When “Zoolander” silliness meets “Bride Alarm” and “Spy” girl power and director Josh Greenbaum spices it all up with a healthy dose of “High School Musical” madness, then we’re right in the middle of it BARB & STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR, a truly unique comedy despite its many visible influences. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar (USA 2021)
The plot summary
Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) have been best friends since childhood. They share everything with each other. Even the boring job in a furniture store, which they sweeten with long conversations and funny anecdotes from their shared past. But when the branch closes, the two are left with nothing – and a vacation that they want to treat themselves to with the severance pay. At the recommendation of a friend, the two travel to Florida. More precisely: to Vista Del Mar. Here the friends get into a crazy adventure because a not-so-sinister villain (Rose Abdoo) plans to wipe out the entire city…
When it was announced at the end of 2019 that Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig would be writing a new comedy together, the speculation on the Internet briefly surfaced that it might be a sequel to Paul Feig’s comedy hit “Bride Alarm”. The reason: Wiig and Mumolo were responsible for the script at the time – and were even nominated for an Oscar for it. But the two quickly took the wind out of their sails. Their new project “Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar” has no connection to the escapades surrounding Annie, Lillian and Co., but the anarchic tone of the author duo has not changed since 2011. And there are a whole series of similar influences on top: “Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar” is an extremely heartfelt story about two best friends, whose cartoonish espionage thriller subplot is replaced by the action comedy “Spy –” also directed by Paul Feig. Susan Cooper Undercover” may have been the inspiration. The affected, whimsical character drawing of the power-mad villain and her henchmen, on the other hand, could come 1:1 from a “Zoolander” film. And when “Fifty Shades of Grey” beau Jamie Dornan finally sings to the seagulls for love advice in a theatrical Troy Bolton-memorial choreography, the sometimes strong “High School Musical” vibes come to light.
No piece of paper fits between Barb (Anni Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig)’s friendship.
With so many obvious influences – regardless of whether the references are intentional or not – one can ask to what extent the end result still has its own appeal or whether the appeal simply comes from recognizing the role models. But contrary to first impressions, “Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar” is not a clumsy slingshot of quotes, but rather a completely independent film. The tone, which is both heartfelt and always extremely silly, may be reminiscent of the films mentioned at the beginning, but this is not the result of crude fan service. Instead, feature film debutant Josh Greenbaum (previously directed several episodes of the sitcom “New Girl”) sets similar priorities as his colleagues Feig, Stiller and Co. The basic building block here is the friendship between Barb and Star, which Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig are full of Embody fervor. With their high voices, their very fast speaking rate and their very rhythmic, almost singsong-like style, but especially in view of their external appearance, Barb and Star are to a certain extent caricatures of a typical US film type: the bored middle-aged woman, who was never able to realize herself and is now stuck in the daily grind; A summer holiday by the sea is the highest of emotions and therefore a damn exciting adventure. But with their unbridled energy, Wiig and Mumolo take the immediate cliché to absurdity – and work their way out of the stereotype box that has been prepared for them with the help of the message that shines through at all times that friendship is the most important thing in life.
“With their high voices, their very fast speaking rate and their very rhythmic, almost singsong-like style, but especially in view of their external appearance, Barb and Star are to a certain extent caricatures of a typical US film type: the bored middle-aged woman , who was never able to fulfill herself and is now stuck in the daily grind.”
The women leave with unbridled optimism and pure life energy (even the realization that they are not staying in the radiant luxury hotel on the beach promenade where the hotel crew had just welcomed them with an upbeat musical choreography, but in a run-down motel with a waterless pool). Don’t give up – they still have each other!), the two women throw themselves into a summer vacation in the fictional tourist town of Vista del Mar. At the same time, a no less shrill thriller scenario develops in which a corpse-pale villain with a hair-raising (and hair-raisingly original) origin -Story plans to wipe out the Vista del Mar residents. The tonal contrast that the events in the sun-drenched Vista Del Mar and those in the villain’s headquarters underground are sometimes quite striking; even seem like two completely different films. But it’s not just these supposedly irreconcilable opposites that create a certain appeal, ultimately the celebrated silliness remains the link between both episodes – personified in Jamie Dornan. The mime, who became known for his role as Christian Gray (and was therefore always a little laughed at), shows a completely different side in “Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar” and goes from sexy hottie to sexy for this openly displayed image change unassuming joker, all stops. With a theatrical musical performance as the highlight, in which, among other things, he climbs up a palm tree or tries out ballet steps, describing himself as a “baby ballerina” – everything is highly symbolically charged, of course.
Jamie Dornan shows off his musical (and sporty) side in “Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar”.
How much “Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar” takes place in its own reality is shown again and again in the small details that further exaggerate the whole scenario. For example, the villain is in possession of a musical orchestra of mice, Star finds advice on the beach from a talking crab who owes his wisdom to an eventful life that is reminiscent of numerous Morgan Freeman films, and in the finale some mystical developments help to avert the catastrophe and make Barb and Star the heroines of the day. But it’s not just the occasional fantasy interludes that provide an almost two-hour escape from reality. Josh Greenbaum repeatedly places subtle gags in the background; from the scene structure, which repeats itself 1:1 within a very short space of time, to the restaurant pianist who either sings about his love for breasts or about his former (and now dead) schoolmates – nobody listens to him anyway. “Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar” is destined to be watched more than once and examined for the countless small details that fill this confidently presented and high-quality cabinet of curiosities with life. And Josh Greenbaum is establishing himself as a promising comedy talent, joining the ranks of Ben Stiller, Paul Feig, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (both of whom appear here as producers) with his first work.
“Josh Greenbaum repeatedly places subtle gags in the background; from the scene structure, which repeats itself 1:1 within a very short space of time, to the restaurant pianist, who either sings about his love for breasts or about his former (and now dead) schoolmates.”
But even a film like “Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar” doesn’t live entirely from its silliness. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo have knitted a classic three-act play around the constant fire of punch lines, which one cannot deny has a certain predictability, but from which the actors know how to get the best out of it. While it may come as no surprise that the two protagonists in a film about friendship fall out at the lowest point of the story, “Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar” is never about the “what,” but always about the “how.” “. And the way the two BFFs maneuver their way out of their conflict is so devastatingly funny that you are happy to accept certain story beats that can be counted.
Conclusion: “Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar” is already making a name for itself the Feel-good film of the year and celebrates uninhibited silliness just as passionately as the emotional themes of friendship and trust. Garnished with a singing and dancing Jamie Dornan, talking animals and musical mice, this cinematic curiosity has to be seen to be believed. Provided you aren’t completely averse to the chatty excess.
“Barb & Star go to Vista Del Mar” is now available on US streaming services.