“Barbie” has a stellar cast, led by Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, who are getting Oscar buzz for their performances. It’s rounded out by a mix of comic legends like Rhea Perlman and Kate McKinnon, and emerging stars such as Emma Mackey, Simu Liu, and Kingsley Ben-Adir. In particular, including Will Ferrell as Mattel’s CEO was a stroke of brilliance. “Barbie” closely parallels 2003’s “Elf” and 2014’s “The Lego Movie,” both of which feature Ferrell doing some of his best work. Like Buddy, Barbie is a too-innocent fish out of water once she reaches the real world — and like Emmett, she learns that she doesn’t have to be an astronaut or the president to be special. Ferrell is the goofy protagonist in “Elf” and the evil Lord Business in “The Lego Movie.” Here, he’s another corporate villain, and one who makes the inverse of Buddy’s journey. Kids may recognize him from his earlier appearances, but only perceptive teens and adults will understand what Greta Gerwig’s doing with this stunt casting.
Wrestling fans probably caught John Cena’s cameo as a mermaid, but other cameos would be lost on younger viewers. Annie Mumolo shows up as Anxiety Mom. Mumolo is the co-writer and co-star of 2021’s “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar,” another comedy that shares an aesthetic and tone with “Barbie.” Gerwig’s partner in screenwriting and life, Noah Baumbach, can be spotted for a split second looking sad on a bench. And speaking of benches, the older woman who tells Barbie that she knows she’s beautiful is Academy Award-winning costume designer and friend of Gerwig’s, Ann Roth. Finally, Helen Mirren is the film’s narrator.