Is it possible for a comedy to be stupid and smart simultaneously? If your answer is no, then Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar may change your mind. The film falls under the same category as Dumb and Dumber, Zoolander, and the David S. Pumpkins SNL sketch. Is it a stupid movie? Undoubtedly. Was it made by some incredibly smart, funny people? Based on the number of times I laughed and smiled throughout, the answer is a resounding yes. It goes to show that even stupid movies have a science to them.
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo scored an Oscar nomination for their Bridesmaids screenplay. The two reteam for Barb and Star, although Mumolo shares the spotlight with Wiig this time. Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig) are two single gals who sound like characters from Fargo. For some, their voices may prove grating after a while. If you have a soft spot for Gilly, Penelope, or the Target Lady, though, Barb and Star will win you over. After losing their jobs, the ladies decide to take a trip to Vista Del Mar. The hotel they stay at is equally glamorous and tacky, as is the case with most Florida resorts.
Jamie Dornan, best known for playing the humorless Christian Grey, gets to show off his comedic chops as Edgar, another hotel guest. Barb and Star quickly fall for the hunky Edgar, unaware that he’s working for a villain plotting to wipe out the town. The film’s marketing campaign has mostly neglected this subplot, which calls Austin Powers to mind. The ads have also concealed the film’s villain, who’s so pale that even Death from the Bill and Ted movies would tell her to get a tan. It was wise of the studio not to reveal the antagonist or the actress who plays her.
Every time the villain appeared onscreen, I kept asking myself who was behind all that white makeup. At first, I thought she kind of looked like Mireille Enos, although this seemed like an unconventional role for her. I even tried looking up the actress’ identity online, although it wasn’t listed on IMDB or Wikipedia. Upon reaching the credits, I finally got my answer. In retrospect, it was actually pretty obvious, but the revelation still threw me for a loop. While I won’t spoil who plays the villain, I will say that she has the most hilariously tragic backstory since Sergeant Calhoun from Wreck-It Ralph.
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is another comedy classic that Barb and Star warrants comparison to. Just as Pee-wee existed in a mad world, hardly anyone Barb and Star encounter could be described as “normal.” It’d get old quickly if Barb and Star were the only weird ones with everyone else reacting to their quirkiness. Director Josh Greenbaum assembles a winning ensemble that includes Vanessa Bayer as the leader of a “talking club,” Damon Wayans Jr. as a bumbling undercover agent, and a few other surprise cameos. The film belongs to Wiig and Mumolo, though, who share natural comedic chemistry. They’ve made a film that’s silly in all the right ways, finding the genius in stupidity.