This 4K is a Barbie. Indie darling actress and filmmaker Greta Gerwig crafts a hilarious and often poignant film featuring the famous doll in all her forms with a delightful turn from Margot Robbie and a daffy dead-pan spin from Ryan Gosling as Ken. The highest-grossing film of the year comes home to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with all of the bells and whistles of a near demo-worthy HDR10 transfer and an incredible Atmos audio mix to match. Bonus features are curiously slim but otherwise, this is a Highly Recommended release
It’s a Barbie world and we’re all just doing our best beach to get by. One half of the fabled Barbenheimer cinematic experience, Greta Gerwig blew the doors off her small safe house of independent filmmaking delivering the highest-grossing film of the year and amazingly enough, Warner Bros. highest-grossing film of all time (not adjusted for inflation of course). You didn’t need to be a girl that played with the titular dolls in all her forms and you don't need to know who Allen is to enjoy the hell out of this uproariously hilarious and heartfelt flick.
Welcome to Barbieland where everything is perfect for Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie) and her gal-pal squad consisting of Barbie (Issa Rae), Barbie (Emma Mackey), Barbie (Sharon Rooney), Barbie (Hari Nef), Barbie (Dua Lipa), and all of the other wonderful ladies named Barbie in all of their shapes, sizes, and professions. Celebrating their perfect world, Barbie and the Barbies pal about with their good friend Ken (Ryan Gosling), Ken (Simu Liu), Ken (Ncuti Gatwa), Ken (John Cena), and Allan (Michael Sara). But when Stereotypical Barbie’s perfect life starts to go wonky, she and Ken must leave Barbieland and travel to the real world to find out what’s wrong. Only the real world is far more dismal for women than Barbie could ever believe, and a whole lot more awesome for men and Ken!
Of all the ways Barbie could have gone, I’m glad to see it wasn’t just another bland princess story. With a deft satyrical touch, Gerwig and her partner (in more ways than writing) Noah Baumbach touch on the toy’s historical place as the first toy directed at young girls that wasn’t simply designed to play house. Barbie could be anyone, do anything, or look like anyone - even if the line itself didn’t always do a stellar job on that last point. For me, the film's smartest satyrical move was focusing on Robbie's Stereotypical Barbie. The wide variety of Babie and all her various interesting careers, shapes, and sizes are featured, but it's the most bland and boring one that gets all the attention. I mean, the tone and cadence of Hellen Mirren’s narration describing these different iterations of Barbie play to this tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. They may not get all the screen time but the other Barbies undercut the various ways Mattel often tried to PR their way out of bad press. And in this form, Robbie proves once again why she’s a high-demand actress as she skillfully weaves through the emotional waves her Stereotypical character rides.
Along for the ride is Ryan Gosling as what could be described as “Stereotypical” Ken who only wants some sort of emotional connection with his one true Barbie, but doesn’t get it. His hard turn to an obnoxious “man’s man” complete with Mojo Dojo Casa House and The Godfather on 24/7, was another hilarious turn. Where Gerwig’s Barbie is at its best is when it's playing with the themes of unhealthy hyper-feminism and toxic masculinity. It makes some fine points about equal opportunity without staying in the lane that this one is strictly for the ladies in the audience and everyone can have fun with it too.
All said, it's not a perfect film, I did think some of the A-plot points drifted a little too close to The Lego Movie for comfort (complete with a hilarious Will Farrell as the clueless president of Mattel), and it does run a little long as it tries to squeeze in a few too many gags for its own good, but I still had a blast with it. I loved Kate McKinnon’s scene-stealing Weird Barbie. As a bratty little brother, I was responsible for my sister’s collection of headless and deformed Weird Barbies. Once I discovered the powers of the sun and magnifying glasses, my sister's former Astronaut Barbie saw some serious shit on the edges of space, let me tell you!
Ultimately though I loved the message that someone’s dreams shouldn’t be limited by their gender. I’m an uncle to four amazing nieces. One’s an incredible athlete, two are wildly inventive artists in very different mediums, and one is well on her way to being a structural engineer. I love there’s a movie that reinforces the idea they can be whatever they want to be. While this movie is certainly catered to young ladies, I appreciate they didn't hide from the fact that the message is universal.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
This Barbie 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray comes home for a single-disc 4K UHD + digital release after basking in the glow of streaming retailers while also still pulling in impressive box office dollars. Pressed on a BD-100 disc, this single disc is housed in a standard black case with an identical pink sparkly slipcover.
NOTE - at press time we weren't able to pull 4K-sourced images, when we can we aim to update the review with full 4K images and hopefully a video sample too.
In a slightly odd move, Warner Bros opted for an HDR10-only release while digital retailers feature Dolby Vision. While this could have been detrimental, watching through this one and flipping to the streaming version for comparison, I gotta say the differences are only slight. The DV streaming may have a little more lighting nuance with those wild shades of pink, but this HDR10 transfer is no slouch. Bright, bold, colorful, and impeccably detailed - it too is a visually stunning home viewing experience.
With all of the world-building of Barbieland from the plastic houses and cars to the “water” on the plastic beach to the amazing costume design work, this film is a pink-hued visual feast. Even when Ken and Barbie reach the real world, details never falter. I really enjoyed the distinction between worlds and that daffy route anyone has to travel. HDR10 works its magic letting those bright colors shine without over-saturating skin tones. Given all of the colors, the various shades of blue, yellow, and red are well represented. Black levels are deep and inky with healthy shadow gradience. Image depth is excellent for a genuine sense of three-dimensional space.
On the audio front, Barbie kicks off with a pretty damned fantastic reference quality Atmos audio mix. To preface this, remember when we all had Top Gun: Maverick on streaming for months ahead of the disc, and the Atmos sounded pretty good, but then we got the disc and it blew that streaming experience apart? It’s like that again but with 100% less Tom Cruise and a lot more Barbie. That streaming Atmos just doesn’t have the same depth or impact this disc offers. Immediately with the 2001-inspired opening you could hear and feel a lot more LFE and range. The narration feels stronger and more pronounced, the dialog feels livelier, and the dance numbers have a whole lot more impact. Immersion into the sides, rears, and height channels also feel much more pronounced. The funniest sound effect of the whole movie is the squeaky-rubbery sound when the Barbies move and that element is much more noticeable here giving me a pretty constant chuckle. Dialog is clean and clear throughout and levels are spot on. That said, this is a fun one to play loud!
On the bonus features front, I was actually surprised by the lack of extensive extras. The collection of six featurettes is pretty on-the-nose EPK material. It’s interesting stuff, but at the same time not that deep or involved. But considering there was a wild lack of any retailer exclusives for Warner Bros. biggest movie of the year (or ever by certain mathematical metrics), this has me believing there’s got to be a much more stacked and involved release on the horizon and I wouldn't be surprised if it was timed for the holiday shopping run. To their credit given recent catalog releases, it’s nice to see the bonus features included on the disc!
Barbie was just a damn good fun movie. It has an important message for the audience, but it also doesn’t get so lost in the minutia of gender roles that it forgets to have fun. While some might feel it’s too pointed one way or the other, I thought the humor was well-aimed so that no one was left out of Gerwig’s satirical edge. Now on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, the film scores a winning 2160p HDR transfer with a lively fully-engaged Atmos track to match. Not every movie needs to be for everyone but for those open to having a big silly time with a great cast, colorful world-building, and a great audio mix, this fits the bill nicely. The lack of meaningful bonus features is a curiosity so don’t be surprised if the folks at the WB offer a bigger better set down the line. Until that day comes (if it comes), this Barbie is Highly Recommended.