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Stars: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Will Ferrell, Ariana Greenblatt, Michael Cera, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Emma Mackey, John Cena, Emerald Fennell, Dua Lipa, Issa Rae, Helen Mirren (narrator)

Director: Greta Gerwig

This must have looked like a great idea on paper, but it has only fitful success as a film, despite its garishness, inventive settings and absurdities, descending occasionally into mawkishness and embarrassment, in spite of a bright-eyed performance by a perfectly-cast Robbie in the title role.

And its themes of women's empowerment and finding yourself prove a poor fit for the Barbieland environment.

Barbie, together with all the other Barbie dolls, lives in candy-pink Barbieland, where each day is the same, and as perfect as Barbie herself, as she drives her pink car down to the beach, where Ken (Gosling) and all the other Kens, plus discontinued doll Allan (Cera, long time no see but hardly changed from his Juno days) await her arrival.

Barbie takes imaginary showers, drinks imaginary drinks, and displays the widest (and whitest) of smiles at the perfection of it all, especially as the presidential council is entirely composed of female dolls. Then one day Barbie, permanently on tiptoe even without her high heels, finds her feet flatten to the ground. And there are other imperfections, which take her to the cave of Weird Barbie (McKinnon), who gives her the worst possible news - Barbie has malfunctioned.

The only way to fix herself is to travel to the Real World, where an owner has been doing things to her earthly doll doppelganger that have caused the disaster.

The shenanigans threaten to work, but despite some felicitous moments, never quite make it, keeping the film as something of a one-trick pony that quickly wears out its welcome, as well as providing a movie-long product placement for Mattel. As a satire, the movie is its own worst enemy, using sledgehammers instead of subtlety.

David Quinlan

USA 2023. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by Company 3.
109 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 06 Sep 2023

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