It is being hyped as the feel-good movie of the summer, an explosion of ‘pink perkiness’ which will influence everything from street fashion to home decor – and earn a predicted $1 billion at the box office.
Barbie, the £85 million blockbuster starring Margot Robbie as the iconic doll and Ryan Gosling as lovestruck Ken, is already being hailed as the film which will ‘save’ the movie industry and bring back audiences around the globe.
The Mail on Sunday understands sneak screenings of the movie – which has Barbie leaving Barbie Land to discover herself in the ‘real’ world – have had a virtually unheard of 95 per cent approval rating and feedback has been so positive executives at Warner Bros are set to green light a sequel before the film even hits cinemas.
A source said: ‘Everything is riding on Barbie. We’ve been having test screenings and the results are off-the-charts. Last year, Top Gun: Maverick pretty much single-handedly got people back into theatres after the pandemic, and Barbie is the film we’re banking on this year. The box office has not recovered but the buzz around Barbie has been so good that everyone is hoping this will be the film that gets butts back on seats.’
Barbie: The £85 million blockbuster starring Margot Robbie (pictured) as the iconic doll and Ryan Gosling as lovestruck Ken, is already being hailed as the film which will ‘save’ the movie industry and bring back audiences around the globe
Award-worthy: One viewer predicted that Gosling and Robbie will both be nominated for Oscars, adding: ‘And the film should get Best Picture and all the design and costume awards going’
While the film does not open until July 21, the official press launch took place last week as Ms Robbie, wearing a custom-made Prada gingham Barbie outfit, took to the stage at CinemaCon in Las Vegas to thunderous applause alongside co-star Gosling, the film’s director Greta Gerwig and actress America Ferrera, who plays one of a handful of human characters. Oscar-winner Helen Mirren narrates the movie and Will Ferrell stars as the boss of toy company Mattel, which introduced the 11.5-inch doll in 1959.
While some fans have expressed fears the new Barbie will be too woke – the film features various iterations of the doll including a black ‘President Barbie’, ‘Nobel Peace Prize winning Barbie’, a plus-sized doll and a Barbie with a prosthetic arm – one person who has seen the film described it as ‘magical’.
He said: ‘Yes, this is a Barbie for 2023. Greta Gerwig is a proud feminist but the wokeness comes across as firmly tongue-in-cheek. It’s a riot of pink perkiness yet it’s surprisingly moving. The underlying themes are universal. Barbie is trying to find herself and goes from a character who believes beauty is skin deep to someone who learns that happiness depends on more than looks alone.
‘At the screening I went to, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house by the end. This isn’t just a film for Barbie fans, it’s a great date movie and we’re getting overwhelmingly positive reviews from men, which is not what we were expecting.
‘There’s a lot of humour in the film. Barbie is the heroine and it’s all about girl power and feeling positive about yourself. The jokes are mostly at the expense of the Ken dolls and the patriarchy. I defy anyone to go into the film and not come out feeling better.’
One audience member who saw a sneak screening wrote on social media: ‘I saw Barbie. Loved it. Gonna be a massive movie. Fiercely feminist and volcanically hysterical. So flashy and bright. It deconstructs the feminist iconography of Barbie and recontextualises her for a new generation.’
Actors: The two stars of Barbie, Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie, discuss the film during the Warner Bros. Pictures presentation at CinemaCon
Another gushed: ‘It’s one of the best studio films in years and easily the best comedy in even longer. Visually, it’s iconic. Gosling has never been better… surprisingly emotional and playfully and blissfully political without being heavy-handed.’
One viewer even predicted that Gosling and Robbie will both be nominated for Oscars, adding: ‘And the film should get Best Picture and all the design and costume awards going.’
Hollywood is still reeling from the devastation of the pandemic which saw cinemas shut down globally and movie-goers have been slow to return. The total UK box office in 2022 was just under £1 billion, a 28 per cent decrease from the pre-pandemic 2019 figure. Meanwhile, people have become used to watching movies in the comfort of their own home on streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
A source at one of the major studios told the MoS: ‘Barbie is a film designed for the big screen. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s colourful. We’re banking on people wanting to make a night of it and get transported to a magical place called Barbie Land.’
Australian actress Ms Robbie, 32, said the script was so good – and unpredictable – that she never thought the film would end up being made. She said: ‘The first time I read the Barbie script, my reaction was: ‘Ah! This is so good. What a shame this will never see the light of day, because they are never going to let us make this movie.’ But they did.’
While toy company Mattel owns the rights to the doll, the company gave director Gerwig, 39, and her real-life partner and co-writer Noah Baumbach ‘carte blanche’ to create the story they wanted. Gerwig, Oscar-nominated for feminist films such as Little Women and Lady Bird, said: ‘When I was writing it with Noah there was a point when we were just making each other laugh all the time. Then we got to the end and we sort of started making each other cry.
‘And I cried when I stepped on to the set for the first time. They had made these life-sized Barbie houses with a slide going down to a pool. Everything was extraordinary and incredibly moving. There was genuine emotion put into every object.’
Barbie’s famous pink 1965 Corvette was recreated by the same team who made the Batmobile for last year’s The Batman starring Robert Pattinson. ‘They were so excited to get the pink paint out,’ Gerwig joked. The pink set was so captivating it became a magnet on the Warner Bros lot in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, where most of the filming took place last year before the production switched to LA.
