I have a confession: as popular and acclaimed as it was, I never really cared for the 2011 comedy “Bridesmaids.” So I initially wasn’t particularly excited about “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar,” a new comedy from the same writing duo of Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo (who also star). But “Barb & Star” could not be a more different movie. Establishing itself as being unabashedly wacky from the get-go and only getting crazier from there, “Barb & Star” is a hilarious wave you’ll want to ride all the way to its conclusion.
“Barb & Star,” directed by Josh Greenbaum, starts off in an unexpected place: the secret lair of a white-skinned villain, Sharon (also played by Wiig, who’s virtually unrecognizable). She’s plotting to get revenge on the Florida tourist town of Vista Del Mar for a childhood wrong by unleashing hordes of killer mosquitos on the beach, accompanied by her cohorts: a little boy called Yoyo (Reyn Doi) and Edgar (Jamie Dornan). Edgar is in love with Sharon but is frustrated by her refusal to declare them as an “official couple.”
It isn’t until after this opening sequence that we meet Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig), lifelong best friends from a small Nebraska town who do quite literally everything together. It would be easy, with their exaggerated Midwest accents and perceived naïveté, to turn these characters into a joke in and of themselves. But in the hands of Wiig and Mumolo, Barb and Star are funny, but we’re never making fun of them. In fact, they are endearing from the outset. When we first meet the duo, they are at their job at a local furniture store, talking on a love seat displayed in the window. Their conversation may be frivolous, but it’s apparent how much they enjoy each other’s company; when a couple comes along interested in purchasing the couch they are sitting on, they say that they can’t sell it because it’s where they sit and talk every day.
Barb and Star do get laid off from their job, however, placing them in a bit of a quandary as to what to do next (especially when faced with their women’s discussion group, led by a hilariously dictatorial Vanessa Bayer). After one of their friends (Wendi McLendon-Covey) reveals that she just got back from a trip to Vista Del Mar and that it was life-changing, the girls decide that maybe this is the opportunity they are looking for to shake up their lives, especially as they are approaching middle age. So they pack their colorful culottes and head to Florida, where they inevitably get mixed up in Sharon’s plot.
“Barb & Star” goes off in a lot of crazy directions once the action moves to Florida—and I mean crazy. A lot of the jokes and gags are completely bizarre and nonsensical, but in the best way possible. In a way, “Barb & Star” reminded me of one of my favorite comedies, “Airplane!”—just so absolutely absurd that it makes sense that it doesn’t make sense. That sort of humor may not land for everyone, but it works because it doesn’t start off conventionally before going off the rails. As previously mentioned, it begins in left field and goes further out into left field as it progresses. Therefore, right away we know it isn’t only going to be funny, it’s going to be weird and funny. Nothing is out of the question, and some of the highlights include some great cameos and song and dance numbers—a splashy one filled with colorful kitsch when the girls first get to the resort in Vista Del Mar, and, perhaps the highlight of the entire movie, a hysterical solo number for Dornan detailing his yearning for Sharon’s affections.
In fact, Dornan is a really wonderful surprise in this movie. He and the rest of the cast really lean into their exaggerated characters with hilarious results. Damon Wayans Jr., for instance, plays a shady character who keep convulsively divulging personal details. But there’s never any question as to the fact that this is Wiig and Mumolo’s movie. There’s another really great scene that encompasses the nature of their friendship after they board the plane for Florida. Barb and Star realize they both love the name Trish, and they proceed to spend the entire flight imagining what kind of person Trish is and what her life is like. It’s the sort of conversation that only two people who were that close would have. The trajectory of their relationship takes a rather predictable course for the rest of the movie, as Star is swept off her feet by Edgar while Barb learns to be more comfortable doing things on her own, before they realize that they can have all those things and still be best friends. Wiig and Mumolo have clearly grown close to these characters in the years that they spent writing and developing them, and it pays off. “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar” is a bubbly comedy filled with campy humor, bright and colorful sets that scream Florida tourist trap, nice lessons about friendship and acceptance, and good vibes. I don’t think this is the last we will see of these characters, and I hope that it isn’t.
“Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar” is now available to rent on all digital platforms. Runtime: 107 minutes. Rated PG-13.