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Film Review: Take a Funny Trip with ‘Barb and Star’

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is either the perfect movie for right now, or not. It really all depends on where you are at in this ongoing period of isolation.

If you’re a glass half-full kind of person, the wonderfully silly and funny piece of escapism will transport you to the sunny beaches of Vista Del Mar with our lead characters. If your glass is more half-empty, the sunny scenery will make you long for what we are collectively missing now. Either way, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a fun trip worth taking.

The movie was supposed to come out last summer, but like most titles, it was pulled from released as theaters shuttered due to the pandemic. It’s now making its way to PVOD and will likely bring a lot of much-needed laughs. The trailer suggests this is just a movie about two friends taking a trip, but Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar has a much weirder angle than two people hanging out on a beach.

Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo play Star and Barb, respectively, and also co-wrote the screenplay (they were both Oscar-nominated for penning the Bridesmaids script). They are lifelong friends who do everything together: They work together, live together and are a part of the same “talking club.” After they lose their jobs due to a store closure, they decide to get away to Vista Del Mar and enjoy an adventure they would have never taken otherwise. Their simple trip of fun and leisure is upended when they meet Edgar (Jamie Dornan), who is sent to Vista Del Mar to destroy the city at the behest of Sharon Gordon Fisherman (also played by Wiig), who has a longstanding vendetta against Vista Del Mar.

What makes Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar so good is the easy and comfortable comedic pairing of Wiig and Mumolo. They assembled a cast, which mostly includes friends and former collaborators like Wendi McLendon-Covey, Vanessa Bayer. Phyllis Smith and Fortune Feimster, to join in on the fun. If it sounds like the formula for an Adam Sandler and Company comedy, you’re correct, but Wiig and Mumolo manage to take a trip with their friends to make a movie and be funny at the same time. As bizarre and daffy as the screenplay can get, there’s still a story with an arc, which is often missing from Sandler’s hangout movies.

Even more notably, the movie marks a real turning point for Dornan as an actor. Dornan’s name became much more known when he was cast in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, but his cardboard performances in those movies were never a match for the outlandishly stupid nature of the material. He earned some good notices in last year’s Wild Mountain Thyme, but here he is given a chance to show his comedic skills and perform the catchy tune “Seagulls in the Sand.” It’s not quite the comedic revelation Channing Tatum was in 21 Jump Street and its sequel, but it shows much more potential for Dornan going forward.

While travelling is not advisable, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar makes for a great cinematic getaway. It also helps that it is wonderfully funny and energetic the whole way through.

SCORE: ★

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Written by Matt Passantino

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