There is an incredible ITN archive clip of Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta being aggressively mobbed by screaming fans at the 1978 Grease premiere in Leicester Square. The difference between Barbie and Grease is that Grease deserved the hype. Barbie-director Greta Gerwig cites the musical as inspiration for her foray into the new Mattel universe. But much like an empty box of the product it is so desperately trying to sell you, Barbie lacks substance. It’s frustrating, if unsurprising, to leave the cinema without a sense of fulfilment that has so often been the strength of Gerwig’s other films as actor and director (Little Women, Frances Ha). Plus, The Lego Movie showed it’s not impossible to imbue personality, humour and emotion into a product-focused film about toys. Barbie’s only true joy is Ryan Gosling’s bleach-blonde metrosexual Ken. Gosling leans so hard into himbo that his Oscar, if the buzz is proved right, should be engraved simply with “Ken”. Still, it’s a jolly romp with zingy colours, wild sets and carefully choreographed PG jokes and much the better pick for summer holiday day treat with the kids than Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer.
Photograph courtesy Warner Bros Pictures