When interviewed for a profile by The New Yorker (via Variety), Mattel Films executive Kevin McKeon called the Barney film “surrealistic” and compared it to (not kidding) the films of “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation” writer-director duo Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze. Weirdly enough, that out-of-left-field comparison began to make more sense as McKeon kept talking:
“We’re leaning into the Millennial angst of the property rather than fine-tuning this for kids. It’s really a play for adults. Not that it’s R-rated, but it’ll focus on some of the trials and tribulations of being 30-something, growing up with Barney — just the level of disenchantment within the generation.”
The way McKeon described it, the Barney film sounds like a decidedly metamodern take on its titular character, à la “Barbie” and both Kaufman and Jonze’s most recent work. That would also bring it in line with contemporary A24 films like “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On,” which explicitly examine “Millennial angst” and “disenchantment” through a fantastical yet emotionally-grounded lens. McKeon even referred to the Barney film as an “A24-type,” adding, “It would be so daring of us, and really underscore that we’re here to make art.”
Look, I get that, on some level, it’s bizarre to even be talking about films like “Barbie” and “Barney the Dinosaur” this way, especially since we’ve yet to see either one of them. The fact of the matter is, though, we’re in a strange place where filmmakers often have to smuggle their original ideas and interests into franchises and IP adaptations to get their art made at all. So if Mattel is really serious about letting people like Greta Gerwig and Daniel Kaluuya scribble outside the lines on these films, then I’m all for it! Now, when are we getting Ari Aster’s Magic 8-Ball movie?