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Lord forgive me...I saw Barbie and enjoyed it
Confessions of a mid-50s suburban dad after a date night with his wife
Pink! My god there was a lot of pink and much of that extended beyond the sets, accessories and fashion that amped the cotton candy colour palette beyond previously known or understood levels. You see, the Barbie audience dressed for the show…something not found down the hall at Oppenheimer or at any of the action films I’ve seen. Instead, tweens, teens, soccer moms, dads, boys, girls and non-conformist megaviduals sported their Barbie bests, making this summer flick a destination trip…not just another big-screen blockbuster.
To be honest - I expected some of this. This date night movie suggestion came from me, not my wife. But what we both got was a 110 per cent effort from the filmmakers, cast and crew. A move that was fun, light-hearted yet meaningful and perfectly timed as escapism from a downer of a news cycle. Barbie makes no apologies for what it is and what it isn’t. For the uninitiated, the story unfolds with over-the-top sets, doll-like characters (based on memories of past Mattel offerings) and developing situations which progress with a nod to the uneasy contrast between the ‘Barbie world’ and the ‘real word.’
We are quickly introduced to the a plastic realm of expected happiness where the central character freely admits she is conventional Barbie (brilliantly played by Margot Robbie) - blonde, thin and beautiful. Her friends, also Barbies, come in a variety of styles, races, abilities and shapes. And they’re all blissfully happy too. Who wouldn’t be? Every night is ‘girls’ night’ and the Kens are almost irrelevant except when they’re needed to serve or entertain the Barbies, which they gladly accept.
Of course, that all changes. A question about ‘death’ sends Barbie and her beta-male afterthought Ken (Ryan Gosling) into the real world - Los Angeles. Suddenly, Ken is introduced to a notion that men can and do have unquestionable power. Meanwhile, Barbie discovers real life is not so perfect. She can even cry.
Beyond this simplistic yet somehow rewarding romp unfolds a well-executed story that satisfies most: toy flashbacks for some, ‘told you so’ moments for others, and a few belly laughs for me. Quick-witted one-liners, catchy music and an absolutely amazing all-male dance scene led by Gosling’s Ken, provide decent enough pacing.
The schtick never gets old.
Will Barbie be an Oscar contender? I’m not as optimistic as others. That said, I expect to see many more colourful shirts, slacks and dresses in the weeks ahead. Mattel was smart - not taking itself seriously yet still paying homage to the iconic doll. The result is a marketing masterpiece with wider than anticipated audience appeal. Yes, even a suburban dad will enjoy this one.
Bruce Claggett is a 35 year veteran in the news media, having worked as a reporter, newscaster, producer/editor, senior editor, news director, journalism instructor and media consultant. He holds a BA (political science/geography) from UBC, B.Ed. (secondary education) from UBC and a Dipl. T. (broadcast journalism) from BCIT. He continues to work as a guest host on 980/CKNW, media trainer and communications advisor.
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