Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar Evaluation: Kristen Wiig’s Aggressively Bizarre Delight
If you like your comedy bizarre and lighthearted, you’ll probably go for Wiig and Mumulo’s latest movie.
It’s been almost ten years since Bridesmaids, written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, was a comedy smash, and now they’ve returned with a new comedy Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar. But if you’re looking for something on the same wavelength as Bridesmaids, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Instead, Barb & Star plays by its own rules to craft something gloriously offbeat, unencumbered, and as free as its title characters feel. Director Josh Greenbaum and his stars/writers always lean into the weirdness of the movie, and it makes Barb & Star a gloriously madcap experience. There are times when it feels like How Stella Got Her Groove Back on acid, and other times when it feels like Barb & Star are to white-middle-aged-women-renewal movies as MacGruber is to 80s action films or Popstar is to pop music documentaries. Those expecting another Bridesmaids probably won’t go for Barb & Star, but those willing to get on this wild ride will be richly rewarded.
Nefarious supervillain Sharon Gordon Fisherman (Wiig) wants to destroy the beach resort town of Vista Del Mar by unleashing a swarm of killer mosquitos to sting everyone to death. She dispatches her henchman Edgar (Jamie Dornan), who is madly in love with her, to install a receiver that will lure the killer mosquitos, and Sharon believes there is nothing that can stand in her way. Enter best friends Barb (Mumulo) and Star (Wiig), two middle-aged women from Nebraska who have recently been laid off at the best job in town, working at the furniture store. When their friend recommends a vacation to Vista Del Mar that’s like a “soul douche”, the two ladies decide to take a trip to the Florida town where they cross paths with Edgar, and inadvertently derail Sharon’s evil plot.
Image via Lionsgate
The most bizarre Barb & Star gets, the better it is. There’s the basic plot beats of Barb and Star starting to grow apart as they start discovering they want different things but feel compelled to lie to the other to hide these new interests. However, every scene is punctuated by some strange gag or moment where the comedy lives. It’s not enough that Barb and Star attend a Talking Club with their gal pals with strictly enforced rules—there’s also the serving of hot dog soup and then conflict with one member who really wants to talk about horses to the point that she brought a saddle with her. All these little comic beats add up to a movie that’s more about playing by its own rules rather than situational comedy.
And yet I feel that audiences are more primed for a movie like this than perhaps they’ve ever been. Look at the ongoing success of something like I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson almost two years after it was released, and people really like comedy that has strange non-sequiturs and bombastic visual gags and makes no apologies for leaving reality behind. It’s debatable whether Barb & Star reaches those dizzying heights of strange comedy, but I love that it at least exists in that wheelhouse where they’re going to have Jamie Dornan do an entire musical number about his love for an albino supervillain who doesn’t reciprocate his feelings.
Image via Lionsgate
I don’t want to spoil any more jokes about Barb & Star other than to say I found it a terrific concoction of lunatic humor and a sunny disposition. Everything it does happens with a big smile on its face, and Wiig and Mumulo have such an easy rapport that if you are looking to Bridesmaids, look at their one scene together in that movie and you can see how quickly they bounce off each other. They’re a terrific comic duo who have no trouble carrying this crazy movie they’ve written together. It’s not a comedy for everyone, but I honestly feel a little bad for those that don’t like it. They’re missing out on a grand time.
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar will be available to rent on VOD on February 12th.
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About The Author
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Matt Goldberg has been an editor with Collider since 2007. As the site’s Chief Film Critic, he has authored hundreds of reviews and covered major film festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival. He resides in Atlanta with his wife and their dog Jack.
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