12 things we Ken-not believe about the new Barbie movie

There comes a time when we realise we’re too old for dolls: we put down our pink playthings and grow up, get jobs, watch serious movies. Then there comes a time when the Barbie movie releases hilarious promo images, a cast led by Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, and a glorious teaser trailer, and you instantly become a little kid again.

Every viral image we’ve seen of Barbie looks irrepressibly delightful, and with a glam cast and celebrated director behind the lens, each new bit of info just has us more keen. Here’s everything we know about the Barbie movie so far: imagination, life is your creation, etc.

1. Amy Schumer and Anne Hathaway were both cast as Barbie before Margot Robbie

With her sunny blonde hair and glam female fantasy roles in everything from Babylon to The Wolf of Wall Street, Margot Robbie’s casting as THE Barbie feels like a no-brainer. But that just wasn’t the case with studio attempts to bring a live-action Barbie movie into the world: comic Amy Schumer was initially cast in the role in late 2016, rewriting an existing Sony pitch with her sister.

She would drop out in March of 2017, though, frustrated that “they definitely didn’t want to do it the way I wanted to do it, the only way I was interested in doing it.” Call it creative differences, then, with Schumer revealing that she wanted her Barbie to be an ambitious inventor, but the studio requested that her big invention be a high heel made of Jell-O. Huh.

Along the way to Robbie’s casting in 2019, Anne Hathaway was another (good!) option for the lead role, with Wonder Woman‘s Patty Jenkins and Aussie Alethea Jones floated as potential directors. But Robbie’s the right pick, and she’s ready to surprise us with her performance, too.

“The IP, the name itself, people immediately have an idea of, ‘Oh, Margot is playing Barbie. I know what that is'” Robbie explained. “Whatever you’re thinking, we’re going to give you something totally different—the thing you didn’t know you wanted. Can we truly honour the IP and the fan base and also surprise people?”

2. All of the Barbie actresses got together before shooting for a big pink sleepover

As perfect as Robbie’s casting is, there’s obviously not just one kind of Barbie doll out there: so we need a full cast of girlies to bring the full, diverse Dreamhouse to life. Issa Rae is President Barbie: Hari Nef is Doctor Barbie: I am Excited Barbie.

The new trailer above shows this whole multiverse of Barbie madness greeting each other at the beach, but we imagine the party was a bit less stiff when Robbie and every Barbie actress enjoyed a big cast sleepover before production started. This just sounds like a wholesome load of fun: the right way to get into Barbie’s silly, sweet mindset.

3. There’s heaps of Kens—but “there’s only one Allan”

Who the hell is Allan? Michael Cera will bring this discontinued character, marketed as “Ken’s friend” in the 1960s, to daggy life, in a male cast otherwise infested by countless incarnations of Ken. Ryan Gosling has caused some serious buzz in his bleached-blonde fit as our lead Ken, seemingly a clingy loser with a penchant for rollerskating. Gosling has responded positively to the internet telling him he’s perfectly OTT in the role: “I’m proud of that,” he said to ET. “I have that ‘Ken-ergy’ that he can feel, obviously. Ken’s got no money, he’s got no job, he’s got no car, he’s got no house…he’s going through some stuff.”

The other Kens, all competing for a taste of Barbie’s love and Main Character Energy, include Scott Evans, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and Marvel hero Simu Liu, who revealed the agony of waxing his chest and leg hair to get that baby-smooth Ken doll look. The Shang-Chi actor called waxing “one of the most painful experiences of my life…I have such a newfound admiration for the incredibly brave women who go through this on a monthly basis”.

4. Barbieland is full of Brits—in particular, the British stars of Sex Education

That’s Ncuti Gatwa posing next to Ryan Gosling in what looks like a battle for dominance between all the Kens: he’s Doctor Who‘s Fifteenth Doctor, but had his breakout role in coming-of-age comedy Sex Education. It turns out that Barbie will be a bit of a cast reunion for Gatwa, who’ll appear alongside the Netflix show’s other stars Connor Swindells and Emma Mackey (who’s constantly compared to her showbiz lookalike Robbie. No she is unfortunately not playing Skipper, it seems).

Even beyond Sex Education, Barbie‘s casting directors seem fixated on British talent, also signing up Sharon Rooney, Jamie Demetriou, Derry Girls standout Nicola Coughlan, and Dame Helen Mirren as the film’s noble narrator.

5. Greta Gerwig directs and co-wrote the script with her partner Noah Baumbach

Both Baumbach and Gerwig are from the brainy, low-fi world of mumblecore cinema, first collaborating on their hilarious and insightful black-and-white film Frances Ha. Their most recent work together was in Baumbach’s Netflix film White Noise, a cerebral apocalyptic black comedy that starred Gerwig as a housewife addicted to a strange drug.

But the times and the colour scheme, they are a-changin’: the couple, who have a lil kid named Harold together but are unmarried, penned the Barbie script together while Gerwig directs. Despite the more gentle, introspective tone of her previous films Lady Bird and Little Women, her fixation on girlhood and autonomy makes her the perfect person to direct a big-budget feminist screen adaptation of everybody’s favourite doll.

