Review by Sean Boelman
Re-teaming duo Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is either going to be hilarious or obnoxious for most viewers, depending on one’s sense of humor. There are a few decently charming moments to be found here, but it feels like most will see this for what it is: Kristen Wiig’s far less funny version of Austin Powers.
The film follows two best friends from a Midwestern town who are thrown into an unexpected adventure when they decide to go on a vacation and experience the rest of the world for the first time in their lives. What starts as a simple buddy comedy turns into something much more silly and convoluted, and it loses track of what would have made it shine.
This isn’t quite thrilling enough to work as an action-comedy, nor is it raunchy enough to be a very good sex comedy. That makes it little more than an exercise in self-indulgent absurdism. Either you’re in on the joke, or you’re left out in the cold, wondering who it is that is supposed to think this is funny.
Of course, there is a heavy-handed message about the importance of friendship and how honesty is essential for friendships to survive, but it’s nothing particularly unique or original to say. And the villain’s motivation and the moral that goes along with that story is even more frustratingly conventional.
The characters in the movie are sure to be divisive. Some will find them to be lovable goofs, but others (this critic included) will find them to be grating. Mumolo and Wiig are very obviously having the time of their lives here, but their welcome wears out a few minutes in as it becomes clear how one-note their turns are going to be.
Wiig does double duty here, also playing the film’s villain (further reminiscent of Austin Powers), but she seems to have put more effort into her half of the eponymous duo, for better or worse. Jamie Dornan is a potential scene-stealer, having the movie’s few genuinely funny moments, but he also feels a little out-of-place.
It is in a visual sense that the film shows the most potential, but it is rarely delivered upon. Only in a few scenes in which the movie truly embraces its campiness, like a few musical numbers, does the film live up to its promise of true quirkiness. More often than not, it feels like a bunch of ideas that might have been funny on their own but blend into something less satisfying.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar simply isn’t that funny, but not for lack of trying. Mumolo and Wiig seem to think this is hilarious, and so will some audience members who appreciate their comedy ridiculously over-the-top with no edge to it, and good for them. The rest of us will find it a chore to get through.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar hits VOD on February 12.
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