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Can The Kids See Barbie? A Film Critic Dad (Who’s Seen It) Weighs In

Can you take the kids to see Barbie? We've seen it and have the definitive answer

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Warner Bros/Mattel

In the race for Movie of the Summer, Barbie may or may not win the box office crown, but it's already won the conversation. Director Greta Gerwig's feature film exploration of the life and times of everyone's favorite doll has been the internet's favorite movie for months now, already prompting meme after meme and launching a massive wave of anticipation for viewers young and old. But, you’ve got kids. You’re not concerned about the internet memes or Barbenheimer. All you want to know is this: When it comes to this incarnation of Barbie, just how young can those viewers be? Can you take your kids to see Barbie? For a film about a beloved toy that's been in the hands of children everywhere for decades, just how family-friendly is the movie Barbie? Here’s what parents need to know.

Barbie’s movie rating is accurate

The Kens in Barbie.

Warner Bros/Mattel

The Motion Picture Association has rated Gerwig's film – which follows the title character (Margot Robbie) as she suffers an existential crisis and travels to the "real world" for answers – PG-13 for "suggestive references and brief language," cementing the film's status as the kind of movie teens and adults can happily enjoy. But what if you've got a five-year-old who's Barbie-obsessed, or an eight-year-old, or a whole gaggle of 10-year-olds who are dying to see this hot pink piece of cinema for themselves? How good can you feel about taking them?

First thing first: the rating is accurate. This isn't one of those PG-13 movies that's going to deliver brief nudity or full-on sexual discussions or even a single stealth F-bomb. There is some profanity, but it never rises to particularly harsh levels, and the "suggestive references" are such that they'll probably sail right by kids who don't yet understand double entendre. We’ve been sensing this movie is for adults, and having seen it, that’s mostly true. But it’s not scary or dark. It’s a true PG-13. If your kid is under 13, they can probably see it, but with you there.

Barbie has some serious themes

The Barbie Dreamhouse is...not the stuff of nightmares.

Warner Bros/Mattel

So, let's dig deeper and talk a little about the subject matter at the core of the movie. As the trailers reveal, much of the film's narrative is built on the contrasts between Barbieland and the Real World, where Barbie and Ken journey after things like suddenly flat feet and the inability to float down from her Dream House prompt Barbie to go seeking answers. Once she's there, she meets everyone from a determined CEO (Will Ferrell) to a disenchanted working mom (America Ferrara), but she also discovers some very shocking contrasts. See, Barbieland is meant to be perfect, a world free of not just cosmetic flaws but things like inequality and sexism as well. So when Barbie and Ken land in the real world, and are immediately confronted with things like cat-calling and the concept of "the patriarchy," they're thrown for a bit of a loop.

Obviously, these are serious subjects, and this is where things get a little tricky for parents because these concepts – and others, like the finite nature of human existence and the ever-present pitfalls of capitalism – can get a little heavy. For all its neon glow and joyful tone, Barbie is not afraid to confront and discuss these concepts, which means kids younger than 13 might have questions for you after you the credits roll, and kids hovering around the beginning of their grade school years might be flat-out confused by some of the things they hear. This isn't necessarily a barrier to entry, but it is the kind of thing you should be prepared to discuss with your kids if you're planning to take them to the film.

Barbie is good

The Barbies in Barbie.

Warner Bros/Mattel

Bottomline: unless you're especially concerned about the impressionable nature of your young ones or you've got a particularly tight grip on content ratings in your household, you should take your kids to see Barbie. For all its sometimes challenging subject matter and somewhat complex plotting, it is still a Barbie movie through and through, with all the beautifully designed sets, costumes, and jokes that implies. Gerwig and company may have built the film from a certain incisive, adult perspective, but the whole cast and crew clearly have a love for the toy that started it all, and that joy is palpable throughout. Even if your kids don't grasp all the concepts, and many of the jokes fly over their under-tweenage heads, they'll still enjoy the fish-out-of-water comedy, the nods and winks in the direction of Barbie lore, and the core ideas of the story.

Barbie and Ken searching for meaning and a sense of belonging in a newly confusing world is relatable, and a classic arc. So, while Barbie might not be for every single solitary member of your family, it nevertheless comes across in the end as a family-friendly adventure packed with fun.

Barbie is in theaters on July 21.

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