Review: Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar

Score:  B-

Director:  Josh Greenbaum

Cast:  Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan

Running Time:  107 Minutes

Rated:  PG-13

"I don't really know more than what I've already said, and some of what I said I'm not even sure I actually know."

Actor-screenwriters Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo have a knack for comedy. Collaborators since their early days in improv's Groundlings, the pair revamped the comedy landscape with their 2011 juggernaut Bridesmaids. Now, a full decade later, the duo is back with Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, a new film that, once again, focuses on female friendship.

Quirky and a bit aloof, Barb and Star are inseparable best friends. They work together, live together, and belong to a small, prestigious Talking Club. But one day, while saving their favorite couch, the ladies learn that their employer, Jennifer's Convertibles, is closing. Well, technically, it closed seven months prior; word just never got around to Soft Rolls, Nebraska.

To recharge and capture some of the shine that Mickey Revelet is sprouting all over town, the ladies splurge and book a trip to Vista Del Mar, a small island off the Florida coast. There the sun's rays will help solve all their problems. But a female crime lord has revenge on the mind, one that involves a handsome, sexually frustrated second-in-command and a swam of killer mosquitoes.

Wiig and Mumolo are brilliant throughout. Unapologetically extra, the two females embody their middle-aged characters, diving headfirst into their whimsical approach to life as they radiate positivity while secretly yearning for some level of sexual satisfaction. Their naivety towards the world is admirable, especially given its current state. Their ability to play off one another allows an authentic, honest friendship to showcase, even if there isn't a Trish in sight.

When they arrive in Del Mar, the duo receive a grand welcome. Beyond excessive, the delivery seems accurate given the film's over the top tone and vibrant colors. Everything about Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is extreme, bold, and campy. It will overwhelm a few, but its tone fits its two titular characters, bringing their ridiculousness to the forefront to be celebrated.

After an all too familiar mix-up between "Motel" and "Hotel," the ladies, fortunately, find their way to the safer, more appropriate establishment (aka the one that offers pillows). It is here that they meet helpless romantic Edgar (an unexpectedly hilarious Jamie Dornan) and embark on a wild and crazy night that features a ginormous beverage (with a hidden treasure at the bottom) and a techno remix of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On."

For the most part, this is where the film ventures away from its oddball comedy foundation. Edgar, desperately seeking confirmation and admiration from the film's female villain, finds solace in Star. Their budding romance is quite comical; however, the friction it creates between the two best friends proves the film's narrative driving force. Granted, the laughs continue, but they begin to play second fiddle to the ludicrous story elements, ones that always seem to center around turtles.

As Star fakes a sickness and Barb pretends to spend her days in the business center, the film voyages into a lighthearted relationship piece, one that focuses on the fragility of friendship. It's a sweet and heartfelt sentiment placed below a bucket of laughs, but one that we shouldn't overlook. Wiig and Mumolo beautifully capture their moments, complimenting the humor with sensibility, placing careful emphasis on the fact that we are laughing at the situation, never the character.

Dornan holds his own against the two comedy staples, delivering an impressive music video montage as he easily scales a palm tree, begging for some label to his longed-for relationship. It's comical to see his antics, which become personified during the film's second half.

A few cameos are sure to get people talking, but at its heart, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is Wiig and Mumolo's genius at work. Often extravagant, the film does go all-in on some jokes that fail to land. But much like a Saturday Night Live skit, the show must go on. Though it is unfair to compare it to Bridesmaids, this film, overstuffed with brainless comedy, is unequivocally hilarious and smart.

*This film is available via On-Demand platforms.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.