Highly Creative and Hilarious ‘Barbie’ Bends in Many Directions
There were several aspects of the Barbie movie that piqued my interest when I first saw the early trailers for it. One was that the sets and costumes seemed very creative. Secondly, it starred Margot Robbie as Barbie. Robbie is one of the most charismatic and funny female actors on the big screen today. I was captivated by her portrayal of Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino’s film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Additionally, the original Barbie doll was created by Ruth Handler (unfortunately no relation to this writer) in 1959. She and her husband, Elliott Handler, were the owners of Mattel Toys.
The opening sequence of Barbie plays homage to a classic movie and demonstrates that this will be no run-of-the-mill film. In Barbie Land Barbie lives in a fantastical dream house with a two-story circular slide that spins down to a painted pool. Barbie’s car is all-American too, it’s a slightly undersized early 1960’s pink corvette convertible. It was fascinating to watch the car move so smoothly with Barbie driving it around town and saying hi to all the Barbies. Including President Barbie and the supreme court Barbies. For the travel sequences involving the corvette, boat, rocket, and tandem bike, director Greta Gerwig kept all those vehicles and actors stationary and had the scenery pulled manually behind and in front of them. She didn’t want to use CGI for those scenes.
And of course there are plenty of Kens and one Alan. They are originally intended to just support Barbie. That is until the tables start turning. Stereotypical Barbie (Robbie’s character), starts having feelings, and thoughts about death. Her feet have also gone flat from the permanent high heel arches. Barbie’s told that she needs to see Weird Barbie to solve her problems. Beach Ken, is having feelings too, including unrequited love for Barbie. After finding out about patriarchy and horses he and the other Kens make changes to Barbie Land so they are in charge. Can the Barbie’s wrest back control?
There are two very touching scenes between Barbie and the late Ruth Handler, played by a noted actress (no spoiler here). The entire film is a cavalcade of talented actors including Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Will Ferrell, Simu Liu, America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, and Michael Cera. There are also several quick cameos by celebrities and Helen Mirren narrates.
Mad props go to Greta Gerwig (writer/director), Noah Baumbach (writer), Sarah Greenwood (set design), Katie Spencer (decorator), Jacqueline Durran (costumes), and Rodrigo Prieto (cinematographer). The soundtrack is very good with songs by, Dominic Fike, Fifty Fifty, Gayle, Haim, Ice Spice, Kali, Karol G, Khalid, Charli XCX, Sam Smith, Lizzo, Nicki Minaj, Billie Eilish, PinkPantheress, Ava Max, Tame Impala, the Kid Laroi, Ryan Gosling, and Dua Lipa.
Barbie is a highly creative and hilarious movie. Its comedy is built upon jabs at beauty, love, politics, women’s rights, and the right to not fit the mold. Mattel doesn’t take itself too seriously either with a funny look at its marketing efforts over the years.
Whether you love or hate Barbie there’s a strong possibility you will enjoy Barbie. Warning there was so much pink used in the set and costumes that your eyes may perceive a slight pink haze when exiting the movie much like the red light effect in “Seinfeld’s” Kenny Roger’s Roasters chicken sign episode. There was so much of a specific pink paint used for the Barbie sets that it aggravated a supply chain shortage of Pantone 219 caused by COVID-19. If you’re seeing the intellectual drama Oppenheimer, see it first, then Barbie. Barbie will help you get your joy back.
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.