'Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar' Is a Gloriously Weird Masterpiece
Make sure to see this indescribably bizarre comedy written by and starring Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo.
There's no way I can do the delightful, hilarious, inspired lunacy of Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar justice by just describing what happens in the movie. I could try to sell you on a scene where Jamie Dornan breaks into song and dance for a tortured musical number on a beach. I could mention that there's a talking crab and that the buoyancy of culottes ends up saving the day. I could try to capture some of the magic of the back and forth between Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig as the titular Barb and Star in cheerfully flat midwestern accents. But it wouldn't be enough. You just have to watch.
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar, directed by Josh Greenbaum and available to rent via premium VOD purveyors like Amazon, is written by Wiig and Mumolo, whose last collaboration was Bridesmaids. This comedy, while sharing some of the themes of friendship, exists in a much different universe than the one depicted in their immensely successful screenwriting debut. Where Bridesmaids was indebted to the relatable style of Judd Apatow's The 40-year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, this new movie is Wiig and Mumolo's Austin Powers or Zoolander.
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar blessedly feels like it was imported from another planet, just pure unfettered weirdness, but not without a substantial amount of heart. It's the kind of movie you're thankful is allowed to exist, a broad comedy from two national treasures with barely a whiff of the stench of studio notes on its gleefully bizarre narrative. It's a gift, bound to be rewatched and quoted for years to come.
So how to describe the plot of Barb & Star without revealing too much or making it sound lamer than it actually is? Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig) are single best friends in their mid-40s who live together and work at the Jennifer Convertibles in their small Nebraska town. (Work is maybe a bit of an exaggeration, they mostly sit on a couch and rattle off their stream-of-consciousness conversations.) When their store closes and they are booted from their "talking club," lorded over by an officious Vanessa Bayer, Barb and Star decide to take the leap and go on a vacation to the Floridian paradise of Vista Del Mar.
What they don't know is that a criminal mastermind (also played by Wiig in white face paint and a severe black wig) is also targeting Vista Del Mar, and plans to unleash killer mosquitos onto the unsuspecting populace. She sends her spy Edgar (Dornan), who is hopelessly in love with his cruel boss, to enact her villainy. But Edgar meets Barb and Star at a bar one night, and after a wild night fueled by an enormous cocktail, he starts to question his motivations.
The thread that sustains Barb & Star is the finely honed dynamic between the two women at its center. There's a musicality to the way Wiig and Mumolo are able to riff, taking a stray observation—love of the name "Trish," for instance—and spinning it into an entire yarn. Their dialogue is so organic that Barb and Star's kookiness never seems put-on. Even amid the most ludicrous of situations you never doubt their commitment to one another or their mere existence. The greatest pleasure of Barb & Star is just spending time in the company of Barb and Star.
The infectious warmth of the protagonists forces everyone on screen to rise to their level. Dornan, best known for brooding as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades franchise, adds ballet to his repertoire of pining. A fight sequence between him and Damon Wayans Jr., as a rival spy, is a brilliant bit of intentionally half-assed physical comedy.
Every gag is taken to its most absurd endpoint, but you are left an overwhelming, yet not overbearing, sense of sweetness. Barb & Star is what happens when you let two genius women do whatever they want and what they want happens to be an action comedy set in tourist Florida with two middle-aged women who love culottes at the center.
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