A film review by Craig J. Koban April 28, 2021

BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR jjj
½ 

2021, PG-13, 107 mins.

Kristen Wiig as Star  /  Annie Mumolo as Barb  /  Jamie Dornan as Edgar Paget  /  Wendi McLendon-Covey as Mickey Revelet  /  Damon Wayans, Jr. as Darlie Bunkle  /  Kwame Patterson as George the Bartender  /  Reyn Doi as Yoyo  /  Michael Hitchcock as Gary  /  Phyllis Smith as Delores  /  Vanessa Bayer as Debbie  /  Rose Abdoo as Bev  /  Fortune Feimster as Pinky  /  Andy García as Tommy Bahama  /  Reba McEntire as Trish

Directed by Josh Greenbaum  /  Written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig

BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR is like a perpetually weird and unimaginable hodgepodge of THE GOLDEN GIRLS meets any random Elvis Presley travelogue musical meets AUSTIN POWERS.  If it's not one of the silliest films that I've seen as of late then I don't know what is.  

Buuuuuuuuuut.....this is also one of the funniest films I've seen in an awfully long time, and once you submit to all of its eccentric oddness as a wacky, go-for-absolute-broke comedy then it becomes awful hard to break free from its hypnotic vortex.  

The film was written by and stars Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo (who previously worked together on BRIDESMAIDS) and features the titular Nebraska residing BFFs journeying to a Florida resort for a vacation that ends up with them becoming embroiled in the nefarious plot of a super villain with mad delusions of granduer.  

And trust me when I say this: That just barely scratches the service here. 

Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig) are the type of big haired, middle aged Midwesterners that feel like they just got yanked from the set of FARGO.  They're awfully nice souls that are inseparable and literally do everything together.  Hell, they even work the same "dream" job at the IKEA-like store, which they love, I think, because it affords them ample downtime to talk about things of the most hysterically random and mundane (one early conversation between them starts with Star revealing, "I had a dream that I made love with the guy on the Pringles can," which Barb pleasantly responds, "Which flavor of Pringles?").  Both adore each other's constant company, which acts as a security blanket of sorts due to one being a divorcee and the other being a widow.  Star does want some adventure away from her home and the "hottest job in town," but Barb is a bit more reticent.   

One day the pair bumps into a mutual friend that seems to have a newfound radiant glow about her, which is the product of her recently discovering and attending a posh resort in the mystical land of...Florida.  Vista Del Mar, to be precise.  Both want to throw caution to the wind and journey out to this hallowed ground, a much needed getaway that they both hope will allow for them to reclaim their lost "shimmer."  They take the plunge and upon arriving at Vista Del Mar they feel like they've been transported to a whole other planet altogether and begin to take and drink in every sight.  Sporting their best pair of culottes (just Google search it), Barb and Star embrace every new day with a childlike glee, which leads to both of them having a duo meet-cute with the hunky Edgar Paget (Jamie Dornan) at the resort bar one night, but little do they know that this seemingly single thirtysomething hunk is actually the employee (and hopeful future lover) of Sarah Gordon Richardson (also played by Wiig), an egomaniacal baddie with world dominating proclivities that wants to eradicate Florida from this Earth via a swarm of killer genetically altered mosquitoes.  

 

 

Clearly, sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads were not on loan from Dr. Evil. 

BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR feels like its marrying together about a half dozen different types of films and genres at the same time.  I kind of say that as a sly compliment.  It has the sort of carefree breeziness of the BILL AND TED entries alongside the ultra broad parody elements of an AIRPLANE inspired spoof further lathered in with Broadway musicals (there's many scenes involving just about everyone breaking out into song and dance, more on that in a bit) and Hope and Crosby buddy road trip pictures.  Miraculously, director Joss Greenbaum and writers Wiig and Mumolo never make this film feel like a derivative kitchen sink affair.  The characters are so uniquely and endearingly quirky, sweet tempered, and amusingly naive about seemingly everything around them.  Wiig and Mumolo reportedly created the characters of Barb and Star years ago, and when they appear on screen together - and within minutes - the pair have an ethereal comic chemistry and timing that really shows and carries the day.  The duo have this almost indescribable manner of changing conversation topics at the relative drop of hat.  "God, it's so funny to think that right now all the raccoons in the world are sleeping right now," Star hilariously contemplates at one point.  The ad libbing in this film is kind of a thankless work of art, and it takes special talent with built in history like Wiig and Mumolo to pull this off successfully.  One of the sublimely uproarious pleasures of BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR is just being in these characters' company to experience just how fanatical they are when it comes to friendship. 

Some comedies are lucky to have a small handful of laugh out loud moments, but BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR contains far too many to count.  An early sequence showcasing the ladies arriving at the resort becomes this glitzy, glossy, colorful, and invitingly gaudy musical number that involves nearly every worker and hotel guest prancing around and singing in unison.  There are even moments of gut busting amusement when the film segues back and forth to the other lady friends that Barb and Star left behind, who try to entertain themselves with soul crushing chat parties ("I like looking at wicker, but don't like sitting in it," of the gals sheepishly explains at one point).  There's one long, inspired, and extended riff of Barb and Star talking at length about one of their imaginary creations named Trish, which contains an obsessive amount of detail and back story ("To me, a woman named Trish is someone you can count on!").  One of the funniest scenes has to be Edgar and the ladies drunkenly partying the night away while gyrate dancing to a techno re-mix of a classic Celine Dion song from one of the biggest movies ever.  Oh, and there are big laughs revolving around a conversation that Star has with a crab whose voice sounds an awful lot like Morgan Freeman.  I mean, you really just have to go with this film and embrace its unendingly goofy and nonsensical energy. 

Let's go back to Jamie Dornan for a minute.  He was, of course, the star of the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY franchise and, in my mind, was a charisma black hole in those D-grade trashy films.  In BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR, however, he's a complete performance revelation and frequently is the source of the best guffaws that the film has to offer.  I love it when a serious actor is allowed free reign to simple chill out, loosen up, and just have fun with his own image and play a role that doesn't require an ounce of serious thought at all.  And Dornan, to his very credit, seems commendably equal to the task of embracing the limitless shenanigans of his part and the film built around him as fluidly as Wiig and Mumolo, which hits its stride in one of the best montages featuring the Irish heartthrob looking absolutely outlandish in his own 80s inspired music video (he sings, prances around, and melancholically speaks to seagulls about his love life issues).  This is built off of the recurring subplot/gag of this man - who could literally have any woman that he wants at any time - hopelessly pining for Wiig's wicked villain (who looks like some sort of androgynously kooky creation from a Johnny Depp/Tim Burton team-up fever dream).  It should be noted that Wiig is equally funny as the chief antagonist here in many moments involving her trying to politely fend off Edgar's puppy dog-like flirtation.  She doesn't have time for love, though, in her Florida destruction plot.  This probably has a lot to do with the fact that she was shot out of a cannon as a child by Floridian bullies as a prank.  That would scar just about any child.     

The more BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR progressed the more infectiously hilarious it became for me.  Truth be told, the film does become a bit unwieldy in terms of length and its final act becomes a bit too protracted out for its own good with some jokes not working as well as the plethora of what's unleashed on us leading into the final act.  Still, this film made me laugh and laugh more frequently that any other comedy than I've seen as of late, and Wiig and Mumolo - as the inspired ringmasters of all of this wanton looniness in front of and behind the camera - deserves props for their consistency of vision here.  And BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR has a wholly distinctive vision that's fully its own and is worn like a badge of honor.  It's also a rare breed of comedy that makes one want to see more spirited misadventures of its misfits to come (unfortunately, having this film unceremoniously dumped to VOD after multiple failed theatrical release attempts caused by the pandemic don't make sequel prospects too high).  Barb and Star may superficially come off as one-note SNL sketch caricatures, but they have an innocence of spirit and genuine warm hearts.  Besides, not too many movie characters can pull off talking about fornicating with famous corporate potato chip mascots and not make it sound creepy.  

  H O M E