Barbie on 4K UHD Is About As Thin As the Doll Itself

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is the era-defining hit of 2023 and, quite frankly, it deserves to be. We here at Film Obsessive raved about it with a full-marks review for its theatrical release in July. The colossally profitable hit landed on physical media on October 17th. It is available in 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD disc options. Our publication was granted a 4K review copy for our “Off the Shelf” series. 

The 4K UHD artwork for Barbie.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment


Boy, does the term “basic” continue to ring true for Warner Bros. home media releases. Barbie is the latest to be subjected to the corner-cutting when it comes to stylish disc presentation. Sure, the cover art and sleeve adorned with a glittery finish is a nice touch. However, just like the entire run of special 100th Anniversary discs we’ve been reviewing all year on “Off the Shelf,” the non-animated disc menus are as plain as possible and the uninspiring menu music peters out quickly. What the Barbie discs do have is six featurettes.


It’s a Weird WorldThe first featurette on the menu puts its focus in a unique place, namely the obscure side of the ensemble cast. The star of this nugget is Kate McKinnon, who was, at one time, a college classmate of director Greta Gerwig. The filmmaker had to have the former Saturday Night Live star and gave her the very memorable Weird Barbie part. The featurette takes viewers into the character’s creation and the specialized hair, makeup, and production design used to make McKinnon’s character stand out. The film’s other misfit characters (Teen Talk Barbie, Growing Up Skipper, Barbie Video Girl, Sugar Daddy Ken, and Earring Magic Ken) get to wave with their presence as well.

All-Star Barbie PartyRunning a very short amount of time is this second featurette celebrating the top-to-bottom casting of the various Barbies and Kens. From Alexandra Shipp and Emerald Fennel to Simu Liu and Kingsley Ben-Adir, each selected actor gets a video byte moment to say what brought them there and share their thanks to Greta Gerwig for bringing them all together. Naturally, the leads of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling get the most face time on this production log.

Musical Make-BelieveThis one might be where fans of the movie’s spectacle find themselves leaning forward and watching with intent. “Musical Make-Believe” runs about ten minutes and goes into the vast choreography, rehearsal, music, and cinematography collaborations to pull the movie’s fantastic song-and-dance set pieces. Choreographer Jennifer White and composer Mark Ronson earn the majority of the kudos for the majestic absurdity they created and executed with a massive team of workers and performers. 

Becoming BarbieThis is the shortest featurette of the collection and the one that admittedly could have gone on the longest. Not that Margot Robbie isn’t already perfect and malleable to pull off any look possible for Stereotypical Barbie, but the makeup to get her there was on another level. Lead hair and makeup artist (and someone who better be an future Oscar nominee), Ivana Primorc talked about the year-long process of color and camera tests for every incarnation of Robbie’s character. From the right foundation to emulate a plastic glow to new shades of lipstick to match outfits and 14 different wigs, the artists involved here were phenomenal and got a nice chance to shine.

Welcome to Barbie LandThis fifth feature is the disc’s longest, spanning about 15 minutes. It is also the best one for pure cinema fans who want to see how the magic is made. “Welcome to Barbie Land” shows the voluminous practical effects and massive soundstages that were used to give Barbie what they sought to be “authentic artificiality.” Much like the aforementioned hair and makeup work, the production design achievements of lead Sarah Greenwood, set decorator Kate Spencer, and art director Katrina MacKay deserve Oscar consideration this winter (if not the outright win). The details shown in the set tours here are incredible where no measurement, adjustment, or parameter of speed or physics was forgotten in their preparation and creation. It’s the classic kind of dreamy filmmaking that would have made Georges Méliès proud.  

Playing Dress-Up: An Extended Look at the Costumes of BarbieThe sixth and final featurette counts as extra attention but is a bit of a clone of sortss. Unlike the other realms of craft getting their own mini-doc, taking another ten minutes to gush on costumes when they were already covered in other featurettes feels like a redundancy. Rather than give much time to costume designer Jacqueline Durran most of the camera time, “Playing Dress-Up” is more about the actors talking about the costumes that helped them express their given character’s point of view. It’s more a thank you note than anything else.

For a movie as championed by general audiences and cinephiles alike, it’s surprising there isn’t a massive amount of special features to hammer home the epic scope of Barbie and all that entails. For example, there are zero commentary tracks, meaning no recorded brain-picking sessions were attempted on Greta Gerwig or this top-notch cast. Going back through her filmography, Gerwig did a commentary track for Lady Bird but not Little Women. Barbie would have an ideal place to have another. 

Meanwhile, the six featurettes are pretty much shot and chopped the exact same way. All are speed-edited to combine muted montage footage that was shot on location with snippets of narration and interviews with the various members of the cast and crew. They are nice looks, but far too short. Give us Peter Jackson-level deep appendices, Warner Bros.!

Written by Don Shanahan

DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing here on Film Obsessive as the Editor-in-Chief and Content Supervisor for the film department. He also writes for his own website, Every Movie Has a Lesson. Don is one of the hosts of the Cinephile Hissy Fit Podcast on the Ruminations Radio Network and sponsored by Film Obsessive. As a school teacher by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Indie Critics and a voting member of the nationally-recognized Critics Choice Association, Online Film Critics Society, North American Film Critics Association, International Film Society Critics Association, Internet Film Critics Society, Online Film and TV Association, and the Celebrity Movie Awards.

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