Only if every movie had the courtesy that the marketing and trailers for “Barb and Star Go To Del Vista Mar” had. It’s hard to explain how the trailer played out, but trust me when I say that it gave away nothing. Instead “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” just appeared to be a vacation comedy, but really it’s much more than that. This is the exact kind of movie that you should avoid all spoilers for as much as possible, because you will be treated to a movie that I guarantee, you would have never expected it to be.
“Barb and Star” not only stars “SNL” alum Kristen Wiig and her real life pal Annie Mumolo (who is an actress and screenwriter of “Megan Leavey” and “Joy”), but it’s also written by the two ladies. Wiig and Mumolo have been on the screenwriting path before as both of them wrote the Oscar nominated script for “Bridesmaids”, nearly a decade ago.
“Barb and Star” is on a whole different level than “Bridesmaids” and is a straight up farce that is great fun with some big laughs. The film is always at it’s best when director Josh Greenbaum gets away from the plot and focuses on his leading ladies, who seem like they’re having the time of their lives with every scene.
Barb and Star are two single, middle aged best pals who live together and are constantly delighted with each other’s company. After the furniture store they work in shuts down for business, the women decide it’s time to shake things up, so they take a friend’s suggestion and travel to Vista Del Mar, a Florida island that’s a vacation paradise for travelers over the age of 45. Their first night in town, Barb and Star are welcomed at the Palm Vista Hotel with a full-fledged musical number (Yep. It’s that kind film), they have a meet cute with Edgar (“Fifty Shades Of Grey” Jamie Dornan) while polishing off a drug-laced fishbowl cocktail and so their vacation begins. That’s as far as I’ll go about the plot, as it works best if you discover it yourself.
At first, Wiig and Mumolo’s voices took some getting use to. But the ladies have great chemistry, as their real friendship comes through and felt through the screen. Since they wrote the film for themselves, they know what works for them and they know their style of comedy. While it’s definitely Mumolo and Wiig’s show all the way, Jamie Dornan winds up being surprisingly capable at holding his own against these two. He knows what movie he’s in, and he commits to the ludicrousness and embraces it. Like the ladies, Dornan was clearly having the time of his life while filming the movie. There is even a dance number with him that is one of the films biggest highlights and had me practically in tears from laughing.
Josh Greenbaum, a documentarian and TV director makes his narrative feature debut, builds a world that accommodates the zaniness of Wiig and Mumolo’s script. Assisted by director of photography Toby Oliver (“Get Out”) and production designer Steve Saklad (“22 Jump Street”), he makes Vista Del Mar a brochure-ready fantasia of pinks and teals. This also had to have been a fun job for costume designer Trayce Gigi Field who dresses the cast in everything from mom wear to the outrageous resort attire. For the music department, composers Christopher Lennertz and Dara Taylor mixes together some snappy original compositions (Dornan’s ballad is a definite highlight) and some of the groaniest but catchiest beach hits ever recorded.
“Barb and Star” has a free-flowing comic energy that is reminiscent of the first “Austin Powers” film and the way Mike Myers was able to get away with anything that he thought was funny, is the same course of thinking from Wiig and Mumolo. Over the course of the films hour and forty six minutes, “Barb and Star” does feel too far stretched and could have shaved off at least fifteen minutes.
This movie is stupid. But it’s the exact kind of film that knows it’s stupid and because of that some of the jokes land and some fall flat. When they fall flat, believe me they really fall flat. The good thing about it though is that all the jokes come from such a bizarre place that I was always interested to see what the ladies were going to come up with next. If the two musical numbers don’t indicate how little interest it has in existing in the real world or how zany it is, then the talking crab will convince you.
“Barb and Star” is exactly that…zany, ridiculous and bonkers. It’s so incredibly random that it shouldn’t work and yet, it works. It’s a goofy and absurdist comedy in which anything can happen and it ends up usually happening. I wanted to dislike the movie, but you just can’t because it’s just too damn silly, goofy, bonkers, off the wall and lovable. It’s about time we got more risk-taking studio comedies like this and it makes no apologies for what it is, while Wiig and Mumolo plays by their own rules.
Those not on board will know it instantly and if they decide to take the ride for a little bit, will roll their eyes and wonder what the fuss is about? While those who become fans will watch it repeatedly, quote it forever, become a cult favorite and even dress as “Barb and Star” for Halloween. Trust me when I say that the payoff is there if you stick with it though.
Does the movie have a message somewhere? Absolutely. Does it make you want to party with Barb and Star? Absolutely. Prepare for a fun ride with cameos, much loved bouts of singing and a very different tale of friendship. So grab your best friend, sip some cocktails, make some hot dog soup, dress comfortably and brace yourself because “Barb and Star Go To Del Vista Mar” is one heck of a ride.
GRADE: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5)