We got ourselves our first big comedy of the year with Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar, and while it’s hard to remember what other mainstream comedies will give us the unexpected laughs we need, I feel you’ll be totally off guard with how this got made, in a good way.
What’s the Story: Lifelong best friends Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) leave their small town in Kansas for the first time to go on an exciting vacation to the fictional Vista Del Mar, Florida, where they’ve found themselves on an adventure that’s worth remembering for the both of them.
Some of us must’ve seen the teaser for this around this holiday season about two years in theaters.The first time I saw it was before Bombshell and my reaction to it was thinking this looks weird since it told little about it, let alone show the main characters’ faces. But it’s now on-demand after some good word of mouth a few days before it came out and after it was meant to have a July release date, and while I’m not in the ballpark of loving it, something tells me it’s gonna be one to casually watch when my mood calls for some good ol’ campy goodness.
Because when you’re watching Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, it’s the kind of comedy that will most defiantly be one of those you’ll love or be annoyed with it, depending on your comedic taste. Director Josh Greenbaum, who’s most known for television work and documentaries, makes his narrative feature debut with a script written by Wiig and Mumolo together, and it’s exciting to know what they’ll do next since it’s really been ten years since they wrote the great comedy hit Bridesmaids and got an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. How they could make something this ridiculous and surprisingly funny still astounds me. To describe it is watching this as a rare SNL movie that’s entertaining to sit through, throw it in with the Austin Powers trilogy, and that’s made right of the ‘90s decade that will have you with no clue of what you just watched, but enjoyed it, nonetheless. Greenbaum also made a beautiful-looking movie with its bright Florida setting.
Wiig and Mumolo together in the flash is just what most people need. These two have been the best of friends for a long time before making this and seeing them as the titular characters made it no surprise their comedic chemistry just works so well throughout the runtime. Seeing how they are kind of annoying, yet charming middle-aged ladies who live in their world with the same common interest (like wearing culottes) and doing everything together is how a lot of friends in real-life are. By now we know Wiig has always been hilarious when given the right material, but Mumolo in here is proof she needs to be in more comedies that don’t waste her talents.
But the one person I honestly wasn’t expecting to like was Jamie Dornan, who plays Edgar Paget. Because did you know he was funny? Me neither. As I have been critical of his acting in the past with the Fifty Shades franchise, he was a true scene-stealer in this, and he must’ve had a good time knowing what movie he signed up for. There’s literally a musical number with him and seagulls that was confusing at first but embraced how it managed to crack me up in the process.
With every comedy ever made, its primary purpose of existing is to make the audience laugh, and there are so many moments often on the random or campiness side that gets the job done when it calls for it. Even when not all of them worked for me, some jokes unexpectedly go for the awkwardness of the setup or it’s that stupid humor that’s easy to think it’s funny. I knew what was to come, and I thought there were a good amount of laughs that still had me smiling. Whether it’s from a joke or a musical number (yes) out of nowhere, it’s geared toward the crowds who love the good parody movies of the good old days. Even Damon Waynes Jr. has a recurring gag about not being so discreet with his secret identity, I liked it more than I thought about it.
There’s much more to the actual plot, I shouldn’t dare talk about the absurd subplot that sounds a bit dumb in retrospect since they’ve never explained it in the marketing, but with a comedy like this, it needs to be weird. This isn’t a perfect movie by any means since I mentioned some jokes didn’t make me laugh when it wasn’t funny or had these pauses that didn’t work. And the last 20 minutes kind of went too long when I wasn’t laughing for a while. It’s hard to wonder if this would’ve done a modest job at the box office, but it might’ve just made under $20 million since it won’t draw a lot of attention to the casual crowd.
Final Thoughts: Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar will surely be a comedy not everyone is going to completely get behind in all its silly wonder. Though most of the jokes didn’t land, the laughs are definitely here and the chemistry between Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo is impeccable. Safe to say this marks the first surprise of the year that will already become the next cult favorite in our path, don’t you think? Grade: B-