Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar review: A goofy delight
Barb and Star8
Ivan Radford | On 12, Feb 2021
Director: Josh Greenbaum
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan
Watch Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store / CHILI
It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Bridesmaids, the smash hit that proved female-led comedies could bring in the bucks just as well as the countless male-centric comedies that dominated the genre at the time. The film put Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig on the map, turning Wiig into a global star beyond her SNL fanbase and has seen her go on to appear in everything from The Skeleton Twins and Zoolander 2 to Wonder Woman 1984. Equally hard to believe is that it’s taken a decade for Wiig and Mumolo to team up once again to write a comedy for the big screen – and even though Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is premiering during the coronavirus pandemic on small screens, it’s a goofy delight that goes big and goes home.
Home, for Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig) is a tiny Midwestern town that nobody would remember the name of – the kind of town where the highlight of their world is working in the local furniture store, which means they can sit down and chat to each other all day. But when they hear about Vista Del Mar, Florida, a sunny resort that promises a “soul douche” for anyone who can afford to stay, they pack their bags and do something they’ve never done before: get out of town.
While there, they cross paths with Edgar (Jamie Dornan), a lovesick henchman for an evil villain (also Wiig), who has a plan to wipe out the whole hotspot with some genetically modified killer mosquitoes. If that sounds a little unlikely, it’s par for the course for this wonderfully absurd caper, which serves up ridiculous gag after ridiculous gag. Dornan, in particular, is a revelation as the agonised, conflicted sidekick, displaying the kind of untapped comic timing that recalls Channing Tatum’s surprising performance in 21 Jump Street.
That could well be a companion piece to this offbeat adventure, as Barb and Star unwittingly trip their way through genre riffs and slapstick nonsense, but also keep the friendship between them at the film’s heart. Wigg and Mumolo are perfect together, seamlessly finishing each other’s sentences without ever needing to translate the rambling randomness that spills out of them. Like Romy and Michelle long after their high school reunion, Barb and Star bring a slight melancholy to their middle-aged existence, with Wigg casually talking about how men found her disgusting with a heart-wrenching self-deprecation. But they also bring joy to every frame of their outing, and the sheer happiness they find in each other’s company is infectious.
Director Josh Greenbaum (New Girl, Fresh Off the Boat) choreographs the growing anarchy with just the right balance of surreal weirdness and garishly accurate pastel-coloured hotel backdrop. Musical numbers about seagulls, an obsession with a soft drinks dispenser, a pint-sized wannabe Bond villain, a crab that sounds like Morgan Freeman and incompetent spies collide with an abandon that’s just knowingly dumb enough to disguise its smarts. And while not every joke lands, in the spirit of feature-length SNL spin-offs, the pacing means that it’s never long to the next chuckle. And even when you’re not chuckling, you never stop smiling; such an unchallenging, uncynical celebration of silliness and friendship leaves you wanting to travel with Barb and Star anywhere they go. This is destined to become a future cult classic.