I can’t believe that it has been almost a decade since BRIDESMAIDS was released into theatres. A combination of both FREAKS & GEEKS creator Paul Feig’s comedic styling along with Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo’s wickedly funny screenplay, I still remember laughing loud and long throughout the picture and revisiting it several times over the years. Cut to 2021 and we have another feature from Wiig and Mumulo who are just as wacky and funny as ever as the leads of BARB & STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR.
Though pushed hard by comedic style, I absolutely know people like Barb (Annie Mumulo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) who are two rapid-fire talking, 40s women who are both victims of consumerism and popular culture as a hobby in their midwestern city. These are the type of people who talk out loud during movies and have no idea that they’re doing it, or hold up the line at supermarkets by talking to the cashier and paying by cheque. Yet they’re also sweet and lovable at the same time. When we first meet the pair, we think they’re at home having one of their usual conversations but it turns out that they work in a furniture store and just really like to lounge in the store’s furniture. When the store is forced to close, the two are convinced to go on a trip to Vista Del Mar in Florida for a getaway, something of which neither have done before.
When they get there, there’s a suspicious guy named Edgar (Jamie Dornan) who befriends them and seems an unlikely romantic partner, but there’s also a reason for that; he’s under assignment by the sinister Sharon Gordon Fisherman (also Wiig) who has a nefarious plot to get revenge on all that have shamed her in the tourist locale. There’s a great joke here where a date is strangely repeated in the exact same manner that leads to a pretty successful payoff, and it’s also a fun concept of two middle-aged women getting out of their comfort zone and who have no idea something evil is about to happen.
As the comedic duo, Wiig and Mumulo are confident enough to don middle-aged, Midwestern hair wigs, adopt strange accents and just go for broke as Barb and Star. You feel their connection almost instantly and they even have some elements of twin-like behavior at times. They finish each other’s sentences, experience separation anxiety, always wonder what the other is thinking and of course have a bit of rivalry when they both think Edgar is in love with them.
Kristen Wiig also plays two roles here as both Barb and the evil Sharon Gordon Fisherman, and likely because I had not seen any trailers or promotion before watching the movie I had no idea this was her until the end credits rolled, and was therefore quite surprised that Wiig was in the double-role! With her pale-white skin, false teeth and short black top hair, Sharon looked like a combination of Cate Blanchett and Judy Davis hamming it up on screen. I could clearly tell she had a lot of fun with both roles and it’s a testament to her incredible comedic persona.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see the movie is directed by Josh Greenbaum, who I know personally from past South By Southwest titles THE SHORT GAME and the outstanding George Lazeny documentary BECOMING BOND which was just about the best documentary you could ever make on James Bond with a really unique documentary-narrative hybrid. I could tell with these titles, along with his Dana Carvey Show doc TOO FUNNY TO FAIL that he was a filmmaker with an incredible visual style and comic wit to match, and here he continues that with an impressive, candy-color filled Florida setting that matches well with Wiig and Mumulo’s comedic personality.
BARB & STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR isn’t a comedic classic and there were some shortcomings of course; there are some pacing issues and a few jokes that didn’t make me laugh, one music sequence that worked and the other didn’t, and some obvious on-the-nose jokes with extended cameo appearances were hit-and-miss, but everyone’s mileage of course will vary. I still laughed many times during the experience as I appreciate weird and silly comedies for going to strange places to make me laugh with a smile on my face throughout. BARB & STAR also made me miss the movie theatre experience where a comedy like this would have a great reaction with a packed audience. Sigh. Maybe with their next movie…
Rating: *** out of ****
BARB & STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR begins Friday on Premium Video on Demand Services. Thanks to Lionsgate PR for sending along an advance copy for review. As always, we recommend going through Apple TV for the best quality and full 4k/HDR/Dolby Vision support.