Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a surreal, rewatchable comedy led by great performances from Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo and Jamie Dornan.
We all have those inside jokes with friends that we think are hilarious, but we know there’s a good chance most people would think make no sense. The difference between the rest of us and Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo is that our jokes with friends just stay within that group of people, while they turn it into something like Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.
Forty-something lifelong friends Barb (Mumolo) and Wiig (Wiig) have never left their small Nebraska town, where they spend their days working at the “fanciest” furniture store in town, and their nights meeting up with their “Talking Club” friends, people who get together to discuss a different, random subject each time. One day, as they are spending time chatting on their favorite couch at work, they are called in to speak with their manager: they soon find themselves without jobs, which then leads to them getting kicked out of Talking Club. Now stuck searching for what’s next, they find their solution in the form of Vista Del Mar, a luxury vacation spot that might be the answer they’ve been looking for. They embark on their journey and get away from their troubles for a bit, unaware that the idyllic vacation they’re about to take will soon turn out to give them a little more than they bargained for.
Once they get settled into the hotel, they meet lovelorn henchman Edgar (Jamie Dornan), who joins them for a wild night of drinking and dancing. Edgar’s arrival tests Barb and Star’s friendship in a way it’s never been tested before, as they find themselves sneaking behind each other’s backs and spending more time away from each other. Meanwhile, Edgar, who just wants his boss (an evil crime lord, also played by Wiig) to love him back, wrestles with whether or not to help her unleash genetically altered killer mosquitoes on Vista del Mar.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar marks the first time that Wiig and Mumolo have teamed up to write a film together since Bridesmaids became a smash hit a decade ago. Much like their last film together, Barb and Star takes a look at a female friendship that is sweet, though probably a little more dependent than it needs to be, and puts the characters into an unknown situation that tests their bond in ways it’s never been tested before, only to see them ultimately come together to realize how much they need one another. But while Bridesmaids grounds some of its most ridiculous moments in reality, Barb & Star immediately embraces that absurdity and turns it up even more.
In a modern film world that often sees a lot of comedies aspire to lean into their dramatic elements, it’s refreshing to see a film like this that embraces its silliness in a way that will remind you of off-the-wall classics like Hot Rod and MacGruber. While Barb & Star tells an interesting story about a friendship that grows stronger over time, it also takes you on tangential bits. There are spies who frequently slip up and give away important information, talking crabs, two extremely funny musical numbers with original songs written by Wiig and Mumolo, and the one and only Tommy Bahama himself also makes an appearance. All this frequently brings laugh-out-loud moments to Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, and makes it something you will want to go back and rewatch again and again if you like that kind of comedy.
Knowing the screenwriters’ backgrounds and experience in sketch comedy, it’s no surprise that this movie is at its best when it gets bigger and crazier. What’s truly surprising is the way those scenarios are complemented by the setting that Wiig, Mumolo and director Josh Greenbaum were able to build around them in the film. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar brings its world to life in a way that truly makes Vista Del Mar feel like a tropical paradise. From the second that Barb and Star arrive, we see bright and vibrant colors, and it really feels like they’ve stepped out of their monotonous everyday lives into this fantasyland out of their dreams. It’s a great contrast from the more muted tones of the film’s earlier scenes in Nebraska, as it feels like you’re stepping off the plane with them, and entering Oz.
It’s clear that Wiig and Mumolo had a blast when they wrote the film’s screenplay and brought these characters to life with their performances. However, Barb & Star’s real standout is Dornan. It’s the first major comedic role for the Fifty Shades of Grey and The Fall actor, and he is up to the task when it comes to taking the film’s absurdity to the next level, shining as he steals the show with a solo musical number that finds him dancing around all over the beach as he wrestles with his feelings for his boss. The supporting cast around the three leads is also very impressive, led by familiar faces in comedy like Damon Wayans Jr., Vanessa Bayer, Fortune Feimster, Phyllis Smith and Rose Abdoo, as well as newcomer Reyn Doi.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is the first major comedy to be released in 2021, and it sees Wiig and Mumolo find their sweet spot with a great buddy comedy about stepping out of your comfort zone and broadening your horizons. Told with an endless amount of charm and nonsensical silliness, Barb & Star couldn’t have been released at a better time of the year, and will be a fun and entertaining at-home watch.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is now available to watch on digital and on demand.