Review: Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig), a widower and divorcee, start out content to live a quiet life in Nebraska together. They are best friends. When they lose their jobs, they decide to take a vacation and head to the beaches of Florida. This makes them cross paths with an evil overload (also Wiig) who plans to take out everyone at Vista Del Mar with the help of her henchman Edgar (Jamie Dornan). This propels Barb and Star out of their comfort zones as they learn to live apart from each other and become heroes in the process.
That is about enough plot you need to know as the film isn't too focused on narrative and rather jokes. So how are the jokes? Well there are few funny bits but a good deal of the humor on screen falls flat. The film plays a bit like an extended SNL sketch. You will know early on if the film's humor is going to land with you. Richard Cheese plays a pervy lobby singer. If joke songs about him liking boobies is your thing, the rest of the film probably will be too. The film is a Gloria Sanchez production, an offshoot of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's Gary Sanchez Productions. Hit and miss jokes are to be expected. For every funny moment of Wiig's evil mastermind, you get a crab named Morgan Freeman that waxes on and on.
The performances are all committed and mostly appealing. Jamie Dornan is very game here to go for big comedy. His low-key energy never matches Wiig or Mumolo though. Edgar's romance with Star yields a few laughs but the two don't have comedic chemistry. There is no doubt that Wiig and Mumolo cracked themselves up writing and performing these characters. When the two are on screen, talking about their love for the name Trish for example, the film works. The fun these talented women are having is able to come through. The rest of the film around them rarely works the same way.
Barb and Star could have used a few more drafts of the script to focus the humor a bit more. I never minded watching the film thanks to Wiig and Mumolo but I also won't likely ever revisit it. There aren't any big laughs, just a few chuckles along the way. Dornan isn't on the same level as the two leads and it hurts the overall humor. Still, I can see this film finding an audience that adores it. It is weird enough to have a cult following.