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BARB & STAR (2021) Review

Barb and Star wholeheartedly leans in to the absurdity of its premise to become a laugh-out-loud comedy with a strong female friendship at its core.

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Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar (Lionsgate)

Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar is available to rent now where all good movies are available digitally. You can check out a huge playlist of Barb and Star clips, interviews and more over on our YouTube Channel.

Synopsis

Take a trip and break out of your shell with Barb and Star.  From the gals who brought you Bridesmaids(co-stars and co-writers Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo) comes BARB & STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR. Lifelong friends Barb and Star embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they decide to leave their small Midwestern town for the first time…ever. Romance, friendship and a villain’s evil plot…Hold onto your culottes.

Review

After almost twelve months of being locked in doors it was about time that a laugh-out-loud comedy came along to inject some much needed humour. Given that we’re deep in awards destined films, Barb & Star Go To Vista Del Mar is a bold attempt to wipe away the winter blues with balls to the wall absurdity.

In plenty of ways Barb & Star shouldn’t work. The normally serious Jamie Dornan playing straight-up comedy. The kitschy female friendship which anchors the film. The bizarre subplot featuring Kristen Wiig’s second and arguably most out-there character. The elements as disparate but the final product coheres to become something surprisingly effective and, more importantly, hilarious.

Anyone hoping for a Bridesmaids reunion or sequel need not apply here. Barb & Star, whilst still a portrait of female friendship, attacks its subject matter from a new angle. Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Wiig) are the epitome of Middle-American and middle-aged. The fact the film starts out with the dictionary definite for culottes should tell you more than you need to know. Whilst the film often pokes fun at their naivety (and their poor taste in seashell memorabilia) it never forgets that their friendship is really what matters. They’re able to survive being ostracised, unemployed, attempted murder and the Florida sunshine without every truly forgetting what they mean to each other.

There’s a purity to the characters which is what makes them so funny. Their innocence it also childlike meaning that so much of the world around them passes them by. Each has a sad backstory which brought them together. But where we find them they have almost morphed in to each other to become a singular character.

Wiig and Mumolo co-wrote as well as starring in Barb & Star and that understanding of their characters shows through. Both of them commit entirely to their roles. Throughout the film it’s clear that they both enjoyed the absurdity but also pushed the film as far as it could possibly go without ever becoming uncomfortable. Wiig, coming off Wonder Woman 1984 (reviewed here) returns to her comedic roots masterfully. Her timing has never been so sharp. Amped up by an altered inflection in her voice it’s difficult not to find everything she says hilarious. Pulling double duty as the villain does allow her to flex some more dramatic muscles but really her whole performance is still strongly rooted in comedy.

Mumolo might be the less recognisable face but that doesn’t mean she can’t command the screen. Barb often feels like the more dominant of the two. Taking the lead and diving first in to several hilarious scenarios throughout the film. She’s the first to make a move on Dornan’s Edgar but there’s far more to her character than simply chasing the male lead. It’s Barb who is the most cautious when it comes to seizing the day. As the narrative progresses she grows as a character in more than just the conventionally comedic ways.

Rounding out the trio, Jamie Dornan plays absolutely against type for those who remember him for The Fall. The self-deprecating, needy Edgar is the perfect antithesis for the typical Dornan role. Whilst the film does inevitably remove his shirt, on more than on occasion, it does so with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. It also turns out that Dornan has an immense set of pipes leaving any fan singing “Edgar’s Prayer” until the end of time. As with both leads, Dornan throws himself completely in to the role and together the trio is nothing short of delightful to watch.

With movies such as this the storyline inevitably takes a back seat to the characters. The fact that Edgar is a secret agent, sent to Vista Del Mar to disrupt the years festival for his evil mistress is beyond farcical. But we’re playing in a purely comedy sandbox with Barb & Star, anything conventional just wouldn’t work. Even with Bridesmaids, also written by Mumolo and Wiig, the setting was hyper realist. It has become their signature style and it’s something which they understand on a level which means these films continue to function even at their most ludicrous.

Verdict

A refreshing change from the festival circuit standouts, Barb and Star wholeheartedly leans in to the absurdity of its premise to become a laugh-out-loud comedy with a strong female friendship at its core.

Directed by Josh Greenbaum, Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar stars Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans Jr., Fortune Feimster, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Rose Abdoo, Vanessa Bayer, Phyllis Smith and Kwame Patterson.


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