The Bock’s Office: ‘Barb and Star’ a great, goofy buddy comedy
The mid-’90s saw perhaps the greatest pairing of utterly hapless heroes with Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne as the lovable lunkheads of a lifetime. And, though it seemed like there would be no contender for the so-stupid-it’s-smart style of “Dumb & Dumber,” finally along comes “Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar.”
In their small Nebraska town, lifelong best friends Star and Barb (Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo) have carved out a near-perfect existence working on the sales floor of the local furniture store and spending nearly every second together as roommates. The two chatty fortysomethings have their world rocked when they lose their jobs and realize they are badly in need of a change of pace.
A recommendation of a fancy Florida resort is all they need to head south for fun, sun and the opportunity to rehabilitate.
3 out of 4 stars
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans, Jr.
But, even as they meet a handsome stranger (Jamie Dornan), all is not well in the Sunshine State, and Barb and Star find themselves tied up in a deadly plot.
The question is, will they notice anything is amiss before their friendship is ruined?
Replace the bowl cut of Wiig’s “Saturday Night Live” Target Lady with an outdated perm and you’ve basically got Star’s entire personality: gabby, incredibly sweet, and not an ounce of self-awareness as if the one-sentence premise were “How Marge Gunderson Got Her Groove Back.” But, stereotypical Midwestern accent aside, the comic actress makes this jokey character a full person who may irritate you to no end but also get you on her side nonetheless.
Of course, maybe that’s because she has a perfect partner.
Mumolo, who shared an Oscar nomination with Wiig for the script to “Bridesmaids,” shares top billing and deserves it for her portrayal of Barb, the ideal animus to Star’s slightly more flighty nature. While Star is a divorcée tentatively looking to get back on the market, Barb is a widow whose introverted tendencies have ruled her for too long, finding her sense of adventure once again.
Though the writing partners share equal screen time as the titular duo, Wiig does double duty as the story’s villain, a black-haired albino — Don’t ask — scientist with a ridiculously specific scheme to exact revenge for a typically complicated backstory. Hey, it doesn’t have to make sense, as long as it’s funny!
Dornan may not be making fantasies come true the same way he did as Christian Gray, though he holds his own as a love interest named Edgar who comes between the gal pals — at least once completely literally — while Damon Wayans, Jr. gets more than a few giggles as the world’s least discreet private eye following him around the resort.
Still, the quality of cameos keep you wondering what else might be around the corner as things get weirder and weirder.
Wiig and Mumolo’s screenplay never once wonders, “Is this too silly?” and the audience is consistently better off for that. Besides the salute to the Farrelly brothers’ big breakthrough, elements range from major — Wiig’s attempt to emulate Mike Myers’ chameleon traits in the “Austin Powers” series — to minor, such as a lounge act in the background that reminds us of “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.”
Most of all, it’s a joy to watch a couple of good friends bring their real bond to the screen and have no shame about enjoying the process, whether it’s something as inane as a ladies group known as Talking Club or buying up all the tacky seaside jewelry just because every booth has a punny name.
“Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar” is by all counts the kind of comedy we need in the COVID age. Besides a reminder that vacations will once again be possible, the idea of finding your shimmer is a timeless one.
And, yes, culottes are always appropriate attire in any situation.
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