.

Hmmm.

Gosling’s god-like surface features seem particularly anti-feminist, the kind of physical specimen that you would not expect to find in a land ruled by powerful women, but the type you’d see on the covers of bodice-ripper novels or People’s Sexiest Man Alive issues, or perhaps in a Village People music video. But consistency is not a hallmark in the Gerwig-Baumbach universe. Discordancy is the point. The film’s liberation ethos, sexual and social, is a call, not for peace, forgiveness, and grace, or even enjoyment of what a world of toys can bring to a child, but a Progressive call to arms.

Or worse, it’s a gender studies lecture, where many Barbies and Kens are welcome, but only one voice, a very Feminist voice is allowed to speak, and be heard.

  • Wokeism: Very Heavy
  • Drugs/Alcohol: Moderate
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Mild
  • Profane language: Minor
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Minor
  • Nudity: None
  • Occult: None

Editor’s Notes

For the narrative arc, Writer/Director Gertwig was partially inspired by the 1994 non-fiction book Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher, which accounts the effects of societal pressures on American adolescent girls. The book has been described as a “call to arms” and highlights the increased levels of sexism and violence that affect young females. Pipher asserts that whilst the Feminist movement has aided adult women to become empowered, teenagers have been neglected and require intensive support due to their undeveloped maturity. Lead actress Margot Robbie stated that the film’s aim is to subvert expectations and give audiences “the thing you didn’t know you wanted.”

NOTE: In June 2023, a “Barbie” French poster went viral for including the tagline “Elle peut tout faire. Lui, c'est juste Ken.”, which literally translates to “She can do everything. He’s just Ken.” However, ken is the verlan slang term for the f-word in French, while c’est (“he is”) is a homophone for sait (“he knows how”), meaning the tagline could be read as “She can do everything. He just knows how to f***.” Analysts concluded that it was likely the pun was intentional, as the slang term is common knowledge among French speakers, though Warner Bros. would neither confirm nor deny whether this was the case.

Streaming video— 
“Barbie’s Deceptive Message on Feminism”
The new Barbie movie peddles a false narrative that women are controlled and oppressed by the patriarchy.
Liz Wheeler (The Liz Wheeler Show)
Length: 3 minutes

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—Despite the naysayers, Barbie is a smart and fun critique of both out of control patriarchy and out of control feminism. Everything in Barbie land is a direct reference to Barbies and Barbie accessories developed and sold by Mattel. Including the bizarre and unsettling iterations of Barbie seen near the end of the film. There are also multiple references to other films that are very intentional. When watching Barbie it is important to constantly ask questions. What did the other film being referenced have to say about our world and its gender dynamic? Also, key to understanding the film is to flip the genders in every scenario and then ask questions. If there is a moment that makes you uncomfortable ask yourself why and if you would feel differently if the genders were reversed.

Barbieland is Genesis 3 in its most patriarchal interpretation. Barbie is the one that is created and Ken simply exists to support Barbie. Barbie rules and Ken is the “helper.’ In Barbieland this is developed within the story to highlight what happens when people are given no purpose except to exist and be decorative. The Kens are given a taste of power and purpose as men and stage a patriarchy coup. And Ken-dom is just as degrading and dismissive of the Barbies as Barbieland was to the Kens. Flip the genders and you have a sharp commentary on out of control feminism that begs the question how did we get here?See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Alisa, age 38 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—This film is much more thought-provoking than I expected.

IMO, both critics and lovers of the film are “reacting’ more than asking a key question: before Barbie, there were toys and shows—and even areas of our “real’ society that were all male. All male business leaders, government leaders, judges, scientists, astronauts, and the like—while women were relegated to “background’ status of secretaries and home makers—and there was barely a peep. Swap the genders, and have all female leaders, with men in the background and now there’s outrage. Why is that?

Why was there outrage over giving Barbie more realistic body proportions? In a world full of young women contorting their bodies and self image to meet unrealistic standards, wouldn’t we welcome this change?

