Critics Have Had Their Say On The New Barbie Movie, And We Can All Breathe A Sigh Of Relief

Ryan Gosling has been hailed as a "scene-stealer", while Margot Robbie's turn as Barbie has been described as "awe-inspiring".
Ken and Barbie prepare to take a journey to the "Real World" in Barbie
Ken and Barbie prepare to take a journey to the "Real World" in Barbie
Warner Bros

With just days to go until Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie arrives in cinemas, the full reviews are in – and critics have largely declared the movie a smash hit.

Margot Robbie stars as one of many Barbie dolls, while Ryan Gosling – who has been declared a “scene-stealer” in many reviews – is the leading Ken.

With scripts penned by director Greta and her partner, Noah Baumbuch, there are plenty of laughs… with an existential crisis, social commentary and digs at Mattel thrown in along the way.

Following last week’s glowing post-premiere social media posts, it’s no surprise to see Barbie labelled “painfully funny”, “immaculately crafted”, and “ambitious”, but critics have made some unexpected observations too.

See what critics have said below…

“Barbie is one of the most inventive, immaculately crafted and surprising mainstream films in recent memory – a testament to what can be achieved within even the deepest bowels of capitalism.

“It’s timely, too, arriving a week after the creative forces behind these stories began striking for their right to a living wage and the ability to work without the threat of being replaced by an AI. It’s a pink-splattered manifesto to the power of irreplaceable creative labour and imagination.”

“Never doubt Gerwig. The Oscar-nominated filmmaker has crafted a fierce, funny, and deeply feminist adventure that dares you to laugh and cry, even if you’re made of plastic.

“It’s certainly the only summer blockbuster to pair insightful criticisms of the wage gap with goofy gags about Kens threatening to ‘beach’ each other off.”

Empire (4/5)

“Above all else, [the film is] painfully funny. Barbie’s journey of self-discovery is often derailed by surreal skits and arch asides.

“Robbie – who has been dialling it up to 11 since Harley Quinn – is hilarious, but the most consistent scene-stealer is Mr. Blond Fragility. Gosling submerges wholeheartedly into Ken’s insecure psyche as he moves from Barbie’s sidepiece to patriarchal poster boy. Every muscle flex, every hair flick, every guitar strum lands perfectly. There are moments where he will rob you of breath.”

Ryan Gosling in character as Ken
Ryan Gosling in character as Ken
Warner Bros./Jaap Buitendijk

“The comedy comes thick and fast, thanks to some tremendous performances. Ugly Betty star America Ferrera, as Sasha’s mother, gives a really forceful turn, while Michael Cera is just as special as Allan, Ken’s constantly ignored best friend (the real Allan doll was discontinued years ago).

“To top it all, the film is chock full of musical numbers. With Mark Ronson co-writing, the song I’m Just Ken, sung by the scene-stealing Gosling, is a stand-out, amid tunes from Dua Lipa, Lizzo and more. It really is a bonkers movie, a toy box that stands proud in the Hollywood playroom.”

“In some ways, Barbie builds on themes Gerwig explored in Lady Bird and Little Women. The film wrestles with the twisting journey of self-definition and the mercurial relationships between mothers and daughters. It’s fraught with the questions that plague artists and women trapped in a category-obsessed society.”

“It’s kind of perfect that Barbie is opening opposite Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, since Gerwig’s girl-power blockbuster offers a neon-pink form of inception all its own, planting positive examples of female potential for future generations.

“Meanwhile, by showing a sense of humour about the brand’s past stumbles, it gives us permission to challenge what Barbie represents — not at all what you’d expect from a feature-length toy commercial.”

“Robbie is the star of the show, of course. It’s the role she was born for, her megawatt charisma brilliantly matched to the world’s most famous doll. Robbie imbues her performance with a layer of naive optimism that’s slowly torn away by the realities of the Real World (a setting treated as a proper noun in the script and on a prop billboard). It’s heartbreaking to watch.

“As with Ken, I desperately wanted Barbie to remain ignorant to the social woes of the real world, and watched with dread as she uncovers new layers of self-consciousness. There’s no doubt that Robbie deserves award attention for the awe-inspiring balancing act she nails as the film’s veneer of silliness peels back to reveal something much deeper.”

Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig at the LA premiere of Barbie
Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig at the LA premiere of Barbie
Michael Buckner via Getty Images

“Barbie is ambitious in its approach to the quintessential toy, and this story simply wouldn’t work without the direction of Gerwig and her and Noah Baumbach’s bonkers script.

“Barbie balances the incredibly pointed specificity of the jokes and relatability of Lady Bird, with the celebration of women and the ability to show a new angle of something we thought we knew like we saw with Gerwig’s take on Little Women. Gerwig and Baumbach manage to make this not feel like a toy ad, but rather, a discussion of sexism and womanhood that’s also hysterical and extremely odd.”

“Robbie always pops onscreen, and her turn here as a classic blond bombshell who has more going on than that sexist stereotype suggests is charming and subtly phased; you can see the light turn on gradually behind her eyes.

“Like America Ferrera’s sympathetic Mattel employee, Robbie warms the movie, expanding and deepening its emotions. That’s particularly necessary because Ken’s comic obtuseness and arc — as well as Gosling’s deadpan and boy-band dance moves — recurrently draw attention away from the actress and her character. However narratively motivated, this upstaging of Barbie effectively suggests that only the Kens of the world need their consciousness raised.”

NME (4/5)

“Another thing to say about Barbie is that it is very, very funny. Robbie’s almost C-3PO-ish deadpan delivery provides plenty of laughs, but it’s Gosling who’ll end up as your favourite toy. With his hair dyed bright blond, denim-dominated wardrobe, impossibly sculpted arms and chosen hobby of ‘beach’, he lands somewhere between David Hasselhoff and Britney-era Justin Timberlake.

“It’s not a total chuckle-fest though. The script contains unexpected subtlety, particularly during the tender moments which pack an emotional punch.

“Presumably, part of Mattel’s motive for bringing Barbie to the big screen was changing her outdated image of rigid beauty ideals and unrealistic body conformism. So sprinkled throughout are marketing messages (‘Barbie means you can be anything’) that sound like they come straight from a press release.”

“The movie is at its best when it’s simply leaning into its own fast, funny, free-floating goofiness, whether it’s letting Kate McKinnon do her thing as a self-explanatory Weird Barbie, pitting multiple dancing Kens against each other in a hypnotic dream ballet, or throwing in a coconutty reference to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

“I could’ve done without the filler-ish comic subplot featuring Will Ferrell as Mattel’s CEO, a mostly toothless bit of corporate ribbing that nonetheless does lead to a visually striking chase sequence through a maze of office cubicles.”

“This movie is perhaps a giant two-hour commercial for a product, although no more so than The Lego Movie, yet Barbie doesn’t go for the comedy jugular anywhere near as gleefully as that.

“In interviews about Barbie, Gerwig has referenced Milton and Powell and Pressburger: judging from this, I would say the influences are Toy Story, Pinocchio and Clueless. It’s entertaining and amiable, but with a softcore pulling of punches: lightly ironised, celebratory nostalgia for a toy that still exists right now.”


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