Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar


★★★★

Good comedy isn’t meant for everyone.

It’s nearly impossible to create an incredibly funny movie or TV show that is universally loved by everyone. That’s because if you focus-test something to death and make it easily accessible with jokes that everyone can get, you lose a lot of the humor.

That’s been the issue with “Saturday Night Live” sometimes. They focus so much on characters with catch phrases and easy-to-predict punchlines that there’s no daring or risk. It often just boils down to a funny voice.

I’ve always been more of a fan of edgier sketch comedy like “Mr. Show,” “Kids in the Hall,” “Human Giant” and “Upright Citizens Brigade.” When I do like “Saturday Night Live,” my favorites are the sketches that air right before 1 a.m. The throwaway, weird, bizarre stuff that makes you say, “What the heck was that?!”

Kristen Wiig became a household name on “Saturday Night Live” doing funny voices and repeating characters again and again.

In 2011, Wiig, along with comedian Annie Mumolo, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for “Bridesmaids.” Now she reteams with her co-writer (who also stars alongside her this time) in the female-friendship comedy “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.”

The trailers for this movie told us virtually nothing except that it was a comedy about two middle-aged women with strong Midwestern accents who go on a trip to Florida. They’re adorned with seashell necklaces. They wear culottes and have hairdos that make you think their names might be “Karen.”

At first, you might think these are the same broad, irritating characters that “Saturday Night Live” would repeat to death. Like Target Lady or Coffee Talk.

But what we discover is the screenwriting duo has veered into more adventurous territory and this movie’s DNA is more aligned with the last 30 minutes of an episode of SNL rather than the first few sketches. It’s a strange and silly movie with bizarre moments that make it destined to find cult comedy status in the near future. It’s the kind of movie you watch by yourself on cable late one night after a few drinks and you laugh your butt off alone. You run out and buy a copy to show a sibling or a friend, only to see them sit there in silence wondering why you found this so funny.

This is the definition of niche comedy. It is not for everyone.

Personally, I immensely enjoyed this scatterbrained romp because it surprised me at times. Maybe I had low expectations, but when a talking blue crab has the voice of Morgan Freeman, I can’t help but laugh.

The movie tells the story of two unmarried middle aged friends, Star (Wiig) and Barb (Mumolo, who you might remember as the dim-witted housewife in “Bad Moms”),  who spend every waking moment together. When they lose their job at Jennifer Convertibles, they decide to shake up their routine and try to rediscover that “shimmer” that’s been lost since they’ve aged and lost their husbands. So they go on a trip to this fictional resort town to drink cocktails with tiny umbrellas, ride on a banana boat and get matching friendship bracelets.

Their plans are upended by a spy subplot that is so ridiculous that it makes “Zoolander” look ultra realistic. Wiig doubles up her acting credit by also playing the albino-skinned cartoonish super villain who orders her man-slave, played by Jamie Dornan, of “Fifty Shades of Gray,” to implement her ridiculously silly terrorist attack on the quiet beachside town.

What you end up with is an uneven comedy with lots of jokes that don’t land particularly well. But given the rapid fire succession of gags, there are quite a few chuckles though. I’m sure movie producers would have loved this screenwriting duo to create another massive hit like “Bridesmaids” but what they’ve churned out instead is more like “MacGruber,” “Hot Rod,” “Pop Star” or “Wet Hot American Summer.” Even if COVID didn’t exist, this one would likely be discovered more on rental than in the theaters.

Some characters are unnecessary, such as Damon Wayans Jr.  playing a not-so-secret agent or Andy Garcia as the literal embodiment of Tommy Bahama. Some jokes are so stupid your eyes will roll, such as riffing on how great the name Trish is. And the runtime is probably too long at nearly two hours.

Despite all of its flaws, it’s hard to not like a movie that’s so insanely positive. These two might have “Karen” haircuts, but they never ask for an manager. They’re loving and supportive and enthusiastic. This PG-13 comedy never relies on gross out humor, political jabs or racist stereotypes for shock factor. Besides a few subtle sex jokes, it’s pretty wholesome.

It’s the kind of “girls night” movie that would be perfect for a Galentine’s Day celebration. Like a middle-aged, less fashionable version of “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.”

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