I think these sorts of questions is what makes “Barbie” a better film for adults who have been along the Barbie journey over the last few decades. (As a young girl, I had Barbie EVERYTHING—and remember being elated when Black Barbie came out—and even had my hair texture!) I’ll likely catch it again, as there were many layers of messages and questions I’m sure I missed while taking in the rather impressive look of the film (the costume and set design were very detailed and brought back great childhood memories).

But overall, I’d be ready to have some rather “grown-up’ conversations with young girls who see this film.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Marin, age 44 (USA)
Neutral—*This review has some spoilers* — This is a movie that questions gender stereotypes from a secular viewpoint. The Kens have been created as accompanying figures to the Barbies. Because Barbies are toys meant for girls, it is the Barbies who make the decisions in Barbieland, not the Kens, at least until a certain point in the movie when the main Ken reads about patriarchies in our world and conquers the Barbieland, taking Barbie’s house and ordering the Barbies to wear skimpy clothes and continually wait on him like servants.

Basically the men, except for one, are portrayed as wanting to have complete control and the women have to trick the men to fight each other to regain their houses and freedoms.

The Barbies think they have changed the real world to allow women to study medicine, politics, and aerospace science, and when Barbie is harshly told that she hurts girls by promoting a stereotypical figure she begins to despair, in addition to her feelings being influenced by her human owners.See all »
Negative
Negative—I saw this movie today and thought it was dreadful. The writing and lines are horrible for the most par,t and there is a lot of vulgarity as well as several OMG’s throughout. The choreography for some of the numbers is very good, as well as the singing. The only reason this film is doing well imho is because the main star, Ryan Gosling, is extremely popular. The parts of the film with the character representing Ruth Handler, the inventor of Barbie, are the most interesting of the film. I’d forgotten that Alan is another boy doll invented after Ken, and he helps the Barbies when the Kens try to take over Barbie Land.

