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The funniest movie I’ve seen lately is Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar, an impeccably silly SNL-style comedy that finds Kristen Wiig returning to her Bridesmaids level. If she’s willing to forget Wonder Woman 1984, and the “Imagine” video, then so am I.
Wiig co-wrote Bridesmaids with Annie Mumolo, and this time the two have equal screen time as costars: The title characters are dimwitted, middle-America, middle-aged besties — the kind who wear discount jewelry, cultivate fluffy heads of hair, and serve hot-dog soup with rosé wine to their all-lady discussion group. Their ideal dream man would be someone “wearing Tommy Bahama from head to toe.” I get the sense that Wiig and Mumolo are spoofing their moms here. But they always manage to stay on the right side of the thin line between fond parody and mean-spirited putdowns.
When Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig) lose their jobs at Jennifer Convertibles (it turns out they’ve been having such a pleasant time chatting on one of the store sofas that they didn’t notice the chain has been out of business for months), the two decide it’s time to spice up their lives in some way: “Should we try those socks with individual toes?” wonders Barb. No, not that way. They settle on a “soul douche” — a trip to a dazzling, explosion-at-the-pastel-factory Florida hotel in sunny Vista Del Mar. At the resort we will meet a crab possessed by the spirit of Morgan Freeman, the world’s most inappropriate lounge singer (tunes include “I Love Boobs” and “My Friends from High School Recently Passed”) and an albino psychopath (also played by Wiig) who is costumed to look like an amalgam of the scariest weirdos ever played by Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton. True nightmare fuel.
The villainess has a plan to commit mass murder with radio-controlled mosquitoes, but one fears that her world-domination plans won’t quite work out as planned. She offers this would-be epic parting line to her victims: “Goodbye, Vista Del Mar you . . . stupid place full of dummies.” Maybe workshop that one a little.
Will Ferrell is one of the producers of the movie and there’s a delightfully innocent, Ferrell-ish quality to the two lead idiots and their equally moronic antagonist, just as Bridesmaids bore the stamp of its producer Judd Apatow. The two leading ladies sleep in matching twin beds, fantasize about Mr. Peanut and get really excited about Christmas way too early in the year. They’re supportive: “Star, if I said it once, I said it a million times. You could model for effing Chico’s, and I’m not just saying that.” They’re reflective: “Every time I think of frog legs I think of Kermit riding his bicycle, and how much he used his legs. He really needed them.” They’re honest: “My stomach it’s like just a bunch of rolled up sacks in there. All in line trying to get out, it’s like a traffic jam.” If I’m quoting the movie a lot, it’s because it’s really effin’ quotable. We’re talking early-2000s Ferrell-level quotable here. And the innocence is such that even though there are a lot of sex jokes in the movie, they’re just vague enough to keep the movie PG-13.
The main weak point is the girls’ mutual love interest, an oaken fellow guest (Jamie Dornan) who inspires come-ons from the girls such as: “I just wanted to come inside and talk to you where your sheets are.” Dornan — 50 Shades of Dull — is a male model who should have been content to make a lot of money being photographed standing in the proximity of a bottle of cologne, and the movie flatlines when he attempts to do a comic musical number. Is it possible to feel sorry for a guy who is this handsome? I think it is. His number should have been cut, burned, and its ashes scattered around Tampa Bay. The movie is 15 minutes too long anyway.
As useless as Dornan is, though, the two ladies are as frothy and delightful as machine-churned pina coladas, and their partnership builds up to what has to be the single greatest joke about culottes ever conceived. May they return again soon for another adventure, in all their Chico’s-wearing splendor.