Written, produced and starring Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, ‘Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar’ follows Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig), two middle aged friends who have lived in the same neighbourhood their entire lives. After losing their jobs and their place in the weekly Talking Club, they decide to venture out of their sheltered lives in the suburbs and go on vacation for the first time ever.
This is an example of a film that gets better as it goes along and is, essentially, a live-action Spongebob Squarepants film. It features absurd moments that make no sense overall but, somehow, work and offer comedic value to the film. Furthermore, it has a charming, but strange, plot that works for the most part. As a huge Spongebob fan, I found enjoyment here, even if I do have a couple of issues with it.
It’s clear that ‘Barb and Star’ was Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig’s passion project (or an excuse to go to the Tropics!). They play the two leads who have known each other their entire lives and share a close friendship. And this is obvious from the moment they’re introduced; the two actresses’ have fantastic chemistry and work together perfectly, bouncing off each other’s dialogue seamlessly. And even when there’s conflict that tests their friendship, they make this aspect somewhat relatable still. However, while the two leads bounce off each other fantastically and they are charming, their actual personality is what makes the the first act insufferable. Because they’ve known each other for so long, they can have fast-paced conversations; it’s a testament to their relationship that they know what the other person’s going to say next.
However, it cannot be ignored: their fast-paced talking was stressful to witness. The scene where they’re in the airplane, travelling to Vista Del Mar, is a prime example of what’s right and wrong with these characters. And, yes, this scene is deliberately showing us how annoying they are to the other passengers, but that doesn’t mean that the viewers have to suffer through it for so long to get the point across. They haven’t stopped talking from the moment they’re on-screen! The film really needed a calmer and more level-headed character to appear to balance things out. And, thankful, that does happen once they get to Vista Del Mar!
The arrival of Jamie Dornan’s character, Edgar, not only creates a change in the leads’ personalities, but it also kickstarts the secondary plot in this film: A no-named Bond-style villain is plotting to set deadly mosquitos on Vista Del Mar, and Edgar is her assistant/supposed lover. The concept of two middle-aged innocent women stopping an evil plot is extremely funny, even if this did feel very out of place during the first act. But, like previously mentioned, this is a film that gets better as it continues on. And Dornan’s relationship with the leads is delightful.
He was needed to not only calm Barb and Star’s fast-paced personalities but to also create a conflict with the two, ultimately testing their friendship. And he even gets some scenes to show off his comedic acting, which he fits into comfortably; going forward, I hope Jamie Dornan appears in more comedies because his comedic timing was fantastic.
While Star and Barb were amusing, it was the colourful side characters and absurd jokes that stood out personally. Jamie Dornan’s musical number as he dances around the beach and has a mental conflict with himself was definitely a highlight in the film.
There’s also a talking crab, voiced by Morgan Freeman, Andy Garcia, another spy who is terrible at his job and a musical number in the hotel that Star and Barb think they’ve booked, to only discover that they’re at the wrong location. These were all aspects that earned the biggest laughs, and this is where the Spongebob Squarepants comparison comes in: these are all scenarios that the famous cartoon would include.
Overall, ‘Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar’ was absurd and hilarious. Despite the wonky first act, the film really shines from the moment Star and Barb arrive at the tropical town. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo are fantastic as the fast-talking friends, and their friendship is believable. The humour is surreal but enjoyable, most of which was provided by the crazy side characters that the film introduces. This does lead me to wonder whether they were inspired by the Sea Sponge who lives in a Pineapple under the sea.
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