Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (3 stars)

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar

Collaborators Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo follow up Bridesmaids with this outlandish caper

Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo's first screenwriting collaboration since their Academy Award-nominated work on Bridesmaids inevitably suffers a little from the expectations that come with following up a modern comedy classic. To their credit, they've far from played it safe, this time running with a much more outlandish idea, interspersing the laughs with wild, sci-fi-esque schemes, fantasy creatures and musical numbers.

Sitcom and documentary director Josh Greenbaum (New Girl, Fresh Off the Boat, The Short Game) is at the helm and the aforementioned writers assume the titular roles of Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig), suburbia dwellers, department store employees, and the best of friends. This folksy duo get a hot tip about the potential middle-aged paradise that is Vista del Mar just after being fired, and they decide to throw caution to the wind, hoping to get their 'shimmers' back in the process.

Once there, they meet the mysterious Edgar (Jamie Dornan) and romantic complications ensue after the trio get rat-arsed on a novelty cocktail. Wiig also stars as the villain of the piece, one Sharon Gordon Fisherman, who is looking to wreak revenge on the tourist town after suffering a crippling humiliation as a child, and has a plan to use genetically modified mosquitoes to do her bidding.

Given that Bridesmaids soared on the strength of its ensemble cast, this doesn't make comparably good use of its supporting players (which include Wendi McLendon-Covey, Michael Hitchcock, Phyllis Smith and Damon Wayans Jr) and, as talented as she is, perhaps Wiig didn't have to double up on the roles. Surrendering any semblance of sense, the story can feel erratic (something like Spy, from Bridesmaids' director Paul Feig, incorporated its own flights of fancy much better), but there is enough solid gag writing to keep you engaged.

Moreover, the film boasts a number of hilarious highlights. There's 'Talking Club', a very strict social group, run with a military-like adherence to the rules by Vanessa Bayer's terrifying Debbie. Dornan has a brilliant musical number – dubbed 'Edgar's Prayer' – which he launches himself into with admirable abandon, and there are some inebriated antics amusingly set to the club mix of 'My Heart Will Go On', while a fun cameo from Andy Garcia is very in keeping with his tongue-in-cheek work in films like Book Club and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. If Barb and Star is undoubtedly bananas, the quantity of laughs make it worth your while.

Available to watch on demand from Fri 12 Feb.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar

  • 3 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 1h 47min
  • Directed by: Josh Greenbaum
  • Written by: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo
  • Cast: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans Jr.
  • UK release: 12 February 2021

Barb and Star are two best friends that decide to leave their small Midwestern town for the first time to go on vacation. When they visit Vista Del Mar, Florida, they find themselves tangled up in adventure, love, and a plot to kill everyone in town.

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