With its perfect backing track – Dua Lipa’s new Barbie track, Dance The Night – its starry cast and a clear glimpse of the film’s hilarious script, it’s no surprise.
While there is still one more agonising month to wait until Barbie lands on our screens (it’s set for release on July 21), here’s everything we know about the film that’s sure to be the talk of the summer.
What’s the plot?
Even though there’s now a nearly three-minute trailer, we still don’t have a full picture of exactly what the film’s going to be about. But from what we can gather: Barbie lives in a Barbie world, but something is starting to feel a little off. “Do you guys ever think about dying?” asks Barbie (Margot Robbie) as her friends all stare at her in shock.
All is not well in Barbieland after all. Her shower water is cold, she falls off her roof, and her perfectly pointed feet... go flat.
Perplexed, she goes to speak to Kate McKinnon’s Barbie character, who offers her the chance to go to the real world. Just like in The Matrix, where there’s a red pill and a blue pill, there’s a pink heel or a Birkenstock here to pick between. Barbie chooses the heel; McKinnon’s character rolls her eyes. She adds that Barbie needs to choose the brown flat, so that she can head off on an adventure out of Barbieland.
So off Barbie goes. Ken (Ryan Gosling) also turns up, uninvited, for the adventure.
The film’s logline on iTunes and IMDb says: “To live in Barbie Land is to be a perfect being in a perfect place. Unless you have a full-on existential crisis. Or you’re a Ken.”
Elaborating on the film in a Time magazine cover, Margot Robbie said: ““If you feel indifferent about Barbie or haven’t thought about Barbie in years, this movie is also for you.”
The feature’s author Eliana Dockterman has seen the film, and calls it “a fun yet self-aware romp with shades of Clueless and Legally Blonde. It’s also stuffed full of ideas, and occasionally overwhelmed by them.” Though Dockterman doesn’t reveal specifics, Ken’s storyline apparently stands out, and “Gosling nearly steals the show” as he embarks on a quest of “self-discovery”.
Kate McKinnon, who plays Weird Barbie added that she agreed to join the project because “it comments honestly about the positive and negative feelings,” around the brand. “It’s an incisive cultural critique.”
“It’s like sneaking in humanity to something that everybody thinks is a hunk of plastic,” said director Greta Gerwig.
Who is starring in Barbie?
The film has an impossibly star-studded cast, which is partly why the internet was sent abuzz.
There are the Barbies: Robbie, Issa Rae, Hari Nef, Alexandra Shipp, Ritu Arya, Kate McKinnon, Nicola Coughlan, Sharon Rooney, Emma Mackey, Dua Lipa and Ana Cruz Kayne. There are the Kens: Gosling, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Simu Liu, Ncuti Gatwa and Scott Evans.
And there are the Humans: America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, Helen Mirren (as, fantastically, the narrator), Will Ferrell, Connor Swindells and Jamie Demetriou.
Then there is Midge, played by Emerald Fennell and Michael Cera as Allan. Deep Barbie lore says that Midge is Barbie’s single and childless best friend (after a 2013 revamp to her story – she was originally sold as ‘pregnant’) while Allan was originally Midge’s boyfriend or husband, depending on the era.
Speaking about playing Barbie to The Hollywood Reporter, Robbie said: “Something like Barbie where the IP, the name itself, people immediately have an idea of: ‘Oh, Margot is playing Barbie, I know what that is’. But our goal is to be like, ‘Whatever you’re thinking, we’re going to give you something totally different — the thing you didn’t know you wanted’.”
She added: “Now, can we truly honour the IP and the fan base and also surprise people? Because if we can do all that and provoke a thoughtful conversation, then we’re really firing on all cylinders.”
Who has made the music?
May 25 was a big day for Barbie as, along with the new trailer, the first soundtrack line-up was revealed. Oh boy, does it promise to be a good’un.
Artists Ava Max, Charli XCX, Dominic Fike, Dua Lipa, Fifty Fifty, Gayle, HAIM, Ice Spice, Kali, Karol G, Khalid, Lizzo, Nicki Minaj, PinkPantheress, Ryan Gosling, Tame Impala, and The Kid Laroi are all set to have songs in the upcoming film.
