Barbie may have started as a simple toy in 1959, but she quickly branched out into a plethora of careers. Doctor, airline pilot, painter: Barbie’s done it all. But while numerous film franchises have entered the world of Barbie, the doll herself has thus far been relegated to direct to video and streaming features, starting with Barbie in the Nutcracker in 2001 and all the way through Barbie: Skipper and the Big Babysitting Adventure earlier this year.
But with the release of 2023’s Barbie, the multifaceted woman finally gets to the big screen, thanks to director Greta Gerwig and stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Gerwig and co-writer Noah Baumbach have crafted a meta-textual story in which Robbie and Gosling play just one of many Barbies and Kens, among luminaries such as Issa Rae (Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse), Alexandra Shipp (X-Men: Apocolypse), Kingsley Ben-Adir (Secret Invasion), and Simu Liu (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings). Robbie and Gosling’s Barbie and Ken also go on an adventure in the real world, which brings them to Mattel executives played by America Ferrera and Will Ferrell. Other stars include Saturday Night Live vet Kate McKinnon as Weird Barbie and Micahel Cera as the affable doll Allan.
While all of Barbie’s previous films have come and gone with little attention from anyone outside the target demographic, the upcoming feature film has been one of the most anticipated of the year. The movie finally comes to theaters after an extended production period that began in 2009. Over the years, a number of high-profile creatives have been attached to the movie, including writer Diablo Cody and comedian Amy Schumer.
But it wasn’t until Gerwig came on board that serious buzz started to build. In addition to an impressive career as an actor in films such as Francis Ha, Gerwig has established herself as an exciting new director, having helmed favorites such as Lady Bird and the most recent adaptation of Little Women. By the time the marketing team started releasing cheeky character posters of the various characters, the internet was filled with excitement, especially in relation to the possibility of a strange double bill with that other July 21 release, Christopher Nolan‘s Oppenheimer.
Reactions to even the film’s first trailers have been surprising, with social media users making memes identifying themselves as different types of Kens and Barbies or reframing shots of Robbie and Gosling in a police lineup. Of course, the internet can make jokes about even the dumbest movie, but is Barbie as much fun as the conversation around it has been? The first reactions from critics usually give us an idea of what to expect, and they seem to be largely positive, with people praising Robbie as the emotional center of the movie, while Gosling’s performance as Ken appears to be a tour de force.
You can take a look at what people have been saying about Barbie after their preview screenings below.
Barbie comes to the theaters on July 21, 2023.