Barbie review: Greta Gerwig proves that life in plastic really is fantastic

The film will premiere in cinemas on Friday, 21 July

Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in Barbie. (Warner Bros.)
Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie in Barbie. (Warner Bros.)
  • 🎞️ When is Barbie in cinemas: 21 July, 2023

  • ⭐️ Our rating: 5/5

  • 🎭 Who's in it? Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Issa Rae, Simu Liu.

  • 👍 What we liked: The script is brilliant, funny, and an interesting commentary on the state of modern society — Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling embrace the film's campy nature with glee.

  • 👎 What we didn't: A lot of Ken's best jokes were used in trailers, which means they aren't as funny as they could have been.

  • 📖 What's it about? Barbie's life is perfect until one day it isn't, and in order to bring things back to the way they were the doll decides to head into the real world to find the person responsible.

The hype around Greta Gerwig's Barbie film has dominated the conversation in film circles for months, even helping to spawn a new cultural phenomenon alongside Oppenheimer. But does the movie live up to the hype?

Barbie follows the titular doll — one of many — played by Margot Robbie, whose life in Barbieland is perfect. She wakes up with perfect hair, her wardrobe is always immaculate, and she spends her days enjoying life as it comes because Barbie has ensured the real world is a great place for women and girls (at least that's what they believe).

Read more: Ryan Gosling unleashed his 'Ken-ergy' while promoting Barbie

But one day things start to go wrong: Her hair is a mess, her breakfast is burnt, she can't stop thinking about death, and her usually perfectly-arched feet are flat on the ground.

Margot Robbie in Barbie. (Warner Bros.)
Margot Robbie in Barbie. (Warner Bros.)

The only way she can solve the issue and get back to her normal self is if she travels into the real world to find the girl playing with her doll who is projecting her fears onto Barbie, and when she does Ken (Ryan Gosling) decides to join in on the adventure.

Gerwig does a brilliant job of examining the state of modern society through Barbie, because under all that pink is a surprisingly moving story about women trying to find their place in a world that is often rigged against them. It's certainly not a subject you'd initially think of when imagining a film about the ubiquitous plastic toy.

The script — co-written by Noah Baumbach — explores this notion in a thoughtful way, using sharp wit to poke fun at the patriarchy with a nudge-wink to the camera, making valid points without ever feeling preachy.

(L-r) KINGSLEY BEN-ADIR, RYAN GOSLING as Ken and NCUTI GATWA in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BARBIE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ryan Gosling and Ncuti Gatwa in Barbie (Warner Bros.)

There's a thin line between the two but Gerwig skilfully avoids going too far, and it ensures that no-one will feel alienated by the overall message of the story (though no doubt internet trolls may well still find a way to criticise it).

Read more: Barbie writer 's*** the bed' with failed movie

Robbie is captivating as Stereotypical Barbie. Of course, she looks the part for the role but she lends her character a gentleness that juxtaposes her more light-hearted side well and she matches well with Gosling, who is her Barbie's Ken (there's one for each Barbie).

Both actors are hilarious in their roles as her and Gosling's deadpan delivery add to the humour of the piece, though many of Gosling's best jokes have already been shown in the film's promotional material which may dampen how well they land.

Speaking of Gosling, it truly feels like this was a role meant for him. Ken is hilarious without ever meaning to be and Gosling embraces the campy side of his character with glee, he clearly had a lot of fun with the role and that reflects back on the audience's enjoyment of the film.

Simu Liu also deserves an honourable mention as Ken's rival... Ken. The actor is a great foil for Gosling, and the pair work well together when they both vie for Barbie's attention through perfectly choreographed dance numbers. It was nice to see Liu show his comedic side again onscreen.

There are several jokes that will fly over kids heads in Barbie, but that's what is great about the film it is just as enjoyable for adults as it will be for the children who love the doll.

(center) SIMU LIU in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BARBIE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
Simu Liu as Ken in Barbie (Warner Bros.)

Elsewhere, the world of Barbie has been brilliantly realised by the film's creative team, you really feel like you're walking into a life-size dolls house and the level of detail that has gone into each prop, costume and set to reference the history of the toy is impressive.

What other critics thought of Barbie:

The Independent: A near-miraculous achievement from Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie (5-min read)

Consequence of Sound: A Doll’s Existential Crisis Leads to One of the Year’s Most Life-Affirming Films (7-min read)

The Telegraph: Ryan Gosling steals the show in the most improbable triumph of the year (3-min read)

Mattel's Barbie movie has been a long time coming, but it was well worth the wait. Gerwig's film is a hugely entertaining production that celebrates everything that is wonderful about the toy whilst also sharing a poignant story that will stay with its audience long after it is finished.

Barbie is released in cinemas and IMAX on Friday, 21 July.

Watch the trailer for Barbie: