Life in the Dreamhouse

Barbie trailer has a brilliant reference to a Stanley Kubrick sci-fi classic

Do Barbies dream of giant women?

It’s almost time for summer camp, folks. And by “summer camp,” we mean sitting down for the most anticipated (and campiest) 2023 theatrical release next July: Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.

The titular and tentpole Mattel doll has had over 200 careers, but no role on her résumé has ever been “live-action movie star” ... until now. Brought to life by Margot Robbie and featuring Ryan Gosling and Simu Liu as Ken dolls, Barbie’s plot details are being kept tightly under wraps.

However, previous rumors and a teaser trailer for Barbie, screened exclusively on Avatar: The Way of Water’s opening night and then released on YouTube on Mattel’s official channel for the iconic toy, seem to suggest that Barbie will break ground and bend genres — backwards and in hot-pink heels.

The official logline for Barbie, which is being co-produced by Mattel Films, Heyday Films, and LuckyChap Entertainment (Robbie’s banner), is: “Barbie lives in Barbie Land and then a story happens.”

Oookay. That doesn’t tell us anything at all about the plot of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie! But, some rumors, based on Robbie’s own Letterboxd account, have been swirling since this past June when first-look images were released. Never confirmed to be her official Letterboxd account — but immediately deleted after the screenshots went viral — Robbie’s (possible) watchlist to presumably prep for Barbie include The Truman Show (1998), The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), Splash (1984), and Puberty Blues (1981).

These film selections, which include a science-fiction psychological thriller, a fantasy fish-out-of-water rom-com, two musicals, and an Australian coming-of-age drama, coupled with the teaser’s obviously intentional homage to Stanley Kubrick and parody of 2001: A Space Odyssey, are leading fans to suspect that Barbie will have a lot more depth to it than just plastic dreamhouses, poofy dresses, and patent pump high heels (but there’ll be plenty of that, too). Given the Letterboxd choices, as well as the first-look images and vibrant costuming and groovy choreography from the teaser trailer, and Gerwig’s own feminist sensibilities (Frances Ha, Little Women), we should go into Barbie expecting the unexpected.

One thing that is clear — if Mattel is backing this project, and promoting it on their official YouTube channels, then Barbie won’t be making a fool out of herself, even if she and her material girl world will be parodied. We also got a hint from the teaser trailer’s description on the channel that the film will “likely not be suitable for children under the age of 13.” Mattel has, in the past couple of years, had its own inclusive feminist revolution, so this doesn’t mean that the social themes the film may challenge will be damped down, either.

Barbie is co-written by Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, and also stars Will Ferrell (Stepbrothers), Emma Mackey (Sex Education), Kate McKinnon (SNL), Issa Rae (Insecure), Ncuti Gatwa (Doctor Who), Sharon Rooney (My Mad Fat Diary), Emerald Fennell (The Crown), America Ferrera (Superstore), Michael Cera (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), and Kingsley Ben-Adir (One Night in Miami...) in undisclosed roles.

Barbie takes Hollywood on July 21, 2023.