NUNN'S THEATER HABIT
Barbie busts out of the box this summer
Wed. July 19, 2023 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn
Are you a Barbie, a Ken, or somewhere in between? Find out in the new live-action Barbie movie that falls somewhere between plastic and fantastic.
This Warner Bros. Pictures adventure begins with a trip to Barbie Land. Multiple Barbies and Kens are all living in harmony in a Barbie world on a brightly colored playset. Reality eventually comes crashing down on Barbie and she crosses into the real world to discover some harsh truths about her life.
Stereotypical Barbie is played by Margot Robbie and there's a huge cast full of guest stars and cameo appearances. Robbie and Ryan Gosling, as Ken, were not the original choices for their roles and there's a joke made about the unusual miscasting. That's not to say they aren't good, it just would have been a very different film with other performers playing the same parts. The co-writer of the script and director Greta Gerwig have a lot of territory to cover with this female-centric piece and sometimes this project crams way too many crayons into the box.
The creators don't know how to wrap up this tale of a complicated doll and use Helen Mirren as the narrator to cover up a few flaws such as this.
America Ferrera spouts a powerful, lengthy speech about the expectations placed upon women in society and Rhea Perlman brings wisdom to the table with her nuanced performance as the iconic Ruth Handler. Will Farrell and Kate McKinnon could read a toy choking hazard label and make it funny. They elevate the material and hit the right notes to keep the story moving.
Female-identifying singers drive home the music on the soundtrack including Dua Lipa, who also plays Mermaid Barbie opposite John Cena as Mermaid Ken. Mark Ronson produced Barbie: The Album and he should have left off the male singers such as Kid Laroi and Dominic Fike. Ryan Gosling should have saved his "Kenergy" and skipped trying to make the audience feel sorry for him for his solo track "I'm Just Ken."
Barbie's house is simply a visual dream; the set designs and costumes could possibly win awards in the future. There's plenty to see for longtime toy lovers and movie fans will enjoy the references strategically placed along the way. Mattel Inc. is slated to have at least 45 cinematic possibilities in the works so buckle up in your Star Vette for a long ride!
The magic of this first live-action film is that it will resonate differently for each audience member depending on their individual journey in life with gender and equal opportunities. Barbie will spark up healthy conversations after watching it between people of all ages and is recommended for those over 13 years old.
Perhaps one day there will be a sequel about how gay males were bullied for playing with dolls as children or why action figures were socially acceptable in the G.I. Joe franchise. Until then we have a female empowering flick that tackles disparity amongst the sexes just in time for the summer. Barb earns a B+ in that department and an A for effort.