At the height of last year’s pandemic, I looked for lighter content to divert from each day’s uncertainty. It wasn’t until the trailer for Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar was released that I was finally excited about a new film. That I could experience this bright, irreverent comedy with some friends with delicious pasta and wine, felt like an achievement.
Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig have teamed up again following the success of their 2011 hit Bridesmaids. In Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, they play the titular characters who are best friends and, upon being let go from their jobs, decide to vacation in Vista Del Mar on the Florida coastline. Right from the start, Barb and Star are a hilarious duo finishing each other’s thoughts, playfully discussing nonsensical topics, and providing each other comfort with their beds side-by-side.
Director Josh Greenbaum plays into the ridiculousness of the situation and allows the world to lean into Barb’s and Star’s hilarity. There are musical numbers, talking crabs, and an unexpected pale white villain played by Wiig, who adds to the setting’s looseness. Some moments randomly add minor details to the resort life, like the pianist constantly singing about boobies. Still, the film is produced by Adam McKay and Will Farrell, which ultimately means anything goes.
Not every joke lands, but being in Barb’s and Star’s presence for under two hours is a simple task. Let Mumolo and Wiig fly free, and the rest will come together.
Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) live a comfortable, safe life in Nebraska. They never get too rowdy, evidenced by their fingers tapping carefully to Shania Twain, and their friends are bland. When they’re let go from their jobs at a furniture store, Barb and Star run into their friend Mickey Revelet (Wendi McLendon-Covey), who encourages them to vacation to Vista Del Mar. They attend a gathering with their friends at Debbie’s (Vanessa Bayer) home, who kicks the girls out of the group when they struggle to admit they lost their jobs. Star feels like they’ve lost their shimmer, and Barb believes this happens when you get older; you fade away. Determined to adventure, they take a trip to Vista Del Mar.
After a lively dance number in the hotel lobby, Barb and Star are informed that their reservation is for the motel, two football fields, and a hot parking lot away. They sneak back into the resort and are thankfully given a room. That evening while sitting at the bar, they meet the handsome, forlorn Edgar Paget (Jamie Dornan). He is working for an over-the-top villain Sharon Gordon Fisherman (Kristen Wiig), who is seeking revenge on Vista Del Mar for a traumatic experience she had in her youth at the seafood festival. Though Edgar is determined to help Sharon, he falls for Star and must reconcile his passion for the pale white and nasty Sharon. That he could come between Barb and Star is beyond their expectations as they enjoy their vacation and all the many seashell stalls.
Jamie Dornan gives a lively performance as the perplexing Edgar and even entertains with a musical interlude about his heart’s desires. Wiig and Mumolo are, of course, fantastic, and their banter runs at a million miles an hour. Their shrill, upbeat voices are thoroughly enjoyable, and had the film not included a caricature villain, the late tension between Barb and Star might’ve been more affecting.
But the movie is full of nonsense. Take Barb’s and Star’s imaginings of the characteristics of a woman named Trish. The conversation amusingly lasts a plane ride and arrival and even pays off in the final act. Neither knows a woman named Trish, but they know what to expect. Or watch as Mumolo squeezes out of the bathroom window as Star writes a letter to Edgar with ink and a calligraphy pen. She lands on a floatation in the pool and propels past Star’s ruminating. Each scene is detailed with a comedic foundation, which works because this colorful world is beyond comprehension. It just is.
All this is to say that Barb and Star Go-To Vista Del Mar is thoroughly delightful. It’s a movie to watch with friends or for when you want something radiant and fluffy. The film falls under the category of Saturday Night Live alum shenanigan films, along with Austin Powers, A Night at the Roxbury, or MacGruber. Still, Barb and Star is wholly original and features two performers who equally delight and satisfy a need for a light-hearted comedy.
I’m hopeful that Barb and Star have some other vacation destinations in mind.