Shortly after news of the film’s musical line-up was confirmed, Dua Lipa then dropped her Barbie track, titled Dance The Night. The official music, which was also released, has already racked up over a million views, and sees Lipa bopping away in her own pink Barbie-style disco room, which includes sequences of dancing on top of a giant pink shoe, and sitting in a pink convertible.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Robbie revealed that the music directly overlaps with the film; meaning that artists like Lizzo essentially narrate part of the action. “You’re hearing lyrics that are responding to what’s happening onscreen, so the music became more than just music — it became a device to enhance what the audience was watching and experiencing, and got to be the voice of the audience,” she said.
Gerwig also explained why disco is so prevelant on the soundtrack, and how it slots into Barbie’s story as she ventures out into the real world. “Disco comes with the assumption that people want to dance and have a good time. It didn’t realise it stopped being cool in the Seventies. Disco had no idea people started listening to punk rock. Disco is still there, in bell-bottoms, doing its thing.’”
Charli XCX also revealed that her first ever live performance was a rendition of Aqua’s Barbie Girl, as part of a cruise ship talent contest (she won).
Who has made the film?
American film director Gerwig, who made Lady Bird (2017) and Little Women (2019), has directed the film. She has co-written the script alongside her husband, director Noah Baumbach, who co-wrote Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and directed Frances Ha (2012) and Marriage Story (2019).
Interest around Barbie started to pick up when Gerwig, who is known for focusing on women’s stories, was announced as being attached to the project.
“I played with dolls too long,” the director told Time. “I was still doing it in junior high. Kids were drinking, and I was playing with dolls.” She added that her mother, a feminist, was not a fan of the toys. “She went through the Sixties and was like, ‘What did we do all this for?’” The director began using the dolls to tell stories, perhaps paving the way to her career in filmmaking.
“It was something that was exciting because it was terrifying,” said Gerwig about making Barbie while speaking to Dua Lipa on the singer’s At Your Service podcast in November. “I think that was a big part of it, like: ‘Oh, no, Barbie.’”
“It felt like vertigo, starting to write it, like: ‘Where do you even begin, and what would be the story?’ And I think it was that feeling I had... knowing that it would be really interesting terror,” she said. “Usually that’s where the best stuff is, where you’re like, ‘I am terrified of that.’ Anything where you’re like, ‘This could be a career-ender’ — then you’re like, ‘I should probably do it.’”
The film was overhauled
A Barbie film was first announced back in 2016, but it was going to be a very different project. There was Australian director Alethea Jones attached to the film for some time, and Olivia Milch, who co-wrote Ocean’s 8, was set to write the script.
There was a moment when Anne Hathaway was going to feature in the film. Then, Amy Schumer was going to star as Barbie, in a version of the film which also had Schumer’s sister Kim Caramele writing the script.
“I’m bummed, but look forward to seeing Barbie on the big screen,” said Schumer when she dropped out of the project because of scheduling issues. Gerwig officially took over in July 2021.
What happened after the official trailer was released?
Well, the film’s main trailer dropped on May 25, and immediately broke the internet with a glimpse of what to expect from the upcoming film. “Some things have been happening that might be related,” says Barbie to her friends, recounting the horrors we touched on above.
A flurry of memes subsequently, predictably, then swarmed the internet.
Me and my friends watching the full length Barbie trailer pic.twitter.com/ETb6sWeYOC
— limp brittzkit (@Brittymigs) May 25, 2023
In April 2023, the Barbie team also released a rundown of the different actors and the characters they will play. The tagline of the film, “Barbie is everything, and he’s just Ken” was reflected in their occupations: all the Barbies are super accomplished – there’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, a President, and a diplomat, for example – while the Kens are “just” Kens.
This spawned a number of articles about Gerwig’s feminist take on the American doll. The Standard argued, “the new Barbie movie is the feminist epic we deserve”, while GQ said: “The Barbie Trailer’s Kens are Not OK”.
Could there be a Barbie sequel in the future?
Though the film’s star Margot Robbie didn’t want to commit to the idea of a sequel in an interview with Time, she wasn’t against the idea. “It could go a million different directions from this point,” she said. “But I think you fall into a bit of a trap if you try and set up a first movie whilst also planning for sequels.”
Barbie will be released on July 21