NEW YORK (OSV News) – Life in plastic may be fantastic but the tedious ideology-driven comedy “Barbie” (Warner Bros.) is not. Although genuinely objectionable elements are relatively few, moreover, this is distinctly not a movie for the age group to which the figurine of the title is primarily marketed.
Margot Robbie plays the famous Mattel doll that first arrived on store shelves back in 1959. Together with her sidekick Ken (Ryan Gosling), Barbie inhabits a pink-hued feminist paradise where the president, the nine justices of the Supreme Court and all Nobel Prize winners are women.
Troubled and bewildered by hitherto alien thoughts of death as well as by a sudden physical imperfection – a patch of cellulite on her leg – our heroine consults one of her many alter egos, Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon). The problem, it seems, is that whoever is currently playing with Standard Barbie is sad and her sorrow is affecting her toy.
So it’s time to journey to the real world to meet the cause of the difficulty and, presumably, cheer her up sufficiently to restore the status quo. Ken stows away in the back seat of Barbie’s car and thus gets to share in the adventure.
Arriving in Los Angeles, Barbie discovers the tribulations – and Ken the joys – of patriarchy. Barbie also learns to her surprise that, far from being revered as a symbol of female empowerment, she’s reviled as the embodiment of women’s subjugation.
Ken manages to return to Barbie Land first and proceeds to imbue it with male dominance. Thus, by the time Barbie gets back to her natural setting, it’s not only been tainted by warped values but turned topsy-turvy.
Barbie will need the cooperation of all her many eponymous iterations to avert cultural and political disaster. Fortunately, she’ll also have the help of Gloria (America Ferrera) and Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), a mother-and-daughter duo from the realm of human beings.
As scripted by director Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, the picture bemoans the plight of women while blithely stereotyping men as selfish, childish and aggressive. With the rivalry of the sexes raging, little of the humor (Will Ferrell plays the dizzy CEO of Mattel) and less of the sentiment (Rhea Perlman plays the wise granny who co-founded the company) works.
Despite all the controversy that continues to swirl around her, Barbie has undeniably proved a long-lasting source of enjoyment for youngsters. Her namesake movie, by contrast, is too closely focused on its own agenda to provide older viewers with much entertainment and too freewheeling to be acceptable for little kids.
The film contains stylized physical violence, a few instances each of mild swearing and crass talk, mature wordplay and brief sexual and anatomical humor. The OSV News classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.