Blockbuster Barbie 4K disc is better than expected
By Jim Bray
The good news is, it's safe to watch Barbie even if you aren't a chick, or a raving lefty.
Okay, now that I've pissed off the usual suspects, I can get down to reviewing the new 4K disc release I received from Warner Brothers. Barbie was 2023's biggest blockbuster in theatres, and apparently Warners' biggest movie ever. Doesn't that seem a bit weird?
Yet I did enjoy it, far more than I expected to.
Barbie is one of those movies that I really, really didn't want to see – believing "without evidence" (as the lying left-wing media would say) that it would be a feminist circle jerk (if there can be such a thing). And while there is some of that, Barbie is also much more than just that.
That said, if I don't see the colour pink for at least six months I could die a happy man.
Anyway, Barbie is funny (I laughed several times), sweet in places, with a really great look and even some darn good production numbers that kind of hearken back to the classic movie musicals of days gone by.
Regarding the latter, I thought upon watching the story that the musical numbers seemed a tad weird and out of place, showing up as they do in a silly romp such as Barbie is, but upon watching the extras I learned that this was deliberate: director/co-writer Greta Gerwig wanted to hearken back to such "fantasy dance" numbers of decades past, mentioning by name Oklahoma! and Singing in the Rain, both of which are among my favourite movie musicals (though I must admit the "Out of my Dreams" ballet from Oklahoma is my least favourite part of that film and play).
And, yes, there's a certain amount of "girl power" stuff but while it's a tad heavy handed (though not as much as I – "without evidence" – expected), it's overshadowed by the rest of the story.
I was hooked by then anyway: I really loved the opening "homage" to 2001: a Space Odyssey, which was funny and done extremely well. And it isn't the only cool homage in this film.
Barbie (the original "stereotypical" version of which is played wonderfully by Margot Robbie) lives in BarbieLand, a perfect place to hang out if you're a Barbie. And, boy, are there Barbies! Besides Robbie's version, there are many other Barbies populating the land, from the political class right down to a handicapped Barbie, an overweight Barbie and even a transgender Barbie (who is obvious and inevitable, I suppose, but never mentioned as such).
Then there are the Kens, led by Ryan Gosling as "stereotypical" Ken. There's also a ton of these guys, including black Kens and an Asian Ken, etc. etc. etc. I didn't notice a trans Ken, though.
The Kens are second class citizens with no rights in what amounts to a matriarchy, though the only world close to this that we hear – and hear and hear and hear – is patriarchy, which is anathema to the Barbies. In fact, the Barbies think they're responsible for everything being tickety-boo for women in the Real World, thanks to them having emancipated all women because they played with dolls when they were kids.
Or something like that. Doesn't really matter.
Alas, Barbie's perfect world goes awry and she's forced (with Stereotypical Ken along as a stowaway) to visit the Real World to set things right. But the real world isn't this beautiful kumbaya for chicks place; instead, it appears that men run that world – the Patriarchy – and women are the downtrodden.
It's kind of ironic, considering how Kens are treated in the matriarchy that is BarbieLand, but I'm not convinced the filmmakers got the irony.
But, in a take perhaps inspired by (or, to be less kind, ripped off from) Planet of the Apes, when she gets home the tables have been turned by Ken and the others of his ken (I'm really glad I had a chance to write that!) into the dreaded Patriarchy and she and the others of her, well, barbie, has to set things right. That's right, she has to restore the unnamed or ignored Matriarchy to put those darn Kens back in their place.
Or does she/they? I apologize for the pronouns, but this is one instance in which it actually fits. I won't spoil it for you, but it may not be exactly what you expect.
I loved how this movie looks and even with its heavy-handed moments it's still a relative blast in the home theatre. I may risk a lightning strike by saying I liked the movie, but it's the truth.
One thing I had been hoping for was that Margot Robbie would undress, so the audience could see if she (as Barbie, of course) really was completely without genitalia (well, there were two less lofty reasons I wanted to see her naked, too, but that isn't important right now), but she doesn't. The question is addressed in the Real World, however, when she's being ogled by some blue-collar men and informs them that she doesn't have a vagina. So, I guess we can assume the same about the Kens (who seem pretty emasculated in BarbieLand anyway).
Warner Brothers' 4K disc of Barbie is a pretty good one, though it doesn't really pop off the screen like some titles do. Colours are fantastic (though, as mentioned, I'm done with pink for a while) and textures (a lot of which are meant to emulate plastics, for obvious reasons) really shine. Even the scenes set in the real world look really good. Blacks (colours, not cast members) are quite deep and shadows show detail very well.
Audio is Dolby Atmos, which dumbs itself down to Dolby TrueHD for the many, many folks (including myself) who haven't torn apart their home theatres to add the extra channels. It's basically reference quality stuff and that certainly helps with dialogue, sound effects and, of course, the musical numbers.
There aren't a lot of extras, but they're decent if not particularly in depth. It makes me wonder if there's a "special edition" coming sometime (maybe just in time for the inevitable sequel?).
Nah, I'm not cynical.
You get six features, the longest of which is only 12 minutes, looking at stuff like the World of Barbie, the musical numbers, "Becoming Barbie", BarbieLand itself, and a take on the many, many costumes.
Barbie really surprised me. Sure, it has a message of empowerment, but while it's aimed primarily at girls, it doesn't exclude boys (I was gobsmacked!). In all, it's a fun, silly movie that actually works.
Try it, you just might like it!
Copyright 2023 Jim Bray