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The Crack Magazine

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Barbie

Director: Greta Gerwig

Stars: Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae

After months of hype, a tsunami of memes and an admittedly impressive publicity campaign Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the popular Mattel toy finally arrives. And it’s okay-ish.

Co-scripted by Gerwig with fellow indie darling Noah Baumbach, it gets off a strong start as we are introduced to Barbie (a game Robbie in the mother of all inevitable casting decisions) and her idyllic pastel-hued polyester and plastic world, populated by a range of Barbies of all hues, but more or less standard body shape. Every Barbie sports a sunny disposition and excels in their respective field, and each of them are matched up with a Ken. Our Barbie’s Ken (Gosling) is a needy, ineffectual blonde looker forever trying to impress the object of his (unspecified) desire.

During one of her regular all-night disco parties, Barbie suddenly has something like an existential crisis, as she asks her horrified fellow guests if they ever think about death. From then on in, she is besieged by doubts, her worries exacerbated when her tippy-toe high-heel friendly feet turn flat.

A trip to the house of weird Barbie (McKinnon) follows, where our Barbie learns she must venture into the real world in order to resolve her crisis. Ken smuggles himself along. Cue an amusing sequence as the duo traverse a selection of chintzy Barbiescapes (space, a river, a mountain crossing) before arriving in real world LA. There, Barbie is shocked to find things are not as she imagined, unlike Ken who quickly warms to this man-friendly environment.

So far so much fish-out-of-water fun. One hour in though and the picture begins to collapse under the weight of its contradictory irreverent and didactic impulses, as well as some plain old muddled storytelling. An all-singing, all dancing, and ironically very much foregrounded, Gosling manages to keep it on the rails, but this still feels at least twenty minutes too long.

There has been much recent wailing and gnashing of teeth about whether US indie queen Gerwig has sold out in making a toy spinoff or subverted the whole process. While the script does contain some cheeky swipes, the saccharine, grimly fascinating penultimate scene sees the director waving the white flag to corporate dictates.

Barbie is out now

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm

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