by Philip Price
Director: Josh Greenbaum
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo & Jamie Dornan
Runtime: 1 hour & 47 minutes
The formula of two unaware and somewhat dim best friends stumbling into a plot with larger implications than their small, vacuum of an existence can even comprehend but of which they become the only hope in saving the rest of humanity (or at least the rest of the resort town they're visiting) is not a new one, but Josh Greenbaum's “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar,” which was written by and stars the incomparable Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo who previously collaborated on “Bridesmaids,” certainly does everything in its absurd power to give said concept a whole new look. Walking the line between completely trashing the small Midwestern middle-aged woman and absolutely adoring everything that makes their quaint, innocent lives so enviable Wiig's Star and Mumolo's Barb are the best of friends and have been so for so long they've kind of morphed into one another or one big, feathered hairdo of excessive sweetness, wonder, and bliss. Their lives have followed similar trajectories to the point they've both ended up working in the same mall furniture store post-divorce, get fired from said store on the same day, and kicked out of their "Talking Club" on the same night for lying about still having those jobs at the furniture store. In what feels like the biggest departure the two could possibly make from their cozy, insulated existence the two decide to kick-off this next phase of their lives by embarking on the adventure of a lifetime by leaving their small Midwestern town for the first time ever.
Arriving in the fictional Vista Del Mar or the oasis of all "mid-lifers" as Wendi McLendon-Covey's Mickey would say, Barb and Star are essentially aliens arriving on a different planet and discovering different forms of life than they've ever encountered before. Chief among these specimens in Jamie Dornan's Edgar who, unbeknownst to our titular heroes, is there at the behest of his Dr. Evil-like boss (also played by Wiig) to enact a revenge plot for some ridiculous reason that doesn't make much sense but doesn't have to because nothing here - except how much you laugh - is taken seriously. All that matters is that Barb and Star are now caught-up in a love triangle, something even more daring and scandalous than leaving their comfortable routine, while beginning to lie to one another for the first time in what is probably the history of Barb and Star. Surrounded by the brightest shades of orange and turquoise possible as well as the largest cocktails ever concocted, our heroines follow the predictable narrative arc laid out before them, but what elevates the film to a different plane of comedy is the specificity Mumolo and Wiig have written with. The jokes - whether verbal, visual, or musical lampoons - each come so quick that they feel effortless, but by the time the entire picture is revealed feel that much more thought-out and almost exquisitely crafted. Dornan nearly steals the movie with the show-stopping "Edgar's Prayer" number that made me laugh harder at a movie than I think I have in a decade if not more. Dornan completely understands the tone of the world he's in and more specifically, how he fits into it. Other supporting players like Vanessa Bayer, Mark Jonathan Davis, Damon Wayans Jr. and Karen Maruyama each add to the bizarre nature of the world this film exists in. Special shout-out to Reyn Doi though, who essentially put me in this movie's pocket from the very beginning with his rendition of Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb's "Guilty". It's easy to note with its awfully specific brand of comedy that “Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar” isn't for everyone, but the ongoing outlandishness of it all and the admitted stupidity is what made the experience such a delight, especially having come along at this point in time.