Dolls: Sneak screenings of the movie – which has Barbie leaving Barbie Land to discover herself in the ‘real’ world – have had a virtually unheard of 95 per cent approval rating
Ms Robbie revealed: ‘You’ve never seen so many grown men finding excuses to come to the set. The Fast And Furious guys were shooting in the same studio and kept coming in. It was like a dopamine hit. Every time you walked on to the Barbie set, you were just instantly happy.’
And it’s not just the box office takings which will have cash registers ringing. Major designers from Valentino to Chanel and Balenciaga have embraced what Vogue magazine dubbed ‘Barbiecore’ fashion, with celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Lizzo and Megan Fox all stepping out in Barbie-inspired pink and fuchsia.
Vogue declared: ‘The forthcoming film has made ‘Barbiecore’, which mostly translates into skimpy looks in bright pink, the trend of the summer.’
The studio source said: ‘You will see Barbiecore fashion all over the high street this summer. We’ve done deals with everyone from major fashion brands to furniture and confectionary brands.
‘The future is pink. Barbie is about feeling good and having fun and isn’t that exactly what the world needs?’
Gap has a Barbie collection set to launch next month.
The studio believes the film will easily surpass $1 billion at the global box office which could make Ms Robbie, who is also a producer on the film, very rich indeed.
She not only received a reported £10 million to star in the movie (the same as leading man Gosling), she will also receive a percentage of the profits once earnings reach a certain level, which could translate into millions.
‘This film is all about Margot,’ the source said. ‘Only a handful of actors, people like Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, get the kind of back end profit-sharing deal that she’s getting.’
Sources in Hollywood say the film largely only got made thanks to the clout of Ms Robbie, star of films such as The Suicide Squad, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and The Wolf Of Wall Street.
The movie was first mooted in 2009 when Mattel signed a deal with Universal Pictures. But when that deal floundered, the rights were sold to Sony Pictures who attached comedian Amy Schumer as Barbie. When she dropped out, Les Misérables star Anne Hathaway was approached.
In 2018, the rights were sold to Warner Bros and Hathaway quietly left the project. Many feared the Barbie movie was stuck in ‘development hell’.
The following year, Ms Robbie agreed to star. She brought in Gerwig and the two decided to confront head on the frequent criticism of the doll – that Barbie creates an impossible ideal for young girls to emulate.
If Barbie’s body was translated into the real world, she would be 5ft 9in tall with a 39in bust, an 18in waist, 33in hips and a size three shoe. At just 7st 12lb, she would be considered anorexic and her tiny child-sized feet could not support her body. Ms Robbie makes a joke about Barbie’s feet in the movie when she walks into the frame wearing the doll’s trademark towering heels and steps out of them only to reveal her plastic feet are ‘stuck’ in the pointed-toe position.
In a pivotal scene in the ‘real’ world, Barbie is horrified to discover she has flat feet. The film has a multi-cultural cast of Barbies and Kens inside Barbie Land – promoting the idea that anyone can be Barbie or Ken.
Movie: Sources in Hollywood say the film largely only got made thanks to the clout of Ms Robbie, star of films such as The Suicide Squad, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and The Wolf Of Wall Street
American actress and activist Hari Nef, 30, who was born a boy and transitioned into a woman, plays the first-ever transgender Barbie. At least one of the Kens is openly gay. One Barbie is in a wheelchair while another is deaf and uses sign language to communicate.
Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu, who plays one version of Ken, said: ‘We were able to cast people of different shapes, sizes, differently abled, all under this message of: You don’t have to be blonde, white or X,Y or Z in order to embody what it means to be a Barbie or a Ken.’
The film is packed with British talent. Dua Lipa sings the theme tune and plays a blue-haired ‘Mermaid Barbie’. Derry Girls and Bridgerton star Nicola Coughlan plays ‘Diplomat Barbie’ and even Oscar-winner Olivia Colman has a cameo playing herself.
One thing that will be noticeably absent from the film? Sex. The script jokes about the smooth sexlessness of the dolls’ below-the-waist area when Gosling’s Ken asks Barbie if he can stay the night.
‘To do what?’ she asks.
‘I’m actually not sure,’ he replies.
Last week’s Vegas launch was just the start of a carefully co-ordinated three-month promotional tour.
Both Ms Robbie and Gosling will promote the movie wearing custom-made Barbie and Ken outfits by top designers such as Prada and Gucci. A pop-up Barbie experience opened last week in Santa Monica, California, which allows fans to pose inside a Barbie box, sit in a pink Corvette and even slide down a plastic pink slide. Similar pop-up experiences are being planned for London, Tokyo and New York.
An album of the film’s disco-influenced soundtrack will be released. One song that will not be heard in the film is the mega-hit Barbie Girl released by the Danish dance-pop group Aqua in 1997.
The catchy song’s video – with the lyrics ‘I’m a Barbie girl, in the Barbie World. Life in plastic, it’s fantastic’ – has been watched more than 1.2 billion times on YouTube but will not feature in the movie because of legal and contractual issues.
Even in Barbie’s perfect world, it seems, there are some things that are beyond her control.