Review: Barbie – Breaking Down A Toy Icon

There is no bigger or as well-known toy for girls icon than Barbie. The doll and the franchise of Barbie have been a major part of pop culture for many years, influencing the many facets of women in the public eye. Despite many of the criticisms about Barbie and the questions about her impact on how young girls develop from a young age, Barbie has done a lot of good and pushed forward many things in a positive way. But while there’s plenty to endlessly debate and enjoy about Barbie, Greta Gerwig’s movie about Barbie seems to only want to break down the icon in ways that feel shallow and indecisive. The visuals of the movie are definitely in line with the legacy of the doll we’ve come to know, but the core of the film feels very mean-spirited and confused in its effort to be mature about Barbie.

Barbie is a movie that takes place in the real world and in the fictional world of Barbieland. Barbie lives in this world with other Barbie dolls as they have the best day every day. Every Barbie has a position that leads Barbieland while the Ken dolls are just around. One day, dark thoughts start to come out of Barbie’s head and cause her to experience an existential crisis. Barbie needs to travel to the real world and find the cause of the problem by finding the girl who used to play with her and see why she is experiencing the dark thoughts, which takes her and Ken on a crazy adventure between both worlds.

There’s a lot that happens in the Barbie movie that makes the movie move at a pace that feels disjointed. At the start, the film builds up Barbieland as a utopia for women that is a role reverse from the real world, which has every part of it looking as though it were pulled straight out of a Barbie TV commercial. Some of the houses, cars, clothing, and items we see are recreations of many Barbie sets; which is great to see. But as the movie goes on and Barbie goes to the real world with Ken, many things take a hard swerve into a darker tone and edgier themes that feel incredibly out of place. It’s as if the movie cannot decide whether it wants to be a mature deep dive into the legacy of Barbie, a fun and comedic adventure, or a thesis on gender roles and the struggles of women in the real world. Though it tries to weave everything together in a clever way, it isn’t successful by the end.

The worst part about Barbie is how the film becomes incredibly preachy, with a few moments that try to make a larger point and instead end up feeling obnoxious and harsh to the audience and its characters. The conversations between most characters midway through towards the end feel as if characters are detailing bullet points on an essay about gender studies as opposed to being the characters in situations. The movie touches on feminism, the concept of patriarchy, and other related things but in the process seemingly forgets the fun parts of Barbie as a whole.

Barbie has always been a talking point in discussions about feminism and women’s roles in society, but the movie doesn’t feel like it does enough to emphasize the positive impact of the franchise or alternate perspectives outside of one modern lens. The truth is that not every person who resonates with feminism agrees with many statements the movie is trying to make, and the film is unconcerned with that. In some scenes, the messaging works, but for the majority of the movie, things feel way too heavy-handed with one thing and make the movie lose sight of itself.

There are a lot of celebrities and movie stars that appear in Barbie, with Margot Robbie being the focal point of the movie’s original Barbie. While she plays the part of the cheerful and fun Barbie that society has come to know, the story does her a disservice by heavily knocking her down at many points. Some scenes just have such a bitter and mean attitude toward the concept of Barbie as a whole, culminating in a scene that literally shows Barbie breaking down and crying. It doesn’t feel as if this was done in favor of presenting Barbie in a light that could be criticized and admired, it just comes off as overly harsh.

The beginning of the movie shows the ideal day for Barbie, and there are some points where the flair of her Barbie shines in the real world in different ways, but it’s all gone too quickly. Margot Robbie can be a fantastic Barbie when scenes in the movie let her fully embrace the camp and enthusiasm of being the icon, but unfortunately, it’s never fully enough to compete with the film’s obsession with its own messaging.

Most of the other Barbies we see in the film all fill the roles they are presented as. The majority of them are only on screen for a short time, but the ones that are more present in the plot stand out for their unique designs. Issa Ray is President Barbie, Dua Lipa is Mermaid Barbie, and Kate McKinnon is Weird Barbie; with many others being variants of Barbie throughout the years. It’s neat to see so much of the franchise’s history represented in different ways that look very good on the big screen, but there’s so much that gets lost in the story at the same time. Often the different Barbie versions are overshadowed by the personality of the celebrities that play them, as well as the craziness of the story.

The same can be said with all of the Ken dolls we meet, including Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, John Cena, and many others. The central Ken doll, Ryan Gosling, is who we get the most time with and see in more situations than anyone else. This Ken impacts a lot of what happens with the plot but is also given one motivation that doesn’t seem to come full circle by the end of the story. While many have known Barbie and Ken as a pair throughout the years, things don’t end up how one would expect for the sake of the film’s overall message. This feels very bitter and not so sweet, let alone clever or in service to the legacy of Barbie as a whole.

There are other characters from the real world that are part of the story, including the executives at Mattel that run the Barbie franchise. The majority of them are played for laughs in the worst way possible, often going a bit too far with their goofiness that borderlines on absurd and ridiculous. The one sweet part of this is the inclusion of the woman who created Barbie, Ruth Handler, who feels very underutilized. Her inclusion and relevance to the legacy of Barbie feel like it would’ve been smarter to have her involved with things going on in the story more, rather than the very few appearances she has.

At the same time, the mother & daughter story with America Ferrera and Ariana Greenblatt feels as if it could’ve been an entirely different Barbie movie. Arguably, seeing Barbie try to bring together this mother and daughter closer together could have been a more interesting and concise movie, especially when Barbie crosses paths with them. But everything else going on around this subplot and their interactions with Barbie are completely overshadowed by so many other elements needing to be relevant to the main plot.

Barbie is a film that takes some very big swings and ends up missing. The best part of the film is the overall visual design that takes the iconic sets for the toy and brings them to life in ways that feel nearly magical. Seeing Barbie sets that some have owned rendered in a way that feels authentic is great and will definitely make any Barbie super fan happy. But the disjointed tone and overly harsh perspective on the iconic doll feel as though this wasn’t the best way for Barbie to have her live-action movie debut. There are many questionable sides of the movie that make one wonder if it’s really trying to be a Barbie movie or instead a thesis using Barbie as a talking point. Whether you agree or disagree with many of the ideas that the movie tries to present is irrelevant. The bigger question is whether or not this is a good or fun movie about Barbie that most people would enjoy. And unfortunately, the answer to that question is a disappointing no.

What do you think about the Barbie movie? Will you be checking it out anytime soon? And did you grow up having Barbie toys and playsets? Let us know your thoughts about Barbie down below in the comment section!

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The movie has some great visuals, especially when the Barbie toy sets are brought to life. Unfortunately, there is a lot of pacing issues and tone shifts that impact the overall experience. A lot of heavy messaging can get in the way of the story, leading to some very bitter moments. While the cast is big and has some good inclusions, much of it is lost in the background. There are some good elements that are just not explored or taken further in light of the Barbie legacy or the plot of the film. strives to be an apolitical, balanced and based pop culture news outlet. However, our contributors are entitled to their individual opinions. Author opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of our video hosts, other site contributors, site editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. This website contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. We disclaim products or services we have received for review purposes, as well as sponsored posts.

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Jakejames Lugo
Jakejames Lugo
Jakejames Lugo is a writer and content creator that has been covering video games, movies, and various sides of entertainment for over a decade. He has published reviews and articles on many different outlets and continues to make content for different platforms. Jakejames also makes video content regularly for places like YouTube and TikTok, and share daily posts about gaming on social media.

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