In Review: Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar (2021)

Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar – which I’ll be shortening to Barb and Star for the majority, if not the entirety, of this review – is one of those more interesting cases with a film wherein I think any individual will either really enjoy it or not take to it much at all. Its odd surrealist world and extremely over the top ridiculousness will alienate many and perhaps please only few, with Kristen Wiig playing two parts for example, or the film featuring a beach crab at one point with the voice of Morgan Freeman sharing old aged wisdom on the sand by the sea, but thankfully I found myself in the camp of those who took to it quite often. Some jokes may not land, with the script often seeming to go with throwing as many jokes at the wall to see how many can stick, but many of the more prominent, repeated gags are utterly hilarious. It’s a surprisingly complex script considering what I think I have been seeing recently from Hollywood comedies, the one type of film I definitely watch too many of, which have had a tendency recently to rely more so on the improvisation of the comedians involved rather than these more complicated jokes that require a certain building up, such as Damon Wayans Jr.’s fantastically funny character whose repeated trait I won’t ruin for those who haven’t yet seen it.

Considering Lionsgate’s other recent comedies also makes Barb and Star a surprising anomaly and a bold move from them, most likely one that worked out due to some of the lofty names involved here (Wiig in two roles, also producing and writing, with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay also both producing). That risk is only added to by the fact that director Josh Greenbaum has had no prior experience directing comedies, having previously been at the helm of three documentaries. However, the leaning into surrealism similar to that of Lonely Island’s YouTube work (I thought of their work frequently throughout, but especially during Jamie Dornan’s musical sequence, another personal highlight) is pulled off so well that it was hard to believe at certain points.

Kristen Wiig’s double performance is very sturdy, Annie Mumolo (who I have seen in a handful of other films but never taken particular notice of) works perfectly with Wiig in terms of chemistry and performance but the real surprise here is Jamie Dornan, who I haven’t seen give much of a performance in any project up to this point but he does fantastic work here, hopefully he will crop up in a few more comedies after proving how well he can throw himself into comedy. Though the slipping of YouTube style sketch comedy into film does ring certain alarm bells in my head, I have to say that Barb and Star is a pleasant breath of fresh air – a comedy that isn’t afraid to be completely silly, and one that doesn’t rely on much improvisation but instead knows that the strength of comedy is very often in the writing – that feels like a cult classic in the making and is reminiscent of the best comedies of the last twenty of thirty years. It’s completely ridiculous, almost nonsensical at times, but it knows this and leans fully into it to double down on the laughs, which feels quite risky but works perfectly in this case. It’s great.

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