Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar really is meant to be seen in a packed auditorium, and preferably in 2004.

Film Review: Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar

Film Reviews

Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Director: Josh Greenbaum

Gloria Sanchez Productions
Streaming on Video on Demand: 02.12

The laughter of an audience can add a lot to the experience of watching a really good comedy. But the reality is that if it’s truly funny, you will laugh even if you’re alone. Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar really is meant to be seen in a packed auditorium, and preferably in 2004.

Barb (Annie Mumulo, Bad Moms, Unicorns) and Star (Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids, Wonder Woman 1984) are lifelong best friends who live in the small, Midwestern town of Soft Rock, Nebraska. They’ve seen each other through the best of times and worst of times, including the passing of Barb’s husband and Star’s crushing divorce. They work together at the same furniture store and share a passionate love for culottes. But when the furniture store closes down, they are left with no direction in life, until they get the idea to go on a weeklong vacation together to a resort town called Vista Del Mar, off the coast of Florida.

They set off for a fun experience they will never forget, but find so much more than they ever expected when they get mixed up with the hapless Edgar (Jamie Dornan, 50 Shades of Gray, Wild Mountain Thyme), who works for a mysterious albino villain named Sharon Gordon Fisherman (also played by Wiig). Sharon has sinister plans for the residents of Vista Del Mar. Barb and Star’s friendship will be tested to its limits, as will the resolve of a lot of people who are desperately trying to go along with the idea of $19.99 for a movie rental. 

Director Josh Greenbaum (Becoming Bond) does a competent job, but this isn’t his movie. Mumulo and Wiig, who last teamed to write Bridesmaids, have created a silly screwball script that is a showcase for these annoyingly endearing characters, and Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar is their movie all the way, for better or for worse. The fact that it’s executively produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, who brought us Anchorman and Talladega Nights, lets you know what kind of comedy you’re getting here.

This is the kind of movie that is technically not a spin off from Saturday Night Live but might as well be, though thankfully, it’s a little less obsessed with pushing the boundaries of PG-13 than those films were. If you’re watching it with someone, at the right time and in the right mood, there are certainly laughs to be had here, but it’s the confused, stupid “I don’t know why I laughed at that” kind of humor that has its place but rarely makes for anything that leaves a lasting impression.

Wiig and Mumolo play well off of each other, and both are talented comic actresses, but the characters are hilarious in the three-minute trailer and only fairly amusing at feature length, which is my everlasting complaint with this kind of comedy. Still, they are fairly amusing, and Dornan is charmingly goofy. Damon Wayans, Jr. gets some of the biggest laughs in a one-joke character, who happens to offer one of those rare jokes that gets funnier as you drive it into the ground. And there’s a scene with a talking crab that made me chuckle far more than it should have.

As this style of comedy goes, Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar is definitely not among my least favorite, but I really wanted to be able to lavish it with higher praise than that, if for no other reason than for my love of Kristen Wiig, an actress whom I love, despite the fact that she’s made a ridiculously low number of movies that I even find to be tolerable. On the whole, as long as you have at least one person beside you who’s feeling as stupid as you are for laughing, it’s not a bad way to spend an evening. But if you pay full price to watch this on your own, don’t say I didn’t warn you. –Patrick Gibbs