Review: Silly 'Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar' packed with laughs and heart
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Joining the league of popular comedic duos, Bill and Ted, Mike and Dave, and Romy and Michelle, Josh Greenbaum’s gleefully silly musical romp “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” blends irreverent humor with heart for a splash-tastic good time. Written as a vehicle for comedic heavyweight Kristen Wiig and frequent collaborator (and co-creator of “Bridesmaids”) Annie Mumolo, “Barb and Star” could have easily fallen into sketch comedy territory with minimal laughs, and dry humor. Instead, both actresses not only find the charm of their characters, but they manage to get Jamie Dornan - of “Fifty Shades” fame - on board from some campy, outlandish shenanigans. Which more or may not involve him singing shirtless about pigeons roaming the beach.
Most of “Barb and Star” is built on gags that have no connection to the plot similar to “The Muppets” or “The Simpsons.” All that matters is if Wiig and Mumolo can sell the material and based on several gut-busting zingers and their ability to trust comedic instincts, “Barb and Star” is the perfect showcase. It’s clear that both established comedians trust each other and when the engines start roaring, there’s no holding back.
Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig) are lifelong, inseparable besties who reside in their small Nebraska town working at the local department store; where they can often be found gabbing on the display sofa. If one of them isn’t on the schedule, the other will come in because they have nothing better to do. After hours they head to “Talking Club” where strict guidelines are in place (rule number 1. No swearing except for the F word) which is headed by a hilarious Vanessa Bayer. (Side note: “Barb and Star” has dozens of SNL alum cameos).
Barb and Star, the chatty Cathy middle aged duo they are, decide to pack hair curlers and head towards sunny Vista Del Mar where upon arrival, the hotel lobbies and beaches burst into colorful, poppy musical ballads. It’s also the scene for an impending attack by a grudge-holding pigmented skin baddie (also played by Wiig) whose plans of unleashing thousands of killer mosquitoes onto the citizens has coincidentally overlapped with Barb and Star’s vacation plans. But Barb and Star are oblivious and fail to see the warning signs, even when they lock eyes for Edgar (Dornan) a hunky henchman sent to Vista Del Mar to execute the parasitic attack but he just wants someone he can be “official” with.
Indeed his presence puts a wedge between Star and Barb whose relationship bounds are put to the test, but the screenplay and Greenbaum’s consistent, fluffy tone keeps things afloat despite several running gags - Damon Waynes Jr playing a covert operative named Darlie Bunkle - gasping for air. Yet the type of energy and rhythm that Wiig and Mumolo aspire to as “Barb and Star” flaunts from one absurd sequence to the next is of a rare breed. Deep down Barb and Star are good natured humans who deserve each other, and when facing down the pillars of hungry alligators, you trust them to maneuver a way out of it (and when they do, the laughs flow seamlessly).
The scattershot plotting will be numbing for some, but when a movie features an acid sequence set to Celine Dion’s techno remix of “My Heart Will Go On,” it’s hard to resist the silly nature of these filmmakers' intentions. It’s best not to ask questions you don’t want the answer too, but in the realm of quirky comedic tag-teams, Barb and Star fit nicely into the mold and I’ll be eager to see where they head next. I hope it’s somewhere in space.
BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR will be available digitally Friday, February 12