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Review: Barbie – more human than human

I am sincerely shocked to be telling you that Barbie is one of the best movies of the year!
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Rating: 9 out of 10.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Going into a film where something like the toy company Mattel is featured in the opening presentation credits is enough to make one feel ill at ease for the movie to follow. It’s usually a warning that you are in for a two-hour commercial for their products. And so it is at the beginning of Barbie, but, wow, was I surprised at how smart, thought-provoking, heart-warming and touching this picture is – not to mention that it is also delightfully fun.

Never would I have ever believed, as a sixty-plus year old man, that I would be sitting in a theater shedding tears over the story of a plastic toy in a Barbie movie. I think that’s a testament to the power of Greta Gerwig’s writing and directing and to the outstanding performance of Margot Robbie as a Barbie doll who is more human than human.

The film begins with a hilarious homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey, then moves right into Barbieland where everything and everyone is perfect. It’s like a city where the fantasy toys are contained and controlled as you might imagine the children playing with them would see it.

Everything is awesome, until one day Barbie wakes up with an existential crisis and with thoughts of death in her mind. Yes, it gets pretty deep, pretty quickly. That said, I don’t think this is really a film for children, although I’m sure young girls will be anxious to see it. (Moms and Dads, be prepared to answer a lot of tough questions if you bring your kiddo to this film.)

Barbie is told to visit “Weird Barbie” (Kate McKinnon) to figure out what is wrong with her, and she’s told that she must journey to the real world and confront the person playing with her and help resolve her problems. Ken, wonderfully played with perfect innocent-goofiness by Ryan Gosling, sneaks into Barbie’s car and they are both soon fish-out-of-water amidst our dark, ugly reality.


While Barbie looks for her owner and confronts the CEO of Mattel (Will Ferrell), Ken learns all about the real-world patriarchy and heads back to Barbieland to take control of it, together with the other Kens (including his main competitor, played by Simu Liu).

Barbie finds her person (America Ferrera), but then must travel back to save Barbieland from the disaster the Kens have turned it into. Smart societal commentary and wackiness ensues, including some catchy songs and elaborate dance numbers.

Also of note is the fantastic art and costume design in this film and its excellent music, topped with a heartbreaking single by Billie Eilish, What Was I Made For? A song that will bring you to tears all on its own.

As mentioned, Margot Robbie’s Barbie and her search to find meaning in her life is heart-breaking and oh so human. Her journey will not only touch every girl who has ever played with the toy then grown up to face reality, but also every man who has a heart and empathy for the struggles of the women in his life. I am sincerely shocked to be telling you that Barbie is one of the best movies of the year!

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.