Culottes (noun) women’s knee-length trousers; a lifesaver for the buoyant Barb and Star…
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a pastel action pastiche and an absolute riot from start to finish. The film begins like a scene from The Florida Project as a palette of pale candy colours fill the screen, only to be layered with the dulcet tones of the Bee Gees and Barbra Streisand’s ‘Guilty’. Working in a Nebraskan department store, fluffy-haired Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) are unfulfilled with life. They fill their days with inane conversations: the sleeping patterns of raccoons and Mr Peanut’s attractiveness being prime examples. After they are excommunicated from their talking club for lying (yes, really), Barb and Star take the plunge and book a trip to the luxurious Vista Del Mar resort in the Sunshine State.
Like any good best-friends-on-vacation movie, Barb and Star find themselves caught up in something far bigger than themselves. As they delight in this sugary sweet dreamland where anything is possible, an evil mastermind is planning an attack on this Floridian paradise. Director Josh Greenbaum makes his feature debut with this charming film that finds joy in the mundane. Genuine laugh-out-loud moments save this sunny picture from feeling like a cross between Cocoon and Cocktail.
The film benefits hugely from Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s screenwriting. Their intricate knowledge of the two dowdy forty-somethings really comes across in their characterisation. The two worked together on 2011’s Bridesmaids, where Wiig showed her talent for the wacky and wonderful, and her work is just as funny here.
Wiig and Mumolo aren’t the only heavy hitters in this movie. In fact, it boasts a impressive cast. The movie features cameo appearances from Andy Garcia, Phyllis Smith and Reba McEntire. Sun-deprived villain Sharon Gordon Fisherman is a mysterious enigma of a woman with a pretty huge grudge. This is a spoiler-free zone, but I will say that she is played by someone surprisingly close to home…
Jamie Dornan, usually seen in more dramatic roles such as the Fifty Shades franchise and BBC’s dark thriller The Fall, is delightfully silly as spy Edgar Pagét. Holding an unrequited flame for his cold-hearted boss, Edgar is more 7/11 than 007. He does a great impression of fellow Irishman Pierce Brosnan—bursting into song on a beach, he belts out a powerful seagull-themed ballad that would make Westlife jealous.
In this film that does not for one moment take itself too seriously, colour plays a major part. Vista Del Mar is a vision of candy pastel colours; the last place you would expect to face a threat on humanity. Not that most of the resort’s residents would notice. The colourful spectacle that is the annual Seafood Jam festival commands everyone’s attention.
The cartoonish elements are bizarre but cleverly done. Thankfully this takes the film from being just another zany comedy to a creative pastiche of the action genre. It turns some of the most common film tropes on their head. Two men have an audience-less fight on the beach. A water-ski owner allows the hijacking of the watercraft with literally no questions asked. The film shines with its understated jokes but grates when they become too obvious. The talking crab named Morgan Freemand, complete with a gravelly voice not dissimilar to the Hollywood legend, was a little too on the nose.
Beyond the frenzied theatrics, there is real charm within Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar. It holds a genuinely touching message about friendship and finding your inner shimmer. It is a lesson to us all that no matter how old you are, you always need a friend to anchor you to shore.
Be aware, this film might make you long for a beach getaway. Or even just to hear a remix of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ while two-stepping across a sticky dancefloor. This entire movie is an extended meme that deserves to reach the dizzy, quotable heights of Stepbrothers or Austin Powers. It may fly under the radar this year due to a low-key release, but is destined to reach cult status in its own brilliantly madcap way.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a Lionsgate production, available to rent now on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Google Play.
Words by Tayler Finnegan
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