I think it’s fair to say that everyone is starving for some comedic diversion in the world of COVID-19.
We all love to laugh. Particularly when there isn’t much to laugh about.
Which is why the trailer to Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar caught everyone’s attention.
It co-starred Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo who also wrote the script.
Their previous collaboration on Bridesmaids (2011) was a smash success. It looked like lightning was about to strike again.
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a hybrid movie; part romantic comedy, part vacation comedy, part spy comedy and part “buddy” film.
It attempts to cherry pick the best comedy elements of all those films by tossing them into a comedy blender in the hopes of creating a magically sweet tropical concoction.
Barb and Star are two girlfriends bound together by abandonment and loss. They work at the local mall at a failing furniture chain.
In addition to their jobs, they share a small apartment and a sad, humdrum, midwestern existence. As they put it, they have “lost their shine.”
Things get worse when the store closes, whereupon they decide to take a crazy fun vacation in order to soften their emotional pain.
And so, begins the comedy vacation part of the story, with hasty suitcase packing, a lengthy flight (during which they talk non-stop) and a spectacular greeting at a posh hotel where they mistakenly think they have booked reservations.
The airplane gag is right out of Bridesmaids, only not as funny. The over-the-top dance number greeting at the hotel is something right out of Monty Python and the Meaning of Life. Only not as funny.
The comedy vacation element of this movie that does work is the spoofing of touristy, tropical getaway resorts.
It’s all seashell motifs, oversized drinks, beach activities and apparel and tacky trinkets—all rendered in bright, over-saturated Caribbean colors.
By all appearances, this would seem to be a feature film funded by the Florida Board of Tourism, if it wasn’t for the fact that the movie wasn’t shot in Florida.
As mentioned, in addition to being a vacation comedy, this is also a spy comedy, evidenced in the opening sequences in which we discover that the innocent looking, bicycle-riding paperboy is actually part of a sinister organization plotting death and destruction from their high-tech, underground lair.
It’s here that Barb and Star find themselves in a plot that is somewhere between Austin Powers and The Incredibles.
The evil villain mastermind is a freakish, white-skinned woman also played by Kristen Wiig. Despite the jet-black, pageboy wig, she’s essentially Doctor Evil with the paperboy accomplice as her Mini-Me.
Her handsome, lovestruck, right-hand, hit man, Edgar Paget, is played by Jamie Dornan, star of the 50 Shades of Grey movies, which many regarded as an unintentional comedy series about power and erotic obsession.
Here, he is aiding in his boss’s plans to release a deadly swarm of genetically engineered mosquitoes upon the residents of Vista Del Mar as an act of revenge for a traumatizing childhood experience.
It’s pretty tough to top the spy satire comedy of Austin Powers or The Incredibles, both of which focused most of their screen time to spy craft and the skewering of spy movies.
It’s even harder to achieve this level of satiric humor when it only amounts to a fraction of the overall story. So much for the spy spoofing here.
Moving on, there is the aforementioned romance comedy part of Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar.
Predictably, Barb and Star, on the lookout for love, both develop the hots for Edgar Paget.
Only one is successful in stealing his heart, at the risk of jeopardizing her relationship with her travel companion. Dramatically, this somehow never seems to be much of an issue.
There is a lot of silliness in Barb & Star. Lots of sight gags and physical humor.
Musically, there are some funny songs like “I Like Boobies” performed by the cheesy hotel lounge singer, whose name is Richard Cheese, in what appears to be an homage to any number of memorable Eric Idle songs from any number of Monty Python films.
Barb & Star is a movie unafraid to poke fun at movies and movie cliches in general.
I’m referring to one character being advised to steer a submarine by constantly turning the wheel back and forth despite traveling in a straight line (a long-standing movie cliché over the years).
There is also the inclusion of the obligatory “cliff hanger” moment, dating all the way back to silent serials like The Perils of Pauline (1914).
To its credit, the scene is suspenseful, and the miraculous, hilarious way the characters escape death derives its humor from the clever setup of a dictionary definition appearing in the opening credits.
No spoilers here.
In the end, Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar is amusing, light-hearted escapism.
But because it sets out to be a mix of comedy genres, it goes off in multiple, scattershot directions in which the parts are unfortunately greater than the whole.
It manages to be fun without being exceptionally funny.
The best summarization might be one of Edgar Paget’s lines as he exits Barb and Star’s bedroom one morning after having woken up in bed, sandwiched between them in what might best be described as a short stack of drunken human pancakes: “Thanks very much for the weird time.”
Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar is available wherever you rent movies.
Photos courtesy Lionsgate.