Parents' Guide to

Barbie

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

Clever, colorful comedy with sophisticated themes, script.

Movie PG-13 2023 114 minutes
Barbie: Movie Poster: Barbie and Ken on a giant pink-and-white B

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 12+

Based on 181 parent reviews

age 16+

Ruined by Political Messaging and Cheap Potshots

The movie has some strengths--the sets are technically well done and the acting is pretty good. But parents have to realize that the film is super political and be prepared for that, especially if you have a son. Let me say that I am a proud feminist and have fought my way through male-dominated STEM fields since the 90s. Why, then, do I pause at recommending this movie? There are no intelligent, empowered, or even "good" male characters (they're basically mindless losers and ogres, albeit with excellent acting from Ryan Gosling); the film implies that men have no raison d'etre to exist other than to serve women; female solidarity is ultimately celebrated while any male solidarity is overtly deemed a risk to societal peace and stability; and the film insinuates that men shouldn't really have any personal dreams of success or agency. They can't even ask to be respected. The movie is advertised as being for everyone, but upon watching it, it's clear that it isn't. Just as Sasha tells Barbie that she made "women feel bad about themselves," based on the reaction of my kids, this movie likely is going to make boys feel bad--or rather, even worse--about themselves (see Richard Reeves's 2022 book on the subject). The bottom line is we need to do better for all of our kids, or we're going to have big trouble in the decades to come.
age 13+

It’s PG-13 and I think that’s about right. But you know your child.

I saw Barbie with my teen daughter who has loved Barbie all her life, and now appreciates Greta Gerwig’s filmmaking. She loved it. The film has hilariously over-the-top silliness and a thoughtful message about finding your place in the world and the struggle between being bright and shiny and also flawed and frustrated, while also exploring the power dynamic between men and women in today’s society. Yeah, there’s a lot going on, and some of that might confuse younger audiences, but I don’t think that’s hurtful in any way. Barbie’s having an existential crisis in the movie, so it’s not all fun and games, but the women in my audience responded to the America Ferrera character in a way that indicated they felt deeply understood. There are a couple references to genitalia (or the lack thereof) that may be a little cringey if you’re watching with a younger viewer, but I’m much more concerned about violence in movies than that kind of humor. Basically, if you’re the kind of parent who thinks everything has an agenda right now, you’re going to think that about this movie. But if you’re open to inclusivity and a conversation about what women want and deserve in life, you’ll probably enjoy it like we did. And Ryan Gosling is HILARIOUS. He goes all out. But the acting is great across the board. I’m looking forward to seeing it again when it comes to streaming.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (181 ):
Kids say (193 ):

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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