'Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar' Throws Back to a Simpler Age of Comedy

Directed by Josh Greenbaum

Starring Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans Jr., Vanessa Bayer

BY Alex HudsonPublished Feb 12, 2021

Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo previously cowrote 2011's Bridesmaids, a hilarious and heartbreaking tale of friendship that was possibly the pinnacle of Apatow-era tragicomedy. Now, they're back with Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar, which throws back to an earlier and simpler age of comedy — one where introspection is irrelevant and any moment without a joke is a moment wasted.

Mumolo and Wiig play the titular Barb and Star, two stereotypical middle-aged women with thick Midwestern accents who are stuck in a rut of gossip, culottes and "talking club" (like a book club except for talking, run by a tyrannical Vanessa Bayer). After losing their jobs, they head to a Floridian resort town in an effort to spice up their singledom.

Unbeknownst to them, they land right in the midst of a devious mass-murder plot hatched by evil outcast Sharon Gordon Fisherman (also played by Wiig) and her "unofficial" boyfriend Edgar (Jamie Dornan). As the women get their groove back, their journeys of sex and self-discovery threaten to tear their friendship apart — but mostly it's all just an excuse for absurd musical numbers, jokes about labia piercings, and crabs who talk like Morgan Freeman.

Barb & Star is unafraid to bludgeon a joke into the ground — and repetition only makes things funnier. Whether its Damon Wayans Jr. playing an inept spy who repeatedly gives away his identity or Richard Cheese as a morbid lounge singer obsessed with "boobies," this is the kind of film that creates its own inside jokes and repeats them ad nauseam. It's as if the film was designed to be watched at a sleepover and then quoted for the next two weeks at school.

It all feels a bit like an Adam Sandler movie from the '90s (with the problematic elements thankfully pruned out) — so much so that, by the implausible feel-good finale, you half expect Rob Schneider to pop out of the crowd for a one-liner. He doesn't, but there is another inane celebrity cameo, reinforcing the impression that this film is willing to make you laugh at any cost. This is a retro vacation worth taking.

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