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TOtimes Movies: Barbie comes to life on the big screen


TORONTO, August 18, 2023 – When Mattel embarked on the ambitious journey to bring Barbie to life on the big screen, they had a constellation of stars in mind. The process of finding the perfect fit for the iconic doll’s role was nothing short of a Hollywood saga, marked by twists and turns that ultimately led to the unexpected casting of Margot Robbie, who also produced the film. The initial phase of the project saw comedic powerhouse Amy Schumer attached to the endeavour. However, creative differences led her to part ways, as she recounted, “They definitely didn’t want to do it the way I wanted to do it, the only way I was interested in doing it.”

Barbie surveys Barbieland, The film is now playing in theatres across the city. image via Official Barbie Trailer, Warner Bros

Amid the search for the ideal Barbie, Anne Hathaway’s name emerged, swirling in talks for the titular role for months. The casting web expanded, encompassing a multitude of potential candidates. With Greta Gerwig at the directorial helm, the team embarked on a quest for someone who exuded what Robbie referred to as “Barbie energy.” It was Margot Robbie herself who articulated that “Gal Gadot is Barbie energy.” She went on to explain that Gal Gadot’s impossibly striking beauty is paired with a genuine sincerity and an enthusiastic kindness that makes her both captivating and endearingly approachable, almost to the point of dorkiness. Robbie’s insight into Gadot’s aura held promise, yet the stars didn’t align for Gadot to step into the Barbie shoes at that moment. Herein enters Greta Gerwig, who, fresh from the acclaim of directing “Little Women ” and the indie darling “Lady Bird,” had a suggestion for Robbie: consider herself for the role. After some thought, Robbie took up the challenge with an unwavering commitment. Every fibre of her being resonated with the spirit of Barbie. And so, Margot Robbie stepped forward to embody the iconic doll, infusing her own unique energy into the character.


Beginning with an inspired homage to the opening of Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” featuring narration by Helen Mirren (who pipes in, sometimes hysterically, throughout the movie), followed by a fabulous Lizzo number that sets the tone for our arrival in Barbieland.

Stereotypical Barbie

In the enchanting world of the stereotypical Barbie, portrayed with irresistible charisma by Margot Robbie, everything unfolds with pristine perfection. From her morning ritual under an imaginary shower to the heart-shaped waffle that graces her breakfast table, each element dances in harmonious sync with her pastel-colored car and an impeccably coordinated wardrobe. But that’s not all – her circle of friends boasts luminaries like Doctor Barbie, Supreme Court Justice Barbie, Nobel Prize Winner Barbie, and the illustrious President Barbie. Every day that dawns upon the vibrant realm of Barbieland seems painted with the brushstrokes of perfection itself. In addition to the Barbies, Barbieland is populated with a veritable Ken smorgasbord, led by bleach blond and beachy Ken (Ryan Gosling and his abs and pecs). He’s as obsessed with Stereotypical Barbie as his best buddy Allan (Michael Cera at his deadpan best) is with him. His rival/buddy Kens include those played by Kingsley Ben-Adir and Simi Liu, to name a couple.


Yet, a sudden quiver in the idyllic narrative jolts the very fabric of Barbie’s existence. In the midst of a grandiose blowout party, a query as unexpected as a plot twist resonates from Barbie’s lips: “Do you guys ever think about dying?” Like a record scratch that halts the music, this haunting question punctures the jubilant atmosphere, casting a shadow over the euphoria. It’s a moment we’ve all experienced – when reality emerges from the depths of our thoughts, turning the spotlight away from the facade of perfection.

Barbie is now playing in theatres across the city. Image capture via Official Barbie Trailer, Warner Bros

The Multiverse

In the aftermath of Barbie’s candid introspection, the once-flawless veneer begins to crack. The non-existent shower water takes on a serious chill, the toaster betrays her waffle to a charred fate, and even the path to her pastel haven is marred by a stumble. And then, the ultimate symbol of Barbie’s quintessential identity – her unyielding heels – suddenly forsake their iconic status, leaving her with the stark reality of flat feet.

Barbie and ever-loyal beau Ken (Gosling) are then forced to cross into the real world to repair the rip in the space/time continuum that threatens their idyllic existence. The multiverse even extends to dolls it seems.

Back in Her Box

Throughout the film Gerwig doesn’t stop lampooning pop culture. She takes a jab at everything from The Godfather to The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Zack Snyder’s obsessive fan base along with their peculiarly male-skewing demographic.

Gerwig also sticks it to Barbie manufacturer Mattel in the form of a bumbling boss played by Will Ferrell – who proudly informs us Mattel had a woman chief executive “in the nineties” – and his equally incompetent, all-male board set about trying to put Barbie “back in her box” upon her arrival in the real world.

Barbie is now playing in theatres across the city. image via Official Barbie Trailer, Warner Bros

The Real World

For Ken, meanwhile, the trip to the real world opens his eyes to a society where men can be more than just objects, and our two leads are both set adrift from the moorings that have underpinned their entire existence in Barbieland, with potentially disastrous results.

The Real World forces Barbie to confront the disappointment that Barbies do not help women. Gerwig tackles the controversies about body image and consumerism, but overall the Real World is not all bad, though Gerwig makes some nods to post-2016 presidential election problems with the erection of a wall and destabilization of the Barbies’ governing bodies.

Gerwig’s Direction Shines

Gerwig’s “Barbie” is ambitious in its aim at traditional and contemporary gendered roles, but when Gerwig diverts focus from stereotypical Barbie to other characters, there’s a noticeable lack of depth – the animated dolls are too doll-like. Ken gets a lot of screen time, but his ultimate transformation into a charismatic leader feels like we missed an epiphany. Still, Gerwig’s “Barbs” targets social norms smartly and rides the edgy line between realms and what is genuine and real, and what is not.

The film’s premise, while rooted in Barbie’s fantasy realm, delves into relatable themes. As Barbie grapples with existential questions and navigates her sudden imperfections, the audience is treated to a fresh and thought-provoking perspective on the facade of perfection that often dominates our own lives. The masterful storytelling encourages us to reflect on our vulnerabilities and embrace our own idiosyncrasies.

Greta Gerwig’s direction shines as she weaves together the threads of perfection and poignancy. The visual aesthetics of Barbieland, characterized by vibrant colours and larger-than-life settings, provide an immersive experience. However, it’s Gerwig’s ability to juxtapose the dazzling exterior with the internal struggles that gives the film its emotional resonance.

Barbie is now playing in theatres across the city. Image capture via Official Barbie Trailer, Warner Bros

Comedy and Introspection

“Barbie” benefits from its unique blend of comedy and introspection. The film’s witty dialogue and comedic situations keep the audience engaged while subtly nudging them towards contemplation. The central question – “Do you guys ever think about dying?” – is a poignant reminder that beneath the veneer of perfection lies the universality of human experiences.

Perfection & Authenticity

In the end, “Barbie” is a remarkable portrayal of transformation, both on and off the screen. Margot Robbie’s captivating performance, coupled with Gerwig’s directorial finesse, creates a cinematic experience that resonates beyond the fantasy realm. As Barbie confronts her vulnerabilities and redefines her identity, she becomes a symbol of empowerment and self-discovery.

“Barbie” is a testament to the power of storytelling to bridge the gap between perfection and authenticity, leaving audiences entertained and introspective in equal measure.

by Myles Shane

Other articles from totimes.ca – otttimes.ca – mtltimes.ca

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