6. The plot seems to follow Barbie as she leaves her toy world and enters our real one

Back when Amy Schumer was cast as Barbie, the film was vaguely about a doll not conventionally beautiful enough to fit into her plastic perfectionist world. The current IMDb description still reads as something similiar, perhaps suggesting that elements of that script still act as the foundation for Gerwig’s finished product: “A doll living in Barbieland is expelled for not being perfect enough and sets off on an adventure in the real world.”

A sign leading to our grim, not-so-fantastic reality does appear in the latest Barbie trailer, but we don’t have a clue what the movie’s story will specifically be beyond that. Actors like Will Ferrell, America Ferrera, and Jamie Demetriou are described as “suits” and “humans” in the character posters below. This would seem to confirm that Barbie is a living toy somehow brought into the “human” boardroom deciding her manufactured fate, right? Let’s wait and see.

7. The internet got way too excited by the film’s character posters

A big, diverse cast deserves a highly meme-worthy introduction to the world, and the collect-’em-all, colour-blocked sneak peeks we got of practically every single Barbie actor were everything we could’ve asked for. (But where’s John Cena, also mysteriously credited in the film’s cast?)

Each character’s pose is captioned with a simple description (“This Barbie is a journalist”, “a lawyer”, “a doctor”), with some characters being sassily taken down a notch (“She’s Midge”, Emerald Fennell’s photo simply puts it: “he’s like an intern or something”: Ryan Gosling is “just Ken”).

To single out just some of the most exciting character posters, we love Dua Lipa as Mermaid Barbie, Helen Mirren’s cosy Narrator look, and Kate McKinnon as a Barbie who is “always in the splits”. Judging by the marker on her face and her hastily lopped-off haircut, we’re guessing she’s that poor abandoned Barbie in the drawer who got loved a bit too much by a toddler at some point.

8. The costumes we’ve already seen are retro pink perfection

Costume designer Jacqueline Durran is best known for crafting lush period gowns, having won Oscars for her work in Anna Karenina and Gerwig’s Little Women. Working with a far more comic and post-modern subject here, she’s still paying homage to aesthetics of the past and to specific clothing that the actual toy has worn: such is the case with Barbie’s relentlessly 80s roller-skating get-up, and the groovy cowboy-gone-disco drip pictured above. Every frame of the Barbie trailer shows off some new lewk that’s instantly gone viral, showing that Durran knows exactly what she’s doing. Even when simply recreating the very first Barbie, in her iconographic black-and-white swimsuit.

9. It’s still coming out on the same day as Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer

Two films from hugely appreciated directors, adapting towering historical figures from extremely different corners of Western culture: one release date. Catch us swapping costumes like some farcical sitcom character, running between two cinemas on July 20 to see Christopher Nolan’s somber period biopic Oppenheimer and Gerwig’s bubbly comedy Barbie at the same time.

There’s been plenty of memes pointing out the vast contrast between the two hotly anticipated films, this architectural gag being just one of our faves:

It remains to be seen which movie will get better reviews, bigger box office—and who knows, one production’s studio might flinch and bump their release to avoid the competition.  A double feature on the day does sound like a great way to spend your time, though.

10. Can this seriously be the first live-action Barbie film?

There are a buttload of Barbie animated films, casting the blithe blonde doll in yassified retellings of everything from The Three Musketeers to Swan Lake—plus as plenty of mermaids, fairies, pop stars and princesses. The girl has serious range. How is it possible that she’s never made the leap to live-action before?!

Back in 2000 we got an unofficial live-action Barbie movie of sorts, with Tyra Banks starring as the analogous “Eve” doll opposite Lindsay Lohan in the Disney family film Life-Size. She sings, she changes outfits a lot, and she even has a tiny bar code imprinted on her foot! But she’s certainly not Barbie, somehow making 2023’s Gerwig film the first and only Barbie movie with truly life-size, live-action performances.

11. The iconic song “Barbie Girl” by Aqua will not appear in the film :(

This extremely irritating yet wonderful song is probably the first sound that comes to mind when we think of soundtracking the first official Barbie movie: it’d be perfect slowed waaaay down for a dramatic moment, or even just blasted over the credits. It rightfully has over a billion views on YouTube. Thing is, Barbie‘s creator Mattel hates the bop, suing Aqua’s label MCA Records for violating their trademark and tarnishing the doll’s wholesome image with lyrics like “undress me everywhere” and “hanky-panky”.

Aqua’s lead singer Lene Nystrøm has confirmed that the song will not be used in the movie, which is a tragedy. But! Wes Anderson favourite and Gerwig’s Little Women composer Alexandre Desplat will contribute a lively orchestral score to the film instead, so dry your millennium-era tears.

12. Think pink: prepare to enter the season of “Barbie-core”

Pink, plastic, fantastic: the aesthetic of Barbie is infectiously joyful, a source of comforting nostalgia for generations of girlies. That’s why Flicks is certain that the next era of themed parties and perhaps even street fashion will be absolutely ruled by the style of one Barbara Millicent Roberts (yep that’s the doll’s full name).

InStyle reported on the soon-to-be-massive trend last year, referencing the 2000s “empowered bimbo” evolution from Elle Woods to countless pop stars. In short, you’d better have at least one item in your closet ready to wear to a Barbie party sometime soon. Preferably in PMS 219, the official Pantone shade of pink that Barbie loves best. Wear it to the movies on July 20, why don’tcha.