Does ‘Barbie’ Movie Deserve All The Controversy, Or The Hype?
Saw the “Barbie” movie. Wanted to wait until the hype died down. Brilliant script, great movie. I will be shocked if it’s not (deservedly) nominated for a bunch of Oscars.
First off, it’s very smart, very meta, and very funny. I laughed a lot throughout. But it’s also not necessarily for kids, they won’t get a lot of it. The women to the right of me were laughing along with me at most of it, the little girls to the left of me not so much, and in fact, a couple times they were saying to their parents “why are they laughing, what’s so funny?” Not so much sexual innuendo, although there is that, more social commentary that’s sharp and witty but will go over the heads of most kids.
Another thing is that most of the commentary I’ve seen on it, of course, misses the point of a lot of it. It’s very good at playing the surface of things while also being a parody and a satire of those things. It makes fun of both sides of the political aisle, and in particular the phoniness and performative nature of both.
Both worlds are played for parody — the Barbie world is the more obvious lampoon for its more aged and readily identified tropes, but the “real world” is likewise over-the-top in its presentation, and the America Ferrera character and her family are a sly parody of the Disney show family template of the last couple of decades — dumbass Dad, smart and stressed Mom, moody sardonic teen daughter (when we first meet her and her friends, they look incredibly similar to the Bratz dolls of the ’90s and ’00s), the only thing it’s missing is the precocious smart alec little brother. And Will Ferrell and the Mattel board are a broad swipe at every dumb corporate entity we’ve seen in comedy films going back to Dr. Evil and Mugatu.
It also slyly comments on how pretty much every element of identity is now shaped and exploited by commercialism and the grasping at identity tropes of both sides are just trying to make sense and find some meaning in the bigger scheme of life — in fact, at the end, one of the best characters in the film pretty much comes right out and says that quite directly.
But what really impressed me about it is how heartfelt it is in many places. There are some really touching moments in the film. One of them involving the America Ferrara character, another really good moment between Ken and Barbie, and an especially wonderful moment at the end of the film between Barbie and an older woman played by Rhea Pearlman (no spoilers). The central characters are more complex than those around them, and the irony is that the most “real” characters in many ways are a ghost and the human manifestation of a doll.
There are a lot of layers to it, a lot to unpack. It’s a terrific script, well directed, with fantastic performances, particularly by the leads. And, like I said, what’s been lost in a lot of the reviews and opinion pieces on it is that it’s really a very entertaining and funny movie. I enjoyed it solely on that level alone. If you’re easily offended or looking to be offended, well, whatever, maybe it’s not for you, but if you can go into it with an open mind, have some laughs, and really see that it’s a film about all of us getting beyond labels, stereotypes and tropes and finding the commonalities that join us all and discovering who we really are individually beyond all the bullshit society ladles upon us, then you’ll really enjoy it.