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Greta Gerwig Raises the Bar(bie)

"Do you guys ever think about dying?"

Should I be writing about this movie? I'm a 41 year-old dude from Paris, Texas, who listens to Led Zeppelin and drove the same rusty pickup for twenty years. I'm not sure if I've even seen a Barbie doll that wasn't in a commercial.

Then again, I don't have any skin in the game. I'm not emotionally invested in Barbie, and I'm also not one of those guys rooting for Barbie to fail. (Get a life.) I'm just a movie lover who wanted to see Greta's cinematography.

So let's do this.

What's this movie about? Barbie's perfect party world comes crashing down when she utters the words, "Do you guys ever think about dying?" Record scratch. Full stop.

As the villain from The Crow taught us, "Childhood's over the moment you know you're gonna die." With her dark musing, Barbie has robbed Barbieland of its innocence, and it can only be repaired with a trip to the real world.

Barbie's expecting a lot. Hasn't her inspiration made the world better for women? The answer to that question isn't ever going to be clear, but Barbie and Ken find the real world is nothing like they expected.

But while Barbie is disappointed, Ken is ecstatic. In Barbieland, he's just an accessory with no home, but in the real world he's somebody just because he's a man. He infects Barbieland with the idea of patriarchy, and now the real Barbie has to fix it.

Barbie is a lot more fun than you might think. Judging by online chatter, many people are expecting to be slapped in the face with two-dimensional political correctness, but those people don't understand how to watch movies, and they aren't familiar with Greta Gerwig either, who was the perfect choice to helm this project. Honestly, she's the reason I wanted to watch. I can't think of many Hollywood minds who could put together a film about Barbie and actually make it good, but after seeing her incredible visuals in Little Women (it's like a Sorolla painting come to life) I decided Gerwig can do anything.

Cinematically, Gerwig has accomplished a lot. This movie has truckloads of over-the-top visuals that perfectly recreate a Barbie commercial come to life. If you felt like it was more effective than the usual big budget movie, that's because Greta Gerwig used real, practical effects instead of cheesy CGI. The sets are real. The Barbie cars and goofy slides are all real. This makes a film more immersive and helps the actors deliver a better performance. Visually, Barbie is an outstanding achievement as well as a breath of fresh air for anyone like me who's sick of producers settling for cheap special effects.

While the visuals stand out for being eye-popping and magical, the script is notable for its cleverness and subtlety. Every character, including Ken and the all-male board of directors at Mattel, are treated sympathetically and given complex character arcs. It's not an "anti-male" movie, and it doesn't trot out tired political campaigns. Thank goodness. But it is very feminist with its thoughtful discussions of the problems facing women, often explained hilariously, and in a way that (I assume) is going to be cathartic for many viewers. (The opening box office haul seems to confirm this.)

(Side note: I've often wondered why it's so hard to find a well-written film or TV show. In the wake of the current writers strike in Hollywood, we've learned that producers are paying peanuts to their writers, and you can't attract top talent with peanuts.)

Barbie will always be an iconic film, and it won't be long before academics are picking it apart at conferences. It's packed with dynamite visuals, hilarious characters, and an unforgettable story. Like Barbie herself, the pink and shiny package may look simple on the outside, but there's something deep and important on the inside.

In a day when the entertainment industry thinks anything important has to be filmed in total darkness (making us all squint at the TV and wonder if we've even turned it on) Barbie reminds us that good ideas shouldn't be taken less seriously when they come in a pretty box.

Final Analysis: This movie is immortal and important. Five out of five Barbies doing the splits.

Adam D. Jones is a writer, historian, and cat wrestler who really wants to know what happened to Skipper.


  1. What Victoria said. I very much enjoyed your review, Adam.

  2. Thanks, both of you! Love it or hate it, Barbie is an example of exceptional film making.

  3. Finally someone who shares my thoughts on Barbie! I watched it with my brother last friday and we both found it hilarious (I think I'll always think about this movie when I see horses on TV), very well-made, and occasionally thought-provoking. Yet, online, I mostly see negative reviews with people saying this movie was made by "people who hate men". I think most people don't know how to just enjoy movies (or tv-shows) anymore. While not perfect (I think the ending could have been better), we enjoyed it tremendously. Margot Robbie and Ryan Goslin are fantastic in it (Ken is a serious scene-stealer) and like you, I'm a fan of Greta Gerwig's work. They all obviously had a blast filming it! I look forward to seeing it again in the future. Thank you for your review!

    1. A movie like this becomes a mirror for some people instead of a film. They only see the political/social baggage they brought in, and make "reviews" by regurgitating what was already on their minds. It's my pleasure to write reviews that reflect the movie as much as myself. Thanks for enjoying this!

  4. You know, I've now heard enough good things about this that I'm definitely going to watch it when it becomes available to me. (I just don't go to the cinema anymore.) I wouldn't have believed it, but it does sound pretty good.

    Still going to do Oppenheimer first, though.

  5. I went to see Barbie last weekend. I thought that it was hilarious. Yes, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling were great, but there were so many other things to love for me - Helen Mirren as the narrator, Kate McKinnon and Michael Cera, even all of the (odd?) versions of Barbie in the credits. It was a great movie to end the summer. (I probably won't have time to watch many movies for a while.)

  6. Saw it earlier today. It's an absolute delight. Cinema at its finest.

    It reminded me a lot of the movie Pleasantville.

  7. I loved it, for all of the reasons Adam and all the commenters already mentioned. It was so much better than I expected, a breath of fresh movie air.


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