Ads for "Barbie" claimed it was for people who hate her and love her, which left me wondering: What about people who don't care about her at all? Turns out the comedy/drama has us covered, too.

The key to the movie is director/co-writer Greta Gerwig's ability — previously demonstrated in "Lady Bird" and "Little Women" as well as in performances in "Maggie's Plan" and "Frances Ha" — to make sincerity feel cool. Cynical moviegoers can be forgiven for going into "Barbie" thinking it'll be aggressively marketed fan service, like "Super Mario Bros." was.

It's not. It's a thoughtful, funny film that cares about what Barbie means to people and it argues that Barbie — like human beings — makes mistakes but is pretty great, anyway.

If the movie has a target, it's perfection, which Gerwig and husband Noah Baumbach's script argues is boring, empty and not human. All of those are things that have been said about the bizarrely shaped doll, whose neck, supposedly, would not be capable of supporting her head if she were human. But Barbie (Margot Robbie, who's mostly a genial straight woman) is curious about humans and, when she travels from Barbie Land to the Real World, she learns they're curious about her, too.

Barbie thinks she has come to Los Angeles in search of a child who loved playing with her. But when she meets Sasha (Ariana Greenblatt), and her mother (America Ferrera), she learns the girl thinks Barbie is a fascist who was invented to "make women feel bad about themselves." Sasha's mom, who works at Barbie manufacturer Mattel, has even more complicated feelings.

"Complicated Feelings" would be a good subtitle for "Barbie," which shifts tones (ranging from manic to earnest in the lovely conclusion) as often as its protagonist changes outfits. Gerwig pokes affectionate fun at Barbie, but it's also clear that she loves her and that she thinks Barbie was an important way for girls to learn that being the mother of a baby doll wasn't their only option.

Gerwig argues that Barbie and her human pals have things to teach one another, which becomes apparent when she heads back to Barbie Land, which had been a women-in-charge place like Wonder Woman's, only to discover that vain, jealous Ken (Ryan Gosling, whose every word is a comic gem) has turned it into a patriarchy. He's also transformed her Malibu Dream House into the bro-infested Mojo Dojo Casa House (and yes, three of those four words mean essentially the same thing).

"Barbie" is probably stranger than you'd expect, and it has more on its mind. It's a goofy dance party one minute and, the next, a diatribe about how tough women have it, passionately delivered by future Oscar nominee Ferrera.

It also features Kate McKinnon, as one of many Barbies, except she seems to hate Barbitude (there are also trans Barbies, Barbies of color and one who uses a wheelchair). And there's a narrator (Helen Mirren) who questions the casting of the lead of the very movie she's narrating.

Gerwig's instincts — toward kindness, compassion and love — make it all make sense. I went into "Barbie" wishing she'd do something original for her next movie instead of the announced "Chronicles of Narnia." But having seen what she could do with this material, now I can't wait.

***½ out of 4 stars
Rated: PG-13 for ribald humor.
Where: In theaters.