‘Barbie’ Lives Up to the Hype and Feels Like a Classic from the First Viewing

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'Barbie' still.
Warner Bros.

This summer, get ready as two legendary icons come together on the big screen. Don’t miss the all-new Chevy Blazer EV and Barbie herself, in the new movie BARBIE, only in theaters July 21.

*Warning: Minor spoilers ahead*

Perhaps part of the magic of Barbie is that she's never been a real girl. She's something young kids use to play pretend. She's plastic, a word we use to describe others as “artificial” or “insincere.” She's got a gorgeous, never-ending wardrobe and a perfect smile painted onto her face. But what would it mean if we imagined Barbie as a real, feeling, living and breathing human?

After months of intense press, Barbiecore trends and hot pink appearing nearly everywhere, writer-director Greta Gerwig's highly-anticipated and endlessly-discussed Barbie is finally here. In the first-ever live action film about the doll that's been in households across the world, Gerwig and co-writer Noah Baumbach ask big questions about feminism, beauty standards, relationships and more (and I got to sit down for an early screening at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City).

But does Barbie live up to its sky-high hype? Yes, it totally does.

Gerwig is known for writing emotionally wrenching stories that offer complex portraits of the women at their center, like Lady Bird, Frances Ha and her Oscar-winning remake of Little Women. Barbie feels like a continuation of all her past work, as it explores friendships between women, the nuances of mother-daughter relationships and the challenges of navigating a patriarchal world.

Barbie follows its titular character, played by Margot Robbie (who refers to herself as “Stereotypical Barbie”). In Barbieland, women reign supreme, and they work in the various jobs that Barbie dolls have held over the years—president, doctor, physicist, etc. The Barbies share their world with the Kens, a group of beach-hanging, disco-dancing men who prefer engaging in more recreational activities than their female counterparts. Stereotypical Ken (Ryan Gosling) is in love with Barbie, but she only has interest in hanging out with her friends, much to his dismay. However, everything changes when Barbie starts having feelings of sadness and she goes into the real world to try to change things back to the way they were.

When Barbie and Ken travel into “the human world” (AKA our world), they make two major discoveries—Ken finds out about the patriarchy and brings this societal structure back to Barbieland, convincing the other Kens that they should be the ones in charge. Meanwhile, Barbie meets a teenage girl who tells her that everything she represents is what's wrong with the world, and it leaves Barbie in shambles.

As it turns out, this teenager is the daughter of a woman who works for Mattel, named Gloria (America Ferrera). It was Gloria's love for Barbie, but also her recent bouts of sadness that were altering Stereotypical Barbie's moods in the first place. Gloria is one of the most magnetic characters in the film, and she ends up helping Stereotypical Barbie in her quest to save Barbieland. Plus, Gloria gives a winning monologue toward the final third of the film about the dichotomies of being a woman, and it's a speech that will leave viewers in awe (in our theater, the entire audience clapped and cheered once she was finished).

Alongside Robbie, Ferrera and Gosling (who are all so perfectly cast), the film features comical and moving work from the rest of its star-studded ensemble, including Issa Rae, Simu Liu, Kate McKinnon, Michael Cera and more.

Without spoiling too much, I'll say this: Halfway through the movie, my friend turned to me and said: “This feels like the Legally Blonde of the decade.”

In a lot of ways, there are similarities to Legally Blonde—this is a story about a woman who is smart, driven, stylish and obsessed with the color pink. It's about a woman who gets misunderstood by many, but who challenges their expectations.

Barbie also has hints of many other beloved films—Pinocchio, Toy Story, Elf. But while all of these classics have male figures at their center, Barbie is concerned with what it means to be a toy that has not only been marketed to girls, but one that is also modeled after them. Of course, throughout the years, Barbie has been criticized for being a symbol of a specific body type and specific beauty standards. But also, these dolls have continually evolved with the times, and they represent the hopes and dreams of so many young people. In Barbie, there's a notable moment where Robbie's character is crying about not being beautiful and the narrator (Helen Mirren) makes a joke about how Robbie might not be the best person to deliver that line.

But in the end, Barbie shines light on what Barbie was meant to represent all along: A world where women can be many different things and strive for many different dreams without fear of being held back or minimized.

PureWow Review: 5 out of 5 Stars

Barbie already feels like a classic from the first viewing. It borrows from beloved films about toys but offers a uniquely feminist perspective. It's a comical, moving and thoughtful film that will surely dominate the box office, and it's another winning addition from Gerwig. We all think we understand this doll, but Barbie proves us wrong, and it leaves us thinking long after the credits roll.

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Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Joel is the Associate Editor for News & Entertainment and has been reporting on all things pop culture for over 5 years. Before working at PureWow, he served as a Features...