Closely promoted months forward of its launch, Barbie has been a masterclass in luminous pink advertising. Above all, it was trailed as a toy-based blockbuster with an enormous distinction. That distinction being the presence of whip-smart indy director Greta Gerwig behind the digital camera.

These frightened that Gerwig may wrestle with the happy-plastic material needn’t have frightened. Barbie seems improbable. The ‘Barbie Land’ units are gorgeous – that includes a riot of intense, electrical color and glossy plastic. After which there may be the ‘stereotypical’ blonde Barbie herself, within the dazzling human type of Margot Robbie. She will get the doll’s glassy, Stepford Spouse stare good.

It’s clear from the beginning this isn’t The Lego Film. At the start, Gerwig attracts consideration to the cultural antipathy in the direction of Mattel’s now notorious toy. Helen Mirren’s narrator tells us how the Barbie doll, this icon of ‘shopper capitalism’, has been blamed for ‘holding again girls for 50 years’ – for reinforcing gender stereotypes and upholding not possible magnificence requirements. Within the twenty first century, the narrator tells us, ‘everybody hates Barbie’. The plot then permits Gerwig to start out taking aside this argument.

Barbie, you see, is struggling emotions of dread and nervousness. Her pal, ‘Bizarre Barbie’, a cartoonishly mutilated doll performed by Kate McKinnon, says that these are human ideas. To resolve them, Barbie should enter the parallel human world. And so Barbie, with Ryan Gosling’s Ken in tow, does exactly that.

It’s on this human world that Barbie meets the opposite chief protagonists: single mum and Mattel admin assistant Gloria, performed by America Ferrera; and Gloria’s stroppy teen daughter, Sasha, performed by Ariana Greenblatt. And simply to focus on the distinction with Barbie Land, Gloria and Sasha stay in down-at-heel Santa Monica.

Gerwig makes use of Barbie’s adventures within the human world to tackle the important thing concepts of a sure stripe of feminism. In response to this largely educational worldview, girls are oppressed by their cultural and media representations and by ‘gender socialisation’, exemplified maybe by the ‘stereotypical’ blonde Barbie herself. The answer in keeping with this feminism is to diversify and alter the media illustration of girls with a purpose to enhance their lives. Certainly, Mattel itself has adhered to this view, by shifting past the blonde Barbie doll, and introducing doll traces that includes all ethnicities, styles and sizes.

However Gerwig’s Barbie subverts this view. By its depiction of Gloria’s struggles, it exhibits that it’s materials actuality, not fictionalised illustration, that’s holding girls again. In Barbie Land, the lady dolls are repeatedly smashing the glass ceiling. However this constructive illustration shouldn’t be having a lot of an impact within the human world, the place girls are being held again by reasonably extra mundane, materials constraints. Barbie exposes the absurdity of demanding higher illustration of girls in books, films and TV, just for youngsters to nonetheless discover their mom doing all the laundry.

The strain between the pink utopia of Barbie Land and the less-than-perfect human world additionally offers the chance for loads of well-honed gags. In these moments, Barbie nonetheless seems like a Gerwig indy movie, with wry, acute observations spun into very humorous jokes. Anybody who preferred Gerwig’s American Princess will benefit from the wit on show in Barbie, together with the sly digs at Californian mores.

There are additionally well timed pot photographs at company woke ‘values’ and virtue-signalling. Radical identitarians are proven to be indistinguishable from company fits. At one level, the movie even means that ‘the patriarchy’, as a catch-all rationalization for ladies’s struggles, is as fantastical as Barbie Land itself.

Gerwig clearly has quite a bit to say on the gender wars and id politics. However, at factors, she struggles to discover a coherent solution to specific her concepts. Whereas critics have argued that Gosling’s Ken steals the present from Robbie’s winsome Barbie, in reality, his Robin Williams-style Ken-ergy is commonly simply distracting. Furthermore, the narrative part that includes Ken discovering the patriarchy in the true world, after which making an attempt to instate it in Barbie Land, is way too heavy-handed. At factors, it threatens to capsize the movie totally.

Nonetheless, Barbie is price watching. Sensible and humorous, and generally incoherent, Barbie is a hot-pink mess of a movie.

Neil Davenport is a author based mostly in London.