At the beginning of the film, the little girls smash their baby dolls when Barbie comes along, which seems to be a direct comment against motherhood or women as nurturers. Later they say that women of any situation are important whether they are mothers or not, which is true, but I’m not sure where they are going with that. It’s interesting that the film tries to empower women and comment on some of the unrealistic expectations people have of them, but then at the same time are fixated with the idea that Barbie doesn’t have complete internal female anatomy, which is mentioned twice. That to me is a horrible contradiction. They also make a very rude remark about Ken in this regard. Also, I don’t know if it was just me, but I felt some of the male group numbers have homosexual overtones. My friend in I often had trouble following the dialogue or what the point was that they were trying to make.See all »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 2
Kathy Pj, age 63 (Canada)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Secular Movie Critics
…Greta Gerwig takes on feminism and the patriarchy in this hilarious, deeply bizarre film. …
Robbie Collin, The Telegraph [UK]
Woke ‘Barbie’ drowns in Feminism, lectures… Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling can’t save story captured by man-hating agenda… Don’t let ‘Barbie’s’ dreamy, Day-Glo visuals fool you… This movie hates men so much it hurts… “Barbie” also hates women with sweet memories of the doll. …
Christian Toto, Hollywood in Toto
…The Barbie movie finds all the fun in laughing at the men’s rights movement. It’s a takedown of toxic masculinity tied up with a pretty pink wrapper…
Maddy Myers, Polygon
…“Barbie” is an LGBTQ+ party… For director Greta Gerwig, bringing LGBTQ+ actors like Out cover stars Alexandra Shipp, Hari Nef, and Scott Evans into Barbieland was a no-brainer. …
Daniel Reynolds, Out Magazine
…Is “Barbie” a movie for adults? It’s certainly a film about a children’s toy. But that toy also goes through a dramatic, existential crisis comparable to that of a Freshman Philosophy major. …isn’t a children’s movie… Barbie’s PG-13 rating is no mistake. …
Ted Bajer, MovieWeb
…a superbly crafted mockery while also managing to be a heartfelt social commentary… impressive cinematography and impeccable craftsmanship, but its storyline is drowned out by too many themes all fighting for the front seat. There are themes of feminism, patriarchy, pretty privilege, gender norms, self-love and self-discovery, but it is over-saturated in options…
Lillie Rohan, New Zealand Herald
Margot Robbie’s Mattel movie is lousy… The packaging of “Barbie” is a lot more fun than the tedious toy inside the box. …“Barbie” is an exhausting, spastic, self-absorbed and overwrought disappointment. …just another ploy to sell merchandise. …an empty movie designed for the vacuous social media age… [1/4]
Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post
…every man in this film is a bigot or a loser - my daughter (20)…loved every second; me, not so much. …it’s not intrinsically that good a film. It’s uneven, disjointed, the plot makes no real sense — and the dead hand of corporate America weighs heavily upon it. …It’s a deeply anti-man movie, an extension of all that TikTok feminism that paints any form of masculinity — other than the most anodyne — as toxic and predatory, and frames women’s liberation not as a movement based on achieving equality between the sexes but as a cultural revenge vehicle designed to write men out of the story altogether. …
Sarah Vine, The Daily Mail
…thunderous feminist message…leavened by plenty of sharp gags… the laughs rely throughout on that one-note joke repackaged over and over, that Barbie Land is the real world inverted…
Brian Viner, The Daily Mail
“Barbie” is a template for how not to write a crowd-pleasing Hollywood feature. …its makers would have been well advised to…question the wisdom of stuffing this fantasy-comedy with references to the mastectomy and IRS troubles of the doll’s creator, gynecology, the mass devastation of indigenous people by smallpox, and (this comes up many times) “irrepressible thoughts of death.” …
Kyle Smith, The Wall Street Journal
…Are Barbie dolls demeaning or empowering? Director Greta Gerwig and her co-writer Noah Baumbach opt for the latter theory…[3/5]
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (UK)
…The question we’re supposed to ask, as our jaws hang open, is “How did the Mattel pooh-bahs let these jokes through?” But those real-life execs, counting their doubloons in advance, know that showing what good sports they are will help rather than hinder them. They’re on team Barbie, after all! And they already have a long list of toy-and-movie tie-ins on the drawing board. …
Stephanie Zacharek, Time
…the trouble with trying to sneak subversive ideas into a project so inherently compromised is that, rather than get away with something, you might just create a new way for a brand to sell itself. …
Alison Willmore, Vulture (New York Magazine)
A candy-colored confection of knowing humor and bitter irony… Viewers who have nurtured a loving if complicated relationship with Barbie might feel seen by the end of the film. Whether they’ll feel satisfied is another question entirely — especially when it comes to the film’s letdown of an ending, which was no doubt perfect on the page but lands with a deflating, didactic thud. …
Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
a subversive, feminist triumph… More than anything, “Barbie” is one of the most subversive, unexpected summer blockbusters in recent memory. … occasionally ditches coherent plotting in favor of philosophical treatises that drag rather than inspire… [3/4]
Kevin Slane, The Boston Globe
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—To any parent wanting to take their kids to see this show, be aware. It promotes feminism and LGBTQIA beliefs. Kids will be drawn to this due to it being Barbie and the bright colors, lots of pink. The movie will draw little kids in in order to indoctrinate them with LGBTQIA+ propaganda.
Matt (USA)
Negative—After what I read I won’t be going to see this movie.
Charlene (USA)
Negative— As a Heterosexual Man, let me say I only saw the trailer for “Barbie’ when I went to see “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” While Margot Robbie is Stunning, and she gave a superb performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street’ the “Barbie” movie itself looked liked brainless, mindless drivel. The only way I would watch this movie is on a Streaming Service at Home and even then only if blonde models Elle Johnson or Lindsey Pelas were cast as Barbie, they would both be much better for the role.
Jeff Andrew Winters, age 43 (USA)