Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar is a kooky, imperfect delight: Review
Comedy begins with culottes — actually the dictionary definition of them, if perhaps you're unfamiliar with the full possibilities of a poly-blend pant — in Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar, a loony notebook-doodle of a movie seemingly conjured whole from folksy Fargo accents, LSD, and wig glue.
The last time Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo wrote a screenplay together, they made Bridesmaids. (You may remember Mumolo as Wiig's character's neurotic seatmate during her in-flight "There's a colonial woman on the wing!" meltdown.) This time they've set their ids free, and whether you follow them there probably has a lot to do with your willingness to surrender to the (mostly) chaotic good. Vista is by any metric a ridiculous piece of cinema; it may be a stretch to call it a film at all. But like last year's Bill and Ted Face the Music, it's also weirdly heartwarming and almost willfully surreal. Unlike Bill and Ted, it is also extremely horny, a giddy Stella-free ode to the getting back of midlife grooves.
As best friends, Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig) share everything: a sales job at Jennifer Convertibles, gossip, daily meals — even a bedroom with chaste twin mattresses, like a 1960s sitcom. Their hair is a home-perm symphony, their jewelry QVC-chunky, and their souls are pure. Barb, an anxious widow, prefers to play things safe, but divorcée Star yearns for adventure — the kind their jazz-walking acquaintance Mickey (Wendi McLendon-Covey) promises can be found in a magical land called Florida.
And a trip to the fictional beach town of Vista del Mar does fulfill their wildest seafoam dreams, though it also happens to be the target of a Dr. Evil-ish plot by a chalk-skinned villain (also Wiig, in a series of flowy Phantom Menace ensembles and a sleek black bob). She has sent her lover-slash-henchman (Jamie Dornan) to unleash a dastardly plague upon the unsuspecting residents there, for reasons that will be eventually if nonsensically explained.
Nonsense is kind of the byword for it all: Nearly every plot turn comes in implied air quotes, a winky acknowledgement that this bare scaffolding is only there to prop up the script's endless riffs and cul de sacs. Cameos fly fast and hard (the best of them are better not to spoil), and a very game Dornan, who seems thrilled to be set free of his Fifty Shades brooding, even gets his own high-kicks musical number. The final 20 minutes go on entirely too long, and plenty of jokes don't land — though the ones that do, gratifyingly, are often the weirdest; not so much punchlines as comedic chemtrails.
Dornan, with his dimpled chin and CG abs, is no small part of the sexual awakening in store for Barb and Star, some of it in forms that may only be found on the furthest corners of Pornhub. But his and every other role take a distant second to the platonic love story of its two main characters. Like some of the old-timey genre classics it recalls — Blazing Saddles, Airplane, the first Austin Powers — Barb and Star commits to its deep silliness so sweetly and completely that you can't help falling a little bit in love with them too. Grade: B