Early ‘Barbie’ reviews are in – so does it live up to the hype?


Reviews of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie—which follows the journey of Margot Robbie’s Barbie and Ryan Gosling’s Ken from Barbie Land into the real world, where they’re exposed to a patriarchal and misogynistic society—are in, and while most critics were awed by the visuals of the film, some found it struggling under the restriction of a giant consumer brand.

Australian actress Margot Robbie poses for a photo during a pink carpet event to promote her new film “Barbie” in Seoul on July 2, 2023. While most movie critics praised the pink dreamland Gerwig thought up in early reviews of the film, there were concerns about a film based on existing intellectual property. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)

Key Takeaways
  • Manohla Dargis, chief film critic for the New York Timeswrote Gerwig handled the task at hand well—“the Mattel brand looms large here, but Gerwig, whose directorial command is so fluent she seems born to filmmaking, is announcing that she’s in control”—but ultimately there are many reminders that “reality proves a bummer” and it’s difficult to forget the “inherently commercial parameters” in which the film is set.
  • The Hollywood Reporter’s critic, Lovia Gyarkye, praised the humor and “pink fever dream” of Barbie Land, but wrote the “muddied politics and flat emotional landing of Barbie” are reminders of the film’s capitalist nature, and summarized the movie as “a tricky balancing act of corporate fealty and subversion.”
  • Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge said Gerwig’s “take on the ultra-popular toy line (is) so darn smart,” and mentioned the juxtaposition Barbie provides to Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer—premiering the same weekend—calling it “kind of perfect” as “Gerwig’s girl-power blockbuster offers a neon-pink form of inception all its own.”
  • The Wall Street Journal’s film critic Kyle Smith was more critical of the film than many others, writing: “As bubbly as the film appears, its script is like a grumpier-than-average women’s studies seminar,” saying “the movie is bound to puzzle moviegoers who thought they were buying a ticket to ‘Fun Barbie.’”
  • The Associated Press’ culture writer, Jocelyn Noveck, described Gerwig’s Barbie as “brash, clever, idea-packed (if ultimately TOO packed) and most of all, eye-poppingly lovely,” despite sagging in its second half and having “some less-than-developed character arcs.”
  • With 159 reviews in, Barbie had a Rotten Tomatoes critic score of 89% as of Wednesday evening.


Big Number

$110 million. That’s how much Barbie is projected to make in the North American box office alone during its premiere this weekend. That’s more than double what director Christopher Nolan’s prestige film, Oppenheimer, is projected to gross—$50 million—though the pair will likely lead to one the biggest weekends at the box office this year.

Key Background

Barbie is one of the most-anticipated movie releases of the year, in no small part due to Mattel’s marketing efforts around the film. Fans eager to see the film can get anything from Barbie-branded Crocs to hot pink luggage from BEIS and Barbie x Moon electric toothbrushes, all part of Barbie the brand entering “yet another chapter” and now being recognised as an idea, Mattel President and COO Richard Dickson told Forbes.

The film boasts an all-star cast—including Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling and Will Ferrell—and a pop soundtrack produced by Mark Ronson, which helped build the hype around the movie, which has sold the most presale tickets since last year’s blockbuster Avatar: The Way of Water, which debuted to $134 million, according to Deadline.

This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.

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