Despite having languished in development hell for a number of years, Barbie still managed to be one of the most anticipated movies of 2023. Owing in part to an excellent cast and an ingenious marketing strategy, Greta Gerwig’s big screen adaptation of the iconic doll quickly broke records upon release. But is it really as good as the hype suggests?

Starring Margot Robbie as “Stereotypical” Barbie, the film follows its titular character as she becomes disillusioned with her place in Barbieland and heads off into the real world. In doing so, both she and Ken (Ryan Gosling) begin to struggle with their own identities, causing not just a rift in their relationship but damaging the very fabric of Barbieland in the process. Alongside Robbie and Gosling, Barbie stars America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Will Ferrell, Simu Liu, Issa Rae, and Michael Cera (to name just a few).

With a staggeringly talented cast capable of both comedy and drama, Barbie seems set to tell a lighthearted but powerful story. It certainly does, but its depth is still surprising – it is a toy about dolls, after all. Not only does it explore the nature of humanity and gender, but also themes of identity, self-worth, and community. Not bad for a movie based on a toy.

Barbie’s Plastic World Radiates Fun (But Still Has A Deeper Meaning)

Margot Robbie in Barbie (2023)

Barbie‘s story takes place partly in Barbieland, and partly in the real world. The latter is almost as mundane as you’d expect (which it should be), but Barbieland is infinitely more interesting: it’s vibrant and fun, and perfectly captures the feel of the toys it represents. The production values are truly staggering, and Robbie and Gosling’s performances echo the professionalism and attention to detail that has gone into bringing the dolls to life.

For all its smooth surfaces and bright (mostly pink) colors, Barbieland serves as a perfect metaphor for the individual bubbles humanity exists within. Much like each person lives in their own environment, so too does Barbie – it’s just that Barbie’s world is simpler and has significantly less problems. That is, until its peace is shattered by intrusive thoughts and general ill-feeling.

Barbie Addresses Some Of Society’s Biggest Paradoxes

Ryan Gosling as Ken and Margot Robbie as Barbie in Barbie (2023)

From here, Barbie sets out on an examination of what it means to be human. Yes, the majority of its story focuses on the impossibilities of the female experience, but there’s plenty of musings on the complexities of manhood, too. Despite the ill-advised backlash, Barbie is a movie that examines society’s issue with gender from both sides of the fence. Ultimately, it asserts that there shouldn’t even be a fence.

For all of its gorgeously-crafted visuals and impossible beauty standards, Barbie is a film that genuinely understands the difficulty of identity. The idea that aspiring to something simple is every bit as fulfilling as striving for the impossible is something at the heart of the film, and it’s deeply touching and rewarding. For those truly paying attention, there’s very little to criticize, but an awful lot to enjoy.

Rating: 85%

Summary: It’s not easy to make a film about dolls that can appeal to everyone, but those with open minds will find Barbie emotional, challenging, and hilarious in turn.

Highlight: The musical and dance numbers are well-crafted and inherently funny, making them stand out even in a film as striking as Barbie.