It’s officially been a year since the pandemic began. 2020 was a year full of death, illness, incredibly challenging and confrontational political events, and isolation for many. I lost my job due to the pandemic and working on my dissertation full-time has been particularly taxing on top of everything. Film was one of the main things that helped get me through the hell of 2020. I went from one 80s slasher film to the next at the beginning of the official quarantine. I watched every James Bond film and ranked them. I made my way through countless horror franchises (Halloween twice, obviously!). Needless to say, film was a pretty intense coping mechanism that helped me deal with the stress and anxiety of the year. As 2021 began, things continued to escalate with an attempted insurrection and all sorts of other nonsense, and then a ray of light arrived at just the right moment. And that ray of light is a little film known as Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar.
After being pretty disappointed with the release of Wonder Woman: 1984, I left the film with an appreciation for Kristen Wiig’s performance as Barbara Minerva, the individual savior of the troubled film. To say that Wiig carried the film on her back would be an understatement, if anything. It was as if every other performer was simply going through the motions. Wiig, alternately, shined through all of the mediocrity to showcase her humor and talent in a film that did not deserve her. A role in a blockbuster superhero film was not all that Wiig had rolled up her sleeve during the pandemic, however. Originally intended to be released in the spring of 2020, Barb and Star was pushed back due to the pandemic and was released through the theatrical rental at-home system that is becoming increasingly popular. The film is the product of the creative zaniness of Wiig and her co-star Annie Mumolo, who finally gets to shine after years of smaller roles and bit comedic parts.
Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar is the epitome of a “feel good” film. It’s a truly zany comedy