Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar review: a comedy masterpiece ready for cult status
The brand-new funny Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar moneys in all the mainstream cred accumulated by writer-actors Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo after the phenomenon of Bridesmaids, then puts it towards the best usage of all: silly, unusual, delighted jokes.
The bits are performed with severe self-confidence; when the set strut out in khaki culottes and epic perms, it’s like they’ve invested the last ten years carrying out on SNL as the 2 twinkling, middle-age Midwesterners. However like Austin Powers or Andy Samberg’s Popstar change ego Connor4Real, Wiig and Mumolo developed Barb and Star exclusively for one ridiculous experience in the sun. Likewise like Austin Powers and Popstar, that sort of bold stab frequently just discovers acknowledgment in the years after tumbling. We won’t know if the movie would have suffered the same box-office troubles in its original planned theatrical release (COVID lockdowns are sending it straight to VOD services), but, c’mon, we know. The fate makes Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar a cult-movie-on-arrival just waiting to be discovered.
After losing their jobs at Jennifer’s Convertibles, best friends Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig) find themselves in an existential crisis. Not just did they rely on the furniture outlet’s in-store dining set to host Thanksgiving dinner, but selling sofas was their purpose. Lying about their layoffs to their friends and getting booted from Talking Club (“First rule of Talking Club: always tell the truth”) only speeds up their depressive spiraling. When a friend returns from a rejuvenating vacation in Florida, the women hightail it out of Soft Rock, Nebraska to Vista Del Mar for sun, sand, and possible intercourse with a man. “It smells like Red Lobster!” Barb proclaims of paradise.
What Wiig and Mumolo deliver for 90 minutes can only be described as comedic off-roading. Whether it’s improvisation or the result of years inside each other’s heads, the material beams off the screen. The two actors babble on in character about everything from racoon sleeping patterns to labia piercings and the high art of lounge singer Richard Cheese. And yet it’s all precise, too; Mumolo knows just the right way to mispronounce “Don Chee-adle?” and Wiig has the perfect wide-eyed look to fire back in agreement. When they hit the dance floor to rock out to a club remix of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” those oddball sensibilities flood the screen. They’ve created a movie that’s totally them, and everything from the pastel production design to the punctuating camerawork is on their oddball wavelength.
Unexpectedly, Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar accommodates Wiig with a second role: Sharon Gordon Fisherman, a villainous albino mastermind with a thirst for vengeance against Vista Del Mar. Assisted by her kidnapped child Yo-Yo (Reyn Doi) and her number two, Edgar (Jamie Dornan), who hopes to one day achieve “official couple” status with his boss, Sharon plots to destroy the seaside community by unleashing a wave of killer mosquitos. Wiig plays the evildoer as equal parts Cate Blanchett and Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka, cackling up a storm as she watches Edgar enact her plan — or try. The henchman eventually catches the eye of Barb and Star, and while the two compete for his affection, he’s equally intoxicated by the prospect of real love. It’s the perfect role for Dornan, whose typical stoic persona melts away to reveal a smitten romantic who will belt a tune to profess his love. Yes, of course this movie has a big beach-musical number.
The absurdist logic of Barb & Star gives way to what I can only assume are Wiig and Mumolo’s wildest dreams — and there’s a thrill to seeing them come to life without restraint. After the success of Bridesmaids, it was never quite clear which boxes the collaborators would fill. Wiig became an unlikely indie darling in films like Welcome to Me, The Skeleton Twins, and The Diary of a Teenage Girl, while Hollywood hoped to plug her into IP vehicles like Ghostbusters. Mumolo parlayed her Bridesmaids screenplay Oscar nom into both writing gigs (she penned the early drafts of the Jennifer Lawrence drama Joy before David O. Russell took over and mangled it into the finished product) and a string of TV work, but nothing on the scale of her blockbuster comedy. Barb & Star sees the wall of convention crumble, allowing two Groundlings veterans to enter their natural habitat. “Your dong went all the way up and touched my heart” feels like a line someone’s been dying to deliver since day one.
The freedom leads to excess. The good kind. From spy-movie setpieces to asides about Pringles Can Man intercourse, Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar puts it all out there, as if Wiig and Mumolo understand this is their one and just shot to be themselves. Fortunately, for fans of shamelessly foolish humor, there are no rough spots. For audiences who are not, the entire thing may be … a difficult trip. Possibly Barb puts it finest in explaining her wild, rough banana-boat trip: “It’s a real tit flapper!”
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar opens on PVOD platforms on Feb. 12.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.