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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Promotes idea that feminism is inclusive of all women -- and that being a woman is complicated and sometimes messy. Barbieland is welcoming, if naive about the ways the real world works. Encourages women to support one another, to be free of the many standards thrust upon them by society. Emphasizes importance of finding out who you are separately from your relationships with other people.
Positive Role Models
Barbie is curious, empathetic, brave, and kind, and she doesn't give up on her goals. She realizes that she doesn't have to be "perfect" to have value. Ken is insecure and shallow but develops meaningfully over the course of the story. The Barbies have power (until they fall under the sway of the patriarchy), and they eventually learn how to coexist with the Kens. Gloria is an observant, loving mother, and her daughter, Sasha, is smart and bold.
The main Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) are White and conventionally attractive -- to the point where traits like flat feet and cellulite are, albeit satirically, treated as disgusting. The rest of the Barbies and Kens in Barbieland are diverse and inclusive in many ways. There are Barbies and/or Kens who are of color, have a disability (one Barbie uses a wheelchair), and represent a range of body types, backgrounds, and professions. One Barbie is played by Hari Nef, who's trans, but her identity isn't referenced in the movie. Gloria is played by Honduran American actor America Ferrera, and her daughter, Sasha, is played by Ariana Greenblatt, who's Latina. The movie was directed and co-written by female filmmaker Greta Gerwig.
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Violence & Scariness
A big fight among a lot of characters involves use of silly weapons and physical grappling; another fight includes a chokehold. Barbie runs away from the Mattel executives who want to "box" her; they chase her in a scene with a lot of slapstick. There's a high-speed pursuit, but no one is injured. The Barbie cars spin out and flip over, but no one gets hurt. Ken has a fall and is taken to an ambulance/clinic for treatment. Barbie admits to having persistent thoughts about death.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Ken asks Barbie to spend the night. When she asks why, he says because they're boyfriend and girlfriend, but he doesn't know what that really entails. Barbie makes a comment about her and Ken not having genitals. A character wonders what kind of "nude blob" a Ken is "packing." Suggestive pickup lines and double entendres. After the Kens take over, several Barbies are shown flirting with and serving the Kens, often scantily clad. The primary Ken is frequently shirtless; some of the other Kens are too. Ken tries to kiss Barbie a couple of times, but she tells him no or dodges it.
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One bleeped "motherf--," plus a few uses of words including "damn," "hell," "crap," "bimbo," "tramp," "stupid," "penis," "vagina," "crazy," "nut job," "jeez," "oh my God," "for Christ's sake," "freaking," "frigging," "shut up," "up the wazoo," the suggestive euphemism "beach you off," and catcalls and double entendres.
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Products & Purchases
Barbie and Mattel brands are in nearly every scene of the movie, including references to real Barbie dolls and accessories. Other featured brands include Duolingo, Hydro Flask, Hummer, Suburban, Chevy, Birkenstock, and Chanel. Clips from movies like The Godfather and Pride & Prejudice are seen.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The Kens have a lot of "brewskis" (beers), as well as red cups, and a party scene shows the primary Ken holding what looks like a wine glass. He also mentions being "day drunk" at one point.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that writer-director Greta Gerwig's all-star take on Barbie has a sophisticated message about feminism and the patriarchy (and, consequently, a screenplay that will likely go over younger kids' heads). The movie follows "Stereotypical Barbie" (Margot Robbie) and her handsome but insecure (boy)friend, Ken (Ryan Gosling), as they venture into the human world and discover the shocking-to-them truth that Barbie dolls didn't actually solve the problems of sexism and patriarchal control. While there's no sex in the movie (the Barbies and Kens are frank about not having genitals), Kens are shown shirtless, Barbies get catcalled, and there are suggestive references to the dolls' bodies -- including Ken's "nude bulge" -- and how a male-dominated society expects women to be ornamental and helpful. There's a bleeped use of "motherf--" (plus "crap," "shut up," "oh my God," etc.), a couple of big brawls with silly weapons, slapstick chases, beer drinking, and near-constant mentions of Barbie-maker Mattel. Characters demonstrate empathy and perseverance, and Barbieland is populated by a diverse group of Barbies and Kens from a range of body sizes, abilities, genders, and racial and ethnic backgrounds. The supporting cast includes Simu Liu, Issa Rae, America Ferrera, Will Ferrell, Emma Mackey, and Michael Cera. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Greta Gerwig's delightful comedy adventure is bolstered by Robbie and Gosling's impeccable performances, a top-notch ensemble cast, and a witty screenplay. The two stars are perfectly cast in the iconic lead roles, humanizing the doll characters and nailing both the emotional beats and the comedic aspects of Barbie's and Ken's development. The sprawling supporting cast is also well selected, with memorable performances from Rae as the Barbie president, America Ferrera as truth-telling human mom Gloria, Simu Liu as Gosling's rival Ken, and Will Ferrell as the smarmy CEO of Mattel. Three young actors from Sex Education -- Emma Mackey, Ncuti Gatwa, and Connor Swindells -- make notable appearances in supporting roles, and Academy Award-winning filmmaker/screenwriter Emerald Fennell turns up as Barbie's discontinued pregnant friend, Midge. Overall, Barbieland is a pleasingly inclusive place, where the Barbies and Kens can be more than thin, White, and blond as they sing and dance in their carefully curated outfits.
This movie isn't like the many animated Barbie movies, and its sophisticated themes may land better with teens and adults than tweens and kids. But the contrast between the movie's serious societal commentary and the trippy, nostalgic comedy manages not to feel off-putting or off-balance. Ken's explanations about the benefits of the patriarchy (horses, hats, all the top jobs!) are laugh-out-loud funny, while Gloria's passionate speech about the ways women must and mustn't act in human society rings soberingly true. For all of the jokes, there's a ton of heart in the screenplay, with Robbie and Gosling both getting many scene-stealing, moving monologues. Their memorable portrayals carry the movie, but the behind-the-scenes technicians deserve awards, too, including production designer Sarah Greenwood for the film's pink-infused Barbie-core set pieces, music supervisor George Drakoulias for the Mark Ronson-produced soundtrack, Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran for the hundreds of authentic Barbie and Ken costumes, and director of photography Rodrigo Prieto for the fizzy cinematography. An ideal mother-daughter pick and a collaborative achievement worthy of the hype, this Barbie is a keeper.
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