A comedy that is unfiltered and unfocused.
When the funniest moment of a comedy written by the women behind Bridesmaids is Jamie Dornan singing a song inspired by Seagulls in the Sand, something has gone seriously wrong. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a comedy that doesn’t know when to stop its Saturday Night Live Weekend Update’s buddy-buddy shtick. There is an endless amount of small talk between Barb (Kristen Wiig) and Star (Annie Mumolo), who soon stop being amusing, but they go back down that road endlessly while they look for their “shimmer”.
Mumolo and Wiig’s script does have some sparks, particularly the subplot around the film’s “dastardly” villain suffering from ‘Pigmentatia degenera hysterica white skinaka’ (also played with a bit of zeal by Wiig). With her loyal assistant Yoyo (Reyn Doi), and her hitman Edgar (Dorman), they hatch a plan to kill everyone who lives in middle-aged women’s paradise Del Mar. Why? They explain it, but I don’t think it really matters. How exactly do Barb and Star fit into this plot? Honestly, if you take them out of the movie it doesn’t change much. Both have a wild threesome with Edgar — it’s a Barb and Star sandwich, quite literally.
They stumble into Edgar’s evil plan and their endless ramblings may have you hoping the mosquitos get released sooner rather than later. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar was directed by Josh Greenbaum and produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Ferrell and McKay’s comedy style is reflective of this film and brings back memories of the same off-the-cuff banter between Ferrell and John C. Reilly in their incredible misfire, Holmes and Watson; it’s the type of comedy that doesn’t age well nor gets better with every new attempt.
It’s lazy writing, relying too much on its stars’ appeal and charisma without the benefit of a structured comedic plot. Besides an odd cameo by Andy Garcia who takes several minutes to say he is “Tommy Bahama,” the film is virtually punchline-free.
Greenbaum has been primarily a documentary filmmaker and television director. This is his first narrative feature, and given the pedigree involved he may have had limited authority or power to put a kibosh on the matter. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is incredibly uneven. By far the most interesting part of the comedy is Wiig’s dastardly villain and her sidekick, Yoyo, which gave me Dr. Evil (from the Austin Powers series) feels. Otherwise, the film is structured around the appeal of its two stars, who soon become grating.
Funny is not just always funny, but comedy is an ever-evolving thing. The comedic stylings of Mackay/Ferrell and now Wiig/Mumolo need to evolve. As Billy Beane would say, “Adapt or die”: and at the very least they could have found Barb and Star’s shimmer.