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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 31, 2023



FILMS based on games and toys include “Dungeons and Dragons”, “G.I. Joe”, “Masters of the Universe”, “Lego Movie” and the big hit franchise “Transformers”.

They’re all action-adventure type of films.

“Barbie” is different as it’s based on a doll. And obviously, all those who loved the doll want to see the movie as the film version is such a mammoth hit worldwide! 

When we went to see it, so many young people were dressed in pink to show how much they love Barbie!

There are so many direct to video Barbie animated movies made by Mattel which our granddaughters watched as kids.

The new fantasy-comedy film is live action, directed by Greta Gerwig (Oscar nominee for ”Lady Bird” and “Little Women”) and co-written with her partner, Noah Baumbach (known for the Oscar-nominated “Marriage Story”.)

The first thing you notice in the movie is the delightful eye candy pink visuals in Barbieland, where women rule and have successful careers as Barbie doctor, lawyer, president, etc.

The main Barbie or stereotypical Barbie is blonde, played by Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”, Harley Quinn). 

The other Barbies are interracial, with Alexandra Shipp as the black Writer Barbie, Issa Rae as the black President Barbie, Ritu Arya as the Asian Journalist Barbie, Anna Cruz Kayne (who’s Fil-Am) as Judge Barbie and others, including a transsexual, Hari Nef as Dr. Barbie.  

In contrast, the males, all named Ken, just play all day on the beach, led by Ryan Gosling as the lead Beach Ken, who loves Barbie but she is more interested in remaining independent and unattached. 

The other Ken variations are also interracial, with Simu Liu as the Asian Ken, Kingsley Ben Adir and Ncuti Gatwa as the black Kens, Scott Evans (young brother of Chris) as the Caucasian Ken, John Cena as a mermaid Ken, and others.

The first part is really cute, amusing and bursting with energy, but it gets lost along the way with its hardsell woman empowerment message being conveyed with the subtlety of a wrecking ball. 

Barbie suddenly worries about a lot of things like her mortal existence, becoming flat-footed, developing cellulites. 

Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon) says she must go into the real world for a journey of self discovery, to search for the girl who owns her, Sasha (Arianna Greenblatt).

She finds her and discovers that it is her mother, Gloria (America Ferrera, “Betty la Fea”), who works at Mattel, who is having her own identity crisis that she projects to Barbie.

Gloria and Sasha then travel to Barbieland with Barbie and discover that Ken has taken over and has turned the matriarchal Babieland into a patriarchy. 

The women have to be submissive as wives and housemaids to men. She is disconcerted but Gloria then delivers a long aria to inspire her on what it truly takes to be a woman. 

Barbie and friends then try their best to bring down the Kens who usurped their thrones to regain their power in Barbieland. 

It is at this point that one wonders if the writers have lost their way on how to give a neat wrap up for the whole stylized shebang. 

So the maker of the doll, Ruth Handler (played by Rhea Perlman), appears to Barbie to explain to her that her story has no fixed ending as it is still evolving. 

The film ends with Barbie about to see a gynecologist as she has no sex organ.

We have to admit that it’s really a tough balancing act to craft a film that not only pays homage to the famous doll but also make it satirical with a feministic statement. 

Gerwig did her best to make it render good service to Barbie’s fans, to followers of her works who know she is socially aware about gender politics, and the makers of Barbie who should not be offended even if she takes potshots on how they’ve exploited Barbie through the years.

Margot Robbie certainly looks perfect as Barbie, giving an earnest portrayal, but the real surprise here is Ryan Gosling who often upstages her as the hilarious, scene-stealing Ken, particularly in his sprightly song and dance numbers. 

And we’re also amazed that Simu Liu is able to match him in the musical numbers.

They get good support from Ferrera and Greenblatt, Michael Cera as Allan (the only male doll who is not a Ken), and Will Ferrell as the Mattel top honcho. 

But where the film really shines is in the dazzling production design, costumes and cinematography. For these aspects alone, the film is already worth seeing.