MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
It's been a tough few weeks for the aspiring summer blockbuster. "The Flash," the new "Indiana Jones" film and the R-rated comedy "Joy Ride" have all underperformed at the box office. But one movie seems to be cutting through the noise even before its release - "Barbie," with its hot pink marketing machine. From Malibu, NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: I'm here at the beach in Malibu, where there are some gnarly surf waves. Up the hill across the Pacific Coast Highway is Barbie's Malibu dream house, a real-life three-story mansion painted hot pink. There's a swimming pool with a tall, curvy, pink slide, a glittery outdoor dance floor and a disco roller rink and lots of closets. As one of the many promotions for the Barbie movie, Airbnb has listed the dream house for free for a few lucky guests.
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MARGOT ROBBIE: Welcome to Barbie's dream house.
DEL BARCO: That's the movie's star Margot Robbie, walking through the film's set of the dream house in a viral video for Architectural Digest.
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ROBBIE: Even though it's fake, it's really beautiful, which is kind of like everything in Barbie Land.
PAUL DERGARABEDIAN: This is a test case in how to perfectly market a movie - the product tie-ins, the social media buzz.
DEL BARCO: Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for ComScore, says the joint campaign by Warner Brothers Studios and Mattel has turned Barbie into a lifestyle brand. Already, there are more than a hundred brand collaborations from Barbiecore (ph) fashions to home insurance policies to the Barbie Xbox. Online, there's an AI-powered Barbie selfie generator to create memes. And at a real-life shopping mall in Santa Monica, fans can experience the world of Barbie. It's an Instagram-friendly pop-up with a life-size Barbie camper van, Barbie space station and Barbie music recording studio. Like Disney and Hasbro, Mattel executives have said they want to turn the company's vintage intellectual property into new movie franchises. Hot Wheels, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, Barney and Polly Pocket could be next. But first up, it's the company's 64-year-old superstar doll.
KEVIN SANDLER: The zeitgeist is a post-COVID world that seems very scary, at war, dark. And Barbie is the opposite of that.
DEL BARCO: Kevin Sandler is an associate professor of film and media studies at Arizona State University.
SANDLER: It's been calculated to try to appeal to various age groups and races and gender identities. Everywhere you look, you see this buy-in from "Barbie." Whether it's on social media or through all these brands, it probably makes you really happy.
DEL BARCO: But it doesn't make everyone happy. Already, actress J. Smith-Cameron from the TV show "Succession" has tweeted that she feels bullied by the pink tsunami of Barbie marketing. The movie, directed by indie darling Greta Gerwig, seems to be in on the joke. Its slogan hints at the tightrope it's walking. Quote, "for those who love Barbie and for those who hate Barbie," an ironic wink to those of us who grew up with non-conforming feminist moms who didn't appreciate blonde, blue-eyed Barbie's impossible figure.
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ALEXANDRA SHIPP: (As Author Barbie) Hey, Barbie.
ROBBIE: (As Barbie) Hi, Barbie.
EMMA MACKEY: (As Physicist Barbie) Hi, Barbie.
ISSA RAE: (As President Barbie) Hi, Barbie.
ROBBIE: (As Barbie) Hey, Barbie.
SIMU LIU: (As Ken #2) Hi, Barbie.
RYAN GOSLING: (As Ken) Ugh.
ROBBIE: (As Barbie) Hi, Ken.
DEL BARCO: The movie opens next week, and official reviews are still embargoed, but it's already expected to debut at the top of the box office. Some of "Barbie's" buzz is even rubbing off on its tonally opposite opening weekend rival, "Oppenheimer." So it turns out even six decades and many critiques later, Barbie pink could indeed be the color of money. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DANCE THE NIGHT")
DUA LIPA: (Singing) Watch me dance, dance the night away. My heart could be burnin', but you won't see it on my face. Watch me dance, dance the night away. I'll still keep the party runnin' - not one hair out of place. When my heart breaks...
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