A Lionsgate Picture, Written by Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Directed by Josh Greenbaum.
Lifelong friends Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they decide to leave their small Midwestern town for the first time ever. When they are in Vista Del Mar, the friends are swept up in romance, adventure, and a villainous plot to destroy the entire resort. It is Wiig and Mumolo’s first co-writing credit together since the Oscar nominated Bridesmaids (2011), and they star in the film together too, alongside Jamie Dornan. It is from director Josh Greenbaum and due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is skipping theatres and going directly to PVOD.
For the first 40 or so minutes of this film, it feels like an extended and very bizarre SNL sketch, with Wiig and Mumolo doing some really specific character work and the plot being so all over the place, that despite a few laughs, it isn’t overly clear if the film will come together and work. This all changes however, when Barb and Star meet Edgar (Jamie Dornan), in a hotel bar and go on a wild drug fuelled night of dancing and sex. The montage that they use to portray this is really effective and entertaining, and from this point on, the film and its absolutely ridiculous plot, all click into place and it never looks back.
The moment that is currently taking the internet by storm, and quite rightly so, is sudden sequence where Jamie Dornan’s Edgar breaks out into song and dance to express his feelings, leading him on an epic, music video style sequence on the beach. Dornan completely commits to the ridiculous lyrics and actions, and the song itself is actually very catchy so it does not leave your head. It is a scene of such unbridled joy and strangeness, exactly the sort of thing we need to see right now, and the song itself should’ve been submitted for Oscar consideration, and in my opinion, been a real contender to win.
Speaking of Jamie Dornan, a man who went from terrifying serial killer on the small screen to mocked heartthrob on the big screen, this feels like exactly the change of pace his career needs. It gets him back in the mainstream public eye, but with a much more positive and fun perception that could really open the door for different types of roles. It is understandable that he seems to be taking the limelight in terms of internet attention, mainly because this type of campy and committed performance is not something we have seen from him much, and he really shines.
However, it is important to remember that the only reason he is able to shine like that is Wiig and Mumolo. From a simply acting point of view, the pair are both great and do some very specific character work in order to create ‘Barb and Star’. Mumolo has a great ability for physical comedy, which they really use as much as they can here, and she is a great foil for Wiig. As for Kristen Wiig, who is the biggest name here and also the most talented actor, she really comes into her own as the film goes on, with her comedic timing remaining as perfect as ever and her ability to play a scene naturally one minute and then incredibly campy the next making her perfect for the dual roles she takes on.
On their writing, this is a huge departure in tone from Bridesmaids, but it still has the same feeling that this is entirely their voice and exactly the project they wanted to make. The world is so unique and flashy, full of ridiculous characters and dialogue, that only two incredibly confident writers would create it and not be intimidated by a potential backlash. It feels very much like a spiritual sequel to the Austin Powers movies in many ways, some of those I won’t give away so that Barb and Star can keep its secrets intact, and while those films are not for everyone, it is nice to have some more variation in the currently struggling genre of studio programmer comedies.
Overall, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is far from a masterpiece and is unlikely to be for everyone, but it features some great performances, a memorable music number, and some real hearty escapism in a time when we need that more than ever, so it is a roaring success for what it sets out to do.
Rating = 3.5/5