This weekend, I saw that movie about the doll that everyone is talking about. It reminded me of another movie I saw this summer, about an octogenerian archeologist who fights Natzis. In both cases, it felt like people wrote scripts over the course of a month that included lots of sub plots they forgot about.
In the doll movie, the Will Ferrell character and his board of yes men don’t go anywhere meaningful. They neither threaten nor amuse. I thought, it would make so much sense if his character were a Ken that escaped to the real world. It would explain his knowledge of how to get to the fantasy world, why he didn’t want to have Barbie there, –she would recognize him as a Ken. His flunkies could have been other Kens –and this would explain making all the Barbies, hoping one day, one of them would love him. It would have made the whole chasing of her make more sense. He could have offered Barbie what she eventually chose, if she stayed with him. But they just made him a goofy CEO with a parade of interchangable yes men who followed suit without reason whatsoever.
The growth of the main character, I appreciated, but the third act stalled out with the Ken battle and the disenfrancising of the Ken votes. To me, the fantasy world they lived in, ought to be aspiring always to be better than reality –that’s what fantasy, even childhood fantasy is for. As a satire, it would be stronger criticism of our reality if the dolls could more equitably share power with each other than humanity.
When we saw the latest iteriation of Raiders, there were countless nods to other ideas that dropped even moments after being introduced. Characters showed promise and died, characters disappeared. Plots that involved danger, never actually resulted in sacrifice. No one, not even the hero, lost anything in the end, or made a decision that cost them or caused regret.
The story forgot it’s fundamental principles –that even the fallen from the true faith Indy of the original knew. The purpose of preserving the past, is so the present can learn from it, so nothing is lost. The story lacked a spine –a fundamental non negotiable reality about the character Indy, and what he wanted. The hero’s journey must involve the presumption on the hero’s part of risk, even if it turns out okay. They didn’t know before it happened, that everything would work out, they only knew, they had to try.
Fantasy that involves magical realism, (like Raiders) where the people are mortal and have moral consequences for their words and actions and inactions, must hold weight when those decisions are made. Indy suffered in his first few outings, and that was part of what made him interesting. It hurt here…and here…and here. His loss of his son, of Marion, were part of his narrative, and they illustrated how even being heroic, he’d wrestled with the demons of ordinary life, grief and frustration and failure. If Indy had stayed in the past, and left a message for his goddaughter in that tombstone where they discovered the “dial of destiny” (stupid name), it would have ended the series in a reasonable (as far as a movie sequence that includes crystal skulls and time traveling red skull copying without the face make up natzis can be) acceptable way.
Instead, the multi-verse of everything allowed a redo. He comes back and as a result, his relationship with Marion is restored. I’ve honestly forgotten why. Worse, I’m not sure I care.
Redos where whatever caused the problem doesn’t exist anymore and never did such that no consequences from what didn’t happen happen, don’t happen in reality. Forgiveness, trying again, and going on even if one isn’t forgiven, those happen in in reality. It’s what makes it so hard for Barbie, coping with the possibility of something other than perfection in perpetuity. The satire had some fun moments and good ideas. It just burned a lot of the humor putting so much in the trailers, and it didn’t do what it could have done which is to point out the purpose of fantasy –to aspire to something better.
Barbie needed an injection from the movie SOUL, with her experiencing ice cream and street tacos and a band that she didn’t order up, and dances she didn’t choreograph –the joys that come from the non Barbie world she didn’t know existed before making that call, mixed with the being arrested, chased, and learning how to drink tea. The Ruth character hints at the rest of reality but the montage that she conveys in holding the doll’s hands, contains no suffering.
Barbie would have been served to experience a skinned knee, or witness at the hospital, real pain and a child playing with a Barbie doll as a connection to what dolls can do. It would have given a movie that had charm and witt and no small amount of clever, a bigger heart.The purpose of satire, is to get people to see what they’ve grown noseblind to over time, and spur growth. Barbie chooses reality, which is a mature response in a world where we live with many people choosing the online or virtual world. She chooses a world that includes all the problems of imperfection. I think it was the right choice, but I think we got there too soon. I also thought the movie served as a Rosharch Test to all who viewed it. People enjoyed it or didn’t in part based on what they brought to the movie. Satire is always a barbecue of someone’s sacred cow.
All in all, the movie we saw this weekend generated some good discussion amongst my children. It also made me reminisce about my own owning of these dolls –I owned a Matel Re-issue of the Barbie –with black hair and blue eyes, a Kellie with red curly hair and freckles, and a Growing Up Skipper. My kids laughed hysterically. It created memories and humor.
More than whether the movie worked as it could have, it did do what we want from our entertainment. People went to the movie to have an experience, and to make a connection –to be part of a community. I saw scores of women of all ages, dressed in pink with a touch of flash. It was to be part of something. That connection happened in the street as people spied the can’t miss it that’s where you’re going look. It made going fun even if you didn’t care for everything that happened.
My final thoughts on summer movies? Go see Mission Impossible. It was the most fun I’ve had at the theatre this summer. Nothing beats that stunt my birthday buddy Tom does. Even watching it alone did not dampen the impact of seeing it in the context of the movie itself.