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Barbie (2023) Review

The creation of the Barbie doll was a transformative movement in the toymaking industry as it quickly launched Mattel into endless fame. While the brand has been greatly associated with other iconic franchise lines such as Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, UNO, American Girl, and countless other names, Barbie's debut in 1959 turned into the company's best-selling toy. Since, Barbie has been a prominent staple in households around the world, being passed on from generation to generation. Its universal influence and prominence have allowed for over 40 animated Barbie movies to be made since the doll's initial cinematic debut in 2001, and Greta Gerwig's long-awaited live-action interpretation is worth every ounce of high anticipation. Her stylistic and witty take on the picture-perfect doll challenges the idea that life in plastic is fantastic, per Aqua's ballad inspired by Barbie herself, and proves itself more to be just one half of the "Barbenheimmer" weekend.

The rest of Barbie's run time is a significant step up from its opening scene, and while the opening scene may feel a bit too out of touch with the rest of the film's overall agenda, the mismatched introduction allows the film to flourish. It takes a moment to reflect on the evolution of the creation of toys throughout the ages -especially from the feminine point of view - and acknowledge that a demographic's interests cannot be confined to one stereotype. Barbie challenges British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor's use of the color pink, but these bubble-gum hues are seen more as a testament to feminity than a way to abide by gender expectations.

Barbie is a tribute to feminity while packing a feminist punch. Its biting commentary on politics, genders, expectations, and stereotypes rallies against the societal normalcy that has perpetuated outdated ideas in the modern day. Its uncensored approach to fighting back against how the gender binary has favored masculinity holds no bars while digging deep into an unpleasant truth. Barbie faces the discomfort of reality through prickly, bold, and honest depictions of how women are perceived through a genuinely creative lens. Gerwig's work honors the idea that Barbie can be anything she wants, and through her Barbie variants, continues to encourage the idea of dream-chasing in any career. It also reflects on how Mattel's Barbie brand is viewed, using capitalism as a narrative device while noting that there have been concerns about how the doll itself has previously impacted body image issues through unrealistic standards. Barbie is necessarily self-aware, both through tongue-in-cheek humor and thought-provoking dialogue. Its proud, unapologetic sense of self paired with an outstanding leading cast allows Babie to enjoy itself while sharing powerful sentiments.

A truly entertaining and surprisingly musical screenplay explores both Barbie's world and the real one. The set and costume design for Barbie pay homage to countless lines of Barbie dolls, merchandise, and accessories, bringing them to life through craftmanship ornate with nostalgic detail. The use of practical and virtual effects while bringing Barbieland to life captures the most memorable aspects of the toy line while finding a unique way to bring them onto the big screen. Barbie not only succeeds in perfecting its dreamhouses and Corvettes but has perfected the casting of Barbie and Ken. Margot Robbie owns Barbie through both her physical and emotional portrayal, humanizing the doll as she experiences existentialism and misogyny first-hand. Ryan Gosling's level of ken-ergy brought to the role of Ken is immaculate. He's effortlessly hilarious while processing the effects of both positive and negative masculinity. As a whole, Barbie has an instinctual sense of humor, but Gosling's comedic chops (and musical theater skills) allow Barbie to not take itself so seriously all of the time. Just as the film takes an introspective look at feminity, it dedicates time to evaluating the spectrum of masculinity in a way that satirizes it without straying too far from its inspiration.

Barbie is full of heart and joy while becoming uncomfortably close to what it means to be alive. Gerwig's latest cinematic feat is moving, daring, and intelligent all while being one of the most creative movies of the year. Despite introducing a few conflicts too late in the film, Barbie is as smart as it is funny. This movie isn't just fun to watch: it's sharp, witty, and captures the reality of the femme experience. 9/10.

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