Ontario may have just delayed the March holidays for students, but spring break is still on thanks to Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar. This totally random and irreverently funny film is a warm escape. Bridesmaids writers Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig reunite for a silly tale of sisterhood. They play the titular Bar and Star, who indeed go to Vista Del Mar. (There’s none of that nonsense à la Vic and Flo, who have yet to see a bear!) Barb and Star are roommates and besties who need to pick themselves up from their middle-aged dumps. They lose their jobs at a furniture retail outlet (the hottest gig in town) and get ousted from “talking club” (arguably not the hottest club in town) on the same day. Cue a liberating vacay.
The girls could use a chance to let loose. Barb and Star are squares, pure and simple. They don’t get out of the house much. They cackle about imaginary people for the entire flight to Vista Del Mar, dreaming of lives they’re too afraid to pursue. They’re fish-out-of-water amid the toned bods and stylish vacationers by the pool. Their style is the best of Blouse Barn with matching helmet hair, like kindred spirits of Bea Arthur and Betty White. But they’re a well-coordinated Yin and Yang of 1980s pastels. One’s always wears blue with the other pink, a motif that director Josh Greenbaum (Becoming Bond) playfully echoes in the aesthetics. In terms of folksy speech and behaviour, they’re very “Marge Gunderson at the Olive Garden.” These are two homely ladies in need of a good blossoming.
Mr. Grey will see you now
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar features another traveller on the duo’s getaway. Cue the hunky Irish hitman Edgar (Jamie Dornan). He checks into Vista Del Mar on the orders of his extremely pale not-so-official girlfriend Sharon (Wiig again). Sharon, who lives in an underground lair, plots to unleash killer mosquitoes to rid the world of folks who can soak up the sun. (See? I told you the film’s random!) Unlike Barb and Star who are blissfully and childishly innocent thanks to being shut-ins, Sharon is pure wrathful villainy.
But Edgar’s, er, stinger has other plans after Barb and Star meet him at the bar. Mr. Grey lets loose the friends’ inhibitions. He inspires a potential rivalry as Barb and Star both fall for the hottest guy in Vista Del Mar.
Fun in the Sun
Plot-wise, Barb and Star has about as much to it as a continental breakfast. However, the screen-team of Wiig and Mumolo can’t be beat. They are deadpan funny as the wholesome BFFs. (Wiig’s droll awkwardness gives a better sense of what she was aiming for in Wonder Woman 1984.) Their timing and chemistry makes even the squarest of Barb and Star’s idiosyncrasies land. The film has an understated irreverence. Don’t expect the belly laughs of Bridesmaids, but hang on for a rolling giggle.
There’s also a zaniness to the film that keeps surprising. Dornan gets a comical musical interlude to voice his romantic pining for Sharon. He does some spectacular high jumps and lets the camera exploit his chiselled bod while sharing the musical interlude with a seagull. Morgan Freeman plays a talking crab on a Shawshank inspired beach scene. Not to be outdone, Reba McIntyre pops up as a mermaid. Yet for all Barb and Star’s incomprehensible randomness, it works. Everybody involved just owns the silly.
To the film’s credit, it delivers exactly what it promises: a vacation. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is fun in the sun escapism. It’s refreshingly goofy and doesn’t have any aspirations beyond ensuring that everyone has a good time. What a relief it is to laugh and bask in the sun. Like any winter getaway, the warm lark is therapeutic.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is available on PVOD beginning Feb. 12.