Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Rob Hunter enjoys the commentary for one of the year’s funniest films, Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar.
It’s been a while since we’ve gotten a truly silly comedy out of Hollywood, so the arrival of Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar earlier this year was a gloriously fun gift for laugh lovers. It is ridiculous, and now that it’s on home video, you’ll be happy to know that the humor holds up on repeat viewings. The Blu-ray/DVD features some fun special features including a commentary with the two leads/co-writers and the director, so you better believe we gave it a listen.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar!
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)
Commentators: Josh Greenbaum (director), Annie Mumolo (writer/actor), Kristen Wiig (writer/actor)
1. The opening onscreen definition of “culottes” was added late in editing as they all realized that most folks don’t know and love them to the same degree as these three filmmakers.
2. It took Reyn Doi (he plays Yoyo) a single take to land that newspaper on the front step as planned. That’s not true. “I think he had to fake it, then we dropped it right in front of the lens.”
3. They refer to Barb’s and Star’s wigs as the film’s other stars. “We fought with them, we loved them, we hated them.”
4. They wrote and/or shot scenes for a montage of reasons why they’d be fired including writing notes with a Sharpie on the furniture, riding a moped through the store, and jumping out of a cabinet to scare a customer who then proceeded to have a heart attack.
5. “We always write roles for Wendi [McLendon-Covey],” as in addition to being a supremely nice person she delivers pure gold with her every utterance. They add Michael Hitchcock to that shortlist as well.
6. Wiig and Mumolo have been writing comedic, middle-aged ladies since their days back in The Groundlings, the legendary LA improv group.
7. They were all constantly aware of nailing the tone they aimed for, as “if it’s too saccharine it’s not our movie” but if they steamroll through the characters without “getting real” at times then viewers won’t care about them.
8. Barb (Mumolo) and Star’s (Wiig) decision to take the trip was originally followed by a scene where they leave the house and are attacked by an owl. “You mean when the owl sexually assaulted us? And hammered on Kristen?”
9. Jamie Dornan apparently had a big crush on Estelle Getty, circa The Golden Girls, when he was a child.
10. The mice originally had bigger roles before “other people had a say in things and made us cut things.”
11. They reached out to Don Cheadle to make sure he was okay with them mispronouncing his name.
12. Gary the Concierge (Hitchcock) wears a three-piece suit, and as the daily temperatures were usually over a hundred degrees he would sweat in it. They ultimately decided to hide the sweat stains by drenching the entire suit in water. (This is one of the commentary’s many “factual” moments that I’m not entirely sure is factual.)
13. The missing microchip originally ended up in Star’s hair, and the search for it led to an adventure on a glass-bottom boat.
14. That’s really Dornan singing, and it was his choice to tear his shirt off at the end of the song. He wasn’t supposed to — they mention the shirt wasn’t designed as a tear-away — but he felt it was necessary.
15. Production designer Steve Saklad cameos as the author photo on the back of the self-help book that Edgar (Dornan) is reading.
16. The ice cream at 47:25 is actually mashed potatoes. The cotton candy is insulation material.
17. There were alligators in those canals that they’re water-biking through, and Greenbaum didn’t tell either of them until after they finished filming.
18. Damon Wayans Jr. plays Darlie Bunkle, and his first scene with Dornan sees him wearing a face mask which, while funny at the time, plays differently for the trio watching it during a pandemic. “Hopefully when you’re watching this in a decade it’s not normal anymore.”
19. They shot a scene with Darlie and Edgar meeting up at a Pasta & Stuff restaurant that results in disaster, but it was cut for pacing.
20. The Tommy Bahama (Andy Garcia) appearance was originally meant to include Panama Jack — and they really wanted Barack Obama to play him.
21. Barb’s line about Edgar “pleasuring” her was originally “penetrating,” but that was enough to earn an R rating so they made the change.
22. The crab that talks to Star was brought to life by two puppeteers. They don’t mention Morgan Freeman’s name, but while the voice certainly sounds like Morgan Freeman, it most definitely is not Morgan Freeman.
23. Early screenings left people wondering who was playing Sharon Gordon Fisherman. “That’s insane to me,” replies Wiig.
24. They shot the end water fight in the actual ocean, not a water tank.
25. The montage while Barb and Star are underwater thinking they’re about to die is an encapsulation of the film’s themes and tone too. “It is kind of emotional and sweet, and then it’s really absurdist and silly at the same time.”
26. The banana boat was deflated a bit and towed slower than usual for the safety of Wiig and Mumolo, but it meant they had to pretend it was bouncy making for an awkward ride.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“Should we just go through and say everything that went wrong?”
“Thanks, Getty Images!”
“No one can wear a floral blouse like Jamie.”
“We definitely came up with multiple different positions for you to wake up in.”
“Despite appearances, those bracelets were not expensive.”
“If you’re still listening, well done.”
It’s clear that these three had an absolute blast making this bonkers movie. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is silliness distilled, and their appreciation for that absurdity comes through in the film and in their commentary. The big takeaway here, beyond the laughs, is the lesson to be true to your own vision. Sure Wiig and Mumolo came into this with past credits, but they still had to fight for the things they felt strongly about in the telling of their story. The results speak for themselves.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.