The Queens of Comedy, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo are back with their latest feature Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar. With a friendship spanning over 20 years, Wiig and Mumolo made waves when they wrote the iconic Bridesmaids as well as being included in the incredible ensemble cast. The two have appeared in countless popular comedies ever since, but now a decade after the release of Bridesmaids, they have reunited to write their second film on a pair of life-long friends who leave their small town for the first time ever to vacation in Florida… and accidentally get tangled up in an evil scheme to destroy the resort destination.
Director Josh Greenbaum joined the project when Wiig attended a screening for one of his documentaries and instantly wanted to work with him. Departing from the documentary field, this is Greenbaum’s first fictional narrative feature. Wiig, Mumolo, and Greenbaum make for a colorful and wild event that was clearly a blast to shoot. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the film’s release shifted from a theatrical date in the summer of 2020 to a PVOD release in time for Valentine’s Day 2021, making for an excellent lockdown date night.
In all honesty, it’s so easy in this day and age to dismiss a comedy as simply a long-winded SNL skit and not enjoy the pure absurdity, which isn’t necessarily the type of comedy that everyone will initially appreciate. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is crazy, to say the least. During the first half, you will be overwhelmed by how wild and over the top it is, but upon reflection, you will also realize that perhaps you were being too cynical. It’s been a while since some of us have seen a proper character comedy over a heavy drama in the age of COVID, making it feel as if the film is slightly too over the top. However, as the narrative progresses, it’s quite easy to get immersed in the characters and feel a reliving sense of escapism from the chaos of modern reality. From walking down a touristy boardwalk to swimming up to a poolside bar, this film makes it feel almost like an actual vacation, one that is much needed right about now. In a way, it does appeal to the absurdist and random comedy that we often see in our post-modern society.
The film begins in Barb and Star’s small Mid-Western town, establishing their relationship and dynamic. There is no other way to say it – there is something so hilarious about stereotypical middle-aged women that really drives the situational comedy. Wiig and Mumolo really dive deep into their roles and are more than convincing as these women who are innocently naive. Barb and Star’s friendship is the core of this story, from betraying each other to being all that matters in their lives. Ultimately, the plot is super lighthearted, featuring a variety of musical set pieces that are wacky but bring much-needed extravagance.
With that being said, like most comedies, there are jokes that fall flat and dialogue that comes across as unnatural. Though there are most definitely ones that provide a good giggle. I do have to say that I am slightly offended by the recurring joke of culottes being a staple of a middle-aged woman’s wardrobe as I sit here writing this wearing culottes as a woman in my early 20s, perhaps this is a fashion wake up call from the gods of comedy? I’ll take some notes.
More notable performances include Jamie Dornan as Edgar. It does take some time to dissociate him from the dramatic role of Christian Grey, and many of his other more serious parts, to allow him to let this character take the reigns. One of his most significant moments in this film is Edgar’s musical number which is unlike any other sequence performed by Dornan thus far. Another little star (no pun intended) that steals every scene he’s in is Reyn Doi. He provokes comedy with such skill for his age, you won’t doubt for a second that we will be seeing him pop up in more features throughout the near future.
Wiig and Mumolo are the beating heart of Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, you can tell they enjoyed every step of the filmmaking process as they saw the film through conception to its impending release. Their friendship is highly believable as the writing process will have drawn on their own experiences as a duo. This has been heavily advertised as a film to watch over the Valentine’s Day weekend and it is more than the traditional cliché rom-com. It proves how fundamental platonic relationships and friendships are to who we are as human beings in the most wacky way possible.
At the end of this day, this movie walks a fine line between pure absurdity and innocent comedy. It’s very easy to see elements of your own friendships in the twin flames that are Barb and Star. Depending on personal opinions and expectations of comedy, you may either find this to be a fantastically extravagant film or find it to be too over the top. Either way, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del is definitely worth a try as it may revitalize your comedic tastes. It’s a great bit of positive escapism in the current world of negativity.