Directed by: Josh Greenbaum
Written by: Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, Reyn Doi and Damon Wayans Jnr.
It may be a cliche to say that Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is the ‘film that we need right now’, however it feels like it is the first time this reviewer has sat down to watch a comedy film without the need to read into a social or political subtext in quite awhile. This is a film that revels in its own absurdity. No wonder, as it is the 6th film in the Gloria Sanchez production line, a subsidiary to the Will Ferrell and Adam McKay founded Gary Sanchez production company which is aimed to promote female comedy voices in American cinema. Previous productions from Gloria Sanchez and it’s head of production Jessica Elbaum include, Sleeping with Other People (2015), Booksmart (2019), Hustlers (2019) and Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020) ; all films are worth checking out in their own right.
This new entry to the canon is written by and starring Saturday Night Live alumni Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. The duo also co-wrote the ultra successful (both critically and commercially) Bridesmaids (2011). Both comedians take a dual lead as the eponymous Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig). Barb and Star are two women well into their forties, who have never so much as left their small town (a fictional Soft Rock, Nebraska). You can tell. The natter between these two women extends to out of fashion clothing, harmless gossip and sexual fantasies about the man on the Pringles can and Mr. Peanut. Barb is widowed and Star divorced.
Barb and Star are made redundant from their job at a local, privately owned furniture shop. On the advice of a local woman, who is about as worldly as they come in a town like Soft Rock, they go ‘on vacation’ to Vista Del Mar, on the Florida Gulf. Meanwhile, in an underground lair, there is an evil plan forming, an archetypal villain, along the same vein as Dr. Evil, is hatching a dastardly plan of localised genocide using genetically modified mosquitos. Kristen Wiig takes a double role here as the villain Sharon Gordon Fisherman. Her henchman, Edgar (Dornan), is madly in love with her and will stop at nothing to see this wicked scheme fulfilled.
Barb and Star is only to be enjoyed if you are able to give yourself over to absurdity. This reviewer, for one, is mostly sold on anything that involves Kristen Wiig. Naturally funny, her comic timing and improvisational skills are second to none, arguably the funniest comic actor or actress working today. It was her coat tails to which I attached myself for the ride through Barb and Star. However there is plenty to enjoy outside of just Wiig alone. Not least the vicarious nature of watching people have a good time on holidays at the moment. The film also has a few hilarious musical numbers that seem to come from nowhere.
It’s good to see Jamie Dornan not take himself too seriously after his foray into the world of E.L. James, in the Fifty Shades Trilogy (2015-2018). Surely a piece of meta-casting here as both Barb and Star fawn over Edgar, to varying degrees of hilarity. It remains to be seen whether Dornan will rise from the ashes of the unfortunate aforementioned trilogy. In the end, echoes of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) and Step Brothers (2008) swell through Barb and Star, but this does not hamper the film becoming a decent comedy in it’s own right.