Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is not funny. It’s lots of other things – warm and friendly, accessible and energetic, but funny it ain’t. It’s billed as a comedy. And it’s written by Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, who wrote Bridesmaids. But it’s still not funny. Strange.
It gets off to a strong and funny start – an American Korean kid (Reyn Doi) cycling down a suburban street lip-syncing to Barbra Streisand’s Guilty while delivering papers. And stays funny when the film swerves into different territory as Yoyo (Doi) is granted admittance to the underground lair of an evil mastermind, Dr Evil in most respects, except that Kristen Wiig (unrecognisable) is playing the megalomaniac Dr Lady and Jamie Dornan is in the Robert Wagner henchman role. Dr Lady has a plan to unleash a million very poisonous mosquitoes on the Florida beach resort of Vista Del Mar as payback for some ancient grudge.
And then we meet Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig), dim-witted midwestern BFFs who loooove to chat, and the film falls to the ground with a splat and, struggle as it might, that’s where it stays. It plugs on gamely though, well there’s money at stake, like a morning-show radio DJ who thinks that using a “comedy voice” makes things automatically funny.
The plot shoos Barb and Star away from a gaggle of friends who have the potential to make the film Bridesmaids 2 and off to Vista Del Mar on vacation, just as it’s sending Dornan’s Edgar there to supervise the unleashing of the deadly insects. And there Barb, Star and Edgar run into each other. Barb and Star being middle aged ladies while Edgar being Jamie Dornan, they instantly have the hots for him, though the lovelorn Edgar’s heart belongs to Dr Lady, who is cool on him to the point of murder because she’s a twisted self-absorbed egomaniac. 50 Shades payback.
There are bright spots. To Mumolo and Wiig’s credit the observational gags keep coming at an almost Airplane speed at times, though many… drum roll… fail to land. The humour is off to the side, in the background, under the breath – perhaps the film would be funnier second time round – though Jamie Dornan shows a gift for comedy and a willingness to take his shirt off and play against his Christian Grey persona of the domineering sexy bastard.
Andy Garcia turns up, for a bewildering cameo, as does Reba McEntire, lending the whole thing a frantic “throw enough mud” air.
All this goofing about, plus the bright sun and the talented support players means at times it’s almost like watching Pink Panther outtakes. Good natured. Everyone’s having fun. Really funny if you’re there and involved somehow. Otherwise…
Wiig and Mumolo are a good double act but vamping cannot hide the the fact that they have chosen the wrong comedy targets. Two middle aged women from the midwest whose fashion sense goes about as far as culottes – this is hardly punching up.
Bridesmaids was funny because it had fun with the institution of marriage, with a day full of potential disaster, and with people who’ve gone a bit nuts with the whole wedding thing. It also benefited from Melissa McCarthy’s comedy genius, not to mention the light touch of director Paul Feig and producer Judd Apatow. Who knows what scattershot scenes in this film McCarthy might have rescued or ideas Feig, a writing/producing/directing triple threat, might have improved if he’d been in charge here too.
He’d probably also have had an early word about the concept of two metropolitan comedy writers – the “elite” if you will – launching into blameless midwesterners whose only real crime appears to be to have been born a bit dim.
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© Steve Morrissey 2021