The heights of Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s writing partnership has been airborne for a decade now. In their 2011 collaboration Bridesmaids (which was Wiig’s deserved breakout on the big screen), the funniest scene of many took place on a plane with the bridal party trying and failing to get to Vegas. That thwarted flight was uproariously due to the lead’s drunken exploits. Wiig and Mumolo’s teaming ten years later in Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar again provides my favorite highlight above the clouds.
Wiig is Star and Mumolo is Barb. They are Nebraskan BFF’s recently fired from their jobs and looking to shake things up. When they decide that a Florida trip is the way to do it, their discussion on the flight involves them inventing a superstar woman named Trish. The dialogue proves the following: just like their characters, Wiig and Mumolo can create seemingly improvised silliness that is downright hilarious. Their emotional investment in the fictitious Trish is a sight to behold.
The best moments here are throwaway lines and conversations that could have worked just as well with Barb and Star as characters on Saturday Night Live doing a Weekend Update bit. Is that enough to satisfactorily fill two hours? Not really, but you can’t help but praise the leads/co-writers for trying.
Barb and Star is far more of a dumb comedy than Bridesmaids and I don’t mean that in a bad way. The tone is pure farce and there’s unexpected musical performances that interrupt the absurdity. We have Jamie Dornan showing a different shade of his personality from his Christian Grey persona (he gets perhaps the most memorable singing assignment). Wiig gets to pull double duty as a villainess with an aversion to sunlight. Her grand plan involves destroying Vista Del Mar and unleashing deadly mosquitoes on the town’s populace (think Austin Powers levels of scheming). Dornan is her lover/henchman sent to do some of the dirty work. When he meets the sweet and naive Midwestern besties, the possibilities of a throuple get real and then real complicated.
It seems irrelevant to spend much word space delving into the plot – which is incidental. Barb and Star works or doesn’t based on how much you believe this premise can be stretched. I have to be frank. I’m not referring to the franks that our two heroines put in their soup during Talking Club, which is Nebraska’s version of ladies night and is run with military precision by its leader (Vanessa Bayer). The film sort of runs out of steam (not the steam emanating from said franks) about midway through by my meter. The inventive Trish talk, the hot dog soup, and the dawning of the Dornan dalliances are all first half occurrences. I do give the script some props for being so gleefully bizarre. Wiig and Mumolo’s second effort is destined to become a cult classic and I imagine Barb and Star Halloween costumes (love those culottes) this fall. I could never quite fully escape the feeling that it might have worked better as shorter sketches on the program that made Wiig a star before Star.
**1/2 (out of four)