Peachy in pink: ‘Barbie’ is the wonderful summer comedy we all needed

By Bob Grimm

Edgy, daring, witty and hysterically funny, Barbie is the comedic blast this summer really needed.

Directed by Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the stinging script with partner Noah Baumbach, the film is the perfect visual interpretation of the Barbie world, down to its major emphasis on pink and a lack of stairs in the Barbie Dreamhouses.

Gerwig doesn’t serve up a two-hour commercial for Mattel’s flagship toy. Nope, this is a barbed satire that takes aim at stereotypes, patriarchy, perceived gender roles and society in general. There is nothing about this movie that plays it safe in order to not upset some Mattel CEO. In fact, the Mattel CEO character in the movie is portrayed by Will Ferrell, in full bumbling-fool mode. (Side note: When Ferrell appeared onscreen, I heard a bunch of little kids in the theater yell, “Buddy!” in a nod to his character from Elf. Pretty cute.)

The title character is played by Margot Robbie. Through the many incarnations of this project over the years, the likes of Amy Schumer, Gal Gadot and Anne Hathaway were lined up to play the part. It’s a good thing they exited, because Robbie is cinematic gold as the doll that changed it all. This isn’t a surface-type performance; it’s not at all one-dimensional or “doll-like.” It’s fully nuanced, multidimensional work that’s funny at every turn—and it could, and should, get her Oscar buzz at the end of the year.

Barbie’s Ken is no slouch either, personified by Ryan Gosling, who confesses to borrowing from his Mickey Mouse Club days to represent Barbie’s most prominent accessory. Gosling is gonzo greatness here, giving Ken a vacuous yet earnest heart, before shifting into something altogether different as the screenplay steers into surprising territory. There are also a few musical Ken moments, including the character showcase “I’m Just Ken,” and Gosling’s very funny, very fitting Matchbox Twenty cover.

There are many other incarnations of Barbie and Ken in the movie, portrayed by a cast that includes Kate McKinnon (she plays a damaged, “weird” Barbie), Issa Rae, Dua Lipa, Simu Lu, Scott Evans and others. Michael Cera gets his best role in years as Allan (Ken’s pal!), while America Ferrera and Ariana Greenblatt are terrific as a mother-daughter team who wind up in Barbie’s orbit.

The movie starts strong; the jokes come fast; and they never let up until the very sweet Billie Eilish song plays over the credits.

Laughing hard is the mark of a good comedy. Continually having your mind blown by cleverness while having your heartstrings tugged more than once … those are the marks of a great comedy. Barbie is, most definitely, a great comedy. It’s also one of the summer’s best films.

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