Any Oh! That Film Blog reader will know that I love me some Oscars and Golden Globes, but at the same time it’s fair to say that during this particular time of the cinematic year, things can start to get a little but serious and sombre in the hopes of attracting dramatic hype. As in life, one’s enjoyment of film should be about a perfect balance of the heavy and the light, and before I get into some of awards season’s true heavy hitters, I thought I’d take a little detour into the weird and hopefully wonderful world of Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar.
Well, all I can say is that, though I don’t remember ingesting any hallucinogens before pressing play, I’m sure I must have, because this movie is certified BONKERS. Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar tells the story of Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig), two Midwestern middle aged best friends who decide to spice things up in their lives by going on vacation to a Floridian seaside paradise. Unbeknownst to them, however, they are travelling to the exact spot that has been chosen by super villain Sharon Gordon Fisherman (also Wiig) to unleash a plague of killer mosquitos. If you think that sounds mental, you are absolutely correct?
Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar is an unapologetic, unashamed, unbothered crazy comedy that doesn’t care about what your personal humour preferences are; you are either on this wavelength or you aren’t, because coming into this with a cynical or superior attitude isn’t going to do anything for you at all! Part Austin Powers, part Bridesmaids, part flipping Thelma & Louise, this movie is an absolute trip from start to finish, and whilst not every joke and scenario lands for me personally, you can’t do anything but admire the insane vision and commitment to making something so weird and wonderful.
The kinds of movies that usually cause me to say “what the hell am I watching?” are the pretentious, overly metaphorical and cerebral movies that I don’t like (see The Lighthouse or In Fabric), but Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar had me exclaiming the very same thing on the other end of the spectrum! There is nothing pretentious or cerebral about this film, it’s a pure fever dream experience that goes from one crazy scenario to the next, and you just have to strap in for the ride and let the driver take over! It’s not the smartest or the sharpest comedy ever, but there is a great deal of joy to be hand in just giving yourself over the to nonsense for a couple of hours. Bright colours, silly jokes, MUSICAL NUMBERS, it’s all here!
Having both written and produced the film, it’s no surprise that both Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo are on top form and living their very best, most eccentric, ridiculous comedy lives. Everything is over the top, from the Midwestern accents to the dialogue they share to pretty much every facet of their personalities, but you can’t help but fall in love with Barb and Star over the course of the narrative. Something very clever, though, is that regardless of how exaggerated both characters are, there are still small quirks and ‘girls on holiday’ moments that every viewer might be able to recognise in members of their own friends and family. Of course, there’s always the possibly that it’s just me, and that my own circles are as crazy as the film is!
Wiig does double duty in the film as both Star and villain Sharon Gordon Fisherman, and this is very much where the Austin Powers vibes start to come into play. Her methods and actions are as silly as it gets, but they do work in the broader context. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded just a more traditional ‘friends go on vacation’ high jinx movie, but throwing this comic book element into proceedings just makes everything even more deliciously bonkers.
Jamie Dornan has the most prominent supporting role as Edgar, a hotel resident sent by Sharon to do her bidding, but an unexpected and endearing romance with Star leads to split loyalties and classic comedy confusion. Dornan is completely fine here considering all of his screen time is shared with two true comedy giants. I didn’t laugh at him as much as I laughed at Wiig and Mumolo, but he certainly serves his purpose as the classic eye candy, and his chemistry with Wiig in particular is fun.
Overall, Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar is the kind of movie that you just have to watch for yourself. I haven’t even addressed the talking crab called ‘Morgan Freemond’, who tells the story of Morgan Freeman’s actual career before scuttling off into the sea, or the fact that Reba McEntire shows up as a mermaid named Trish. I mean this sincerely, what the actual fuck? It’s crazy, it’s colourful and it doesn’t come anywhere to taking itself seriously. If you’re looking for something to take you out of 2021’s continuing bleakness right now, this is fucking it!