Bridesmaids was a breakthrough in more ways than one as a blockbuster comedy with women leading the charge both behind and in front of the camera. A female ensemble delivered laughs written by a pair of women, Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, and now a full decade later the two friends have reunited both on the page and on the screen. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar retains the duo’s focus on female friendship and camaraderie, but it’s also overflowing with absurd silliness unconcerned with anything but laughs. It succeeds in large part due to a variety of reasons, from its commitment to each and every bit to an open embrace of jokes both stupid and ingenious, but its secret weapon comes in the unlikeliest of forms: Jamie Dornan.
Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig) are middle-aged best friends who take their recent job loss as a sign to stretch their wings a bit, and on the advice of a very tan friend, they decide to head down to the Florida coast and the small town of Vista del Mar. It’s exactly what they needed, and from the men dressed in Tommy Bahama to the hotel’s welcoming musical number — the first of too-few song breaks here — the pair are ready for some fun in the sun. Their extremely tight friendship is on track for a challenge, though, when both women fall for the obvious charms of a visibly sad man named Edgar (Dornan). Of course, things grow even more complicated when they realize Edgar is working for a super pale super-villain named Sharon Gordon Fisherman (also Wiig) on her plan to murder the town’s citizens with killer mosquitos.
Didn’t see that last line coming, did ya.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is every bit about the power of friendship, but its comedic stylings and strokes lean far closer to Zoolander (2001) than Bridesmaids. The evil villain’s lair is just the tip of the absurdly silly iceberg as we’re gifted with a talking crab (reportedly voiced by Morgan Freeman-soundalike Josh Robert Thompson), life-saving culottes, and tons more wackiness. Director Josh Greenbaum makes his feature debut here, but the film belongs to Mumolo and Wiig from its first frames to its last.
At 107 minutes, the film does threaten at times to overstay its welcome, just as the lead duo’s performances occasionally suggest little more than an amalgamation of Saturday Night Live characters, but again and again, the ship is righted through sheer goodwill and unexpected laughs. One surprising reason for that is Dornan who embraces the himbo Edgar with such sincere earnestness that we can’t help but buy into his search for love and affection. He also gets to flex some mild comedic chops, and unlike with last year’s Wild Mountain Thyme, the laughs Dornan earns here are actually intentional.
His breakout into song doesn’t hurt either, and while you’ll wish Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar had found more musical opportunities you’ll also relish watching Dornan sing to the seagulls a lover’s lament called “Edgar’s Prayer.” I’m also a bit partial to the hotel’s piano man who sings about dead relatives and “boobies,” but while your mileage for such sophomoric antics may vary we’ll all agree the film should have committed even more to its musical side.
Still, the film delivers with its twin focus of friendship and fun. The former extends to the villainous Fisherman too as she recounts the events of her childhood that led her towards evil, and the latter is just all over the place. There’s hardly a thirty second stretch where some attempt at humor isn’t off and running, from dialogue beats to visual gags to the image of Wiig, Dornan, and Mumolo waking up from a threesome stacked like hungover logs. Supporting characters manage some silliness of their own including brief appearances by Damon Wayans Jr. and Vanessa Bayer with the latter’s turn as the head of Barb and Star’s Talking Club delivering some sly laughs. Relative newcomer Reyn Doi also steals some scenes as the villain’s pint-sized henchman, Yoyo.
“I think your dong went all the way up and touched my heart,” says one of the ladies to Edgar, and it’s a sentiment guaranteed to be shared by viewers. Well, some viewers anyway. Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is pure goofiness without a mean bone in its body, and like a good friend, it wants only to make you laugh. Let it inside you.