Many former SNL titans have taken the leap to movies. MacGruber, Tommy Boy, Billy Madison, Master of Disguise, Caddyshack, National Lampoon, Talladega Nights, Baby Mama, are just the titles I can think of at the top of my head that fit into this category. The great Kristen Wiig, however, has had the most successful pivot in my estimation, up there with Adam Sandler, Bill Murray, and Will Ferrell.
Not only has Wiig written dynamite comedies like Bridesmaids, but she’s worked in dramatic roles like The Skeleton Twins with fellow alum Bill Hader, and recently she’s even been indoctrinated into the DC cinematic universe in Wonder Woman 1984. The breadth and depth of her career is wide and deep, and I am always thrilled to see one of my personal favorites do well. Her most recent film, Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar, is everything I love about Wiig in one movie. It’s absurd, it’s complex, it’s loving, and it has some excellent character work. Will it win an Oscar? No. But, it will bring anyone who watches it some much-needed joy, laughter, and escapism into a world where friendship can solve any problem.
“The View of the Mar”
Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar stars Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids) and Wiig starring as the respective title characters. They’re middle-aged best friends who have gone through divorce and being widowed, and they realize they need a shake up once they lose their jobs at Jennifer’s Convertibles (you know, those couches that recline and turn into a futon or a bed) and get kicked out of Talking Club (you know, those clubs where you make hot dog soup and talk about a specific topic, and Vanessa Bayer is the strict enforcer of the rules). One of their acquaintances, Mickey (Wendi McLendon-Covey, Reno 911! and Bridesmaids), tells them about Vista Del Mar, the middle-aged paradise in the Florida Keys, and Barb and Star are sold. They pack up, and head down. They meet Edgar (Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey) and unwittingly become entangled in the evil plot of Sharon Gordon Fisherman (also played by Wiig) to kill all the residents and tourists in Vista Del Mar as revenge for her tragic childhood.
The film has a set-up reminiscent of a Dr. Evil plot, but without all the gross and offensive jokes that plague the Austin Powers franchise. To me, this is where Wiig shines as a writer and performer. She always comes from a place of authenticity and joy in her writing and acting. Sure, they poke fun at snowbirds and middle-aged women who love a culotte, but it’s never from a place of making them the butt of the joke, rather celebrating their absurdities.
Too often, ridiculous comedies rely on jokes about fat people, gay people, people of color, or women, or extremely crude sex and fart jokes. I love a good sex joke when done well (shoutout to Booksmart’s hilarious sex scene between Amy and Hope), but I much prefer watching Barb and Star trying to cover up their trails to each other by each making up a story about meeting a turtle.
Sketchy Acting (In A Good Way!)
Wiig and Mumolo both really commit to their roles, and it pays off. Their accents never slip, their clothes fit the mood, they are perfect as two naive and lovable, perhaps codependent best friends. Dornan is an outstanding pick for Edgar, the tortured love interest, and he leaves behind any self-seriousness that was demanded of him as Christian Grey. Other performances that made me laugh out loud were Vanessa Bayer as Debbie, the strict leader of Talking Club, Damon Wayans Jr. as Darlie Bunkle, a spy who cannot help but blurt out personal information, and of course Reba McEntire in one of the funniest uses of a callback I have ever seen in my life.
I was probably most impressed by Dornan, because I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing him in such a carefree and comedic role. His musical number is hilarious, his relationships with both Star and Sharon are believable and funny, and he manages to maintain a ton of likability. I wanted him to be happy! And so he was. I hope he has more opportunities like this in the future, and I’m glad Fifty Shades hasn’t pigeonholed him.
The real theme of Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar is friendship, and all the joys that come with it. There were a ton of moments throughout the movie, like the elaborate backstory Barb and Star make about Trish, the woman who possesses their favorite name, which reminded me of times when I’ve been doubled over laughing with my best friend in her car on the way to a concert we are both excited for. The scene where Barb and Star are only communicating with their eyes reminded me of a time where I and that same best friend looked at each other from across a weird party and bailed moments later, laughing the entire way out.
Not to be too macabre or sad, but this movie is such a relic of pre-Covid times, when I could call up my friends and just go be myself with them, and I would have someone to face incredible uncertainty with. Barb and Star are the friends that I know I have, and I just miss them.
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar? Comment below!
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