Barb and Star go to Vista Del Mar - Movie Review

A warm, silly, quirky LOL comedy - now on Hulu
A perfect comedy for the pandemic blues.
A perfect comedy for the pandemic blues.(Lionsgate)
Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 8:27 AM EDT
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Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar was released in early spring, while most movie theaters where still shuttered, at the time it was available to rent at home for a hefty sum.  I have had my eye on this movie for a while, so as soon as it popped up in Hulu last night for free with a subscription, I hit play.  I was not disappointed.

Written by the Oscar nominated team behind the huge hit Bridesmaids (2011); Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo; this quirky, warm gem has a lot of laughs with a lot less raunchiness. Wiig plays Star and Mumolo plays Barb, lifelong friends who both work at a Jennifer Convertibles furniture store. They are inseparable; when one of them has a day off the other comes into work and chats with her on their favorite work sofa, which they will not sell to any customer. When the boss announces that the store and company are closing for good, the friends are embarrassed to tell their “TALK GROUP” that they are unemployed, because their jobs were considered the coolest of the group.  Spurred on by raves from a neighbor who recently visited, the two pals decide to also visit Vista Del Mar, a seaside resort in Florida.  They feel a vacation may recharge them.

Not long after arriving they meet and party with Edgar Paget (Jamie Dornan), who is dealing with unrequited love from his demanding and nefarious boss who is played by an uncredited actress-whose identity I never figured out during the film. She’s that good. But now it all makes sense.

The friendship is complicated when both women fall for the charming, but down on his luck Edgar, who is slowly pulling away from his evil boss’s plan to wreak havoc on the annual Seafood Jam pageant. It’s all very silly, and not very credible, but that is part of the fun.  The humor often comes from the characters’ and the characters’ relationships. Mumulo and Wiig are a modern-day Laverne and Shirley—underdogs--and the sitcom is clearly referenced in the film.  Besties, who are just a bit outside the norm of success in work and love; they barely graduated high school. They wear culottes and their charm and likeability comes from their cluelessness and their complete devotion to each other.  It is remarkable how real their characters seem; when they are so close to camp.  The warmth and humor of this movie comes from their friendship.  The film isn’t mean spirited at all, and the nerds at the center aren’t bullied and are essentially happy.

The fact that the Dornan, best known for his serious, sexy and brooding role in the Fifty Shades franchise, falls in love with Star is taken at face value.  It is so great to see the smoldering Dornan play comedy. He never overplays it, and even when he exudes movie star charisma on screen he is warm and vulnerable. He even sings!

The film takes a wide swing with its weird evil genius, sci-fi, secret lair storyline and some people may think it doesn’t work at all.  A friend said to me, “I don’t get it.” It may feel like a plot inserted, but like most good films the plot isn’t really important, it’s the story that matters; the story of great friends having the adventure of a lifetime.

The humor comes from the precise, yet ridiculous details combined with the chemistry of the actors.  The tone is sublime and all the actors play it expertly.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and thought it was a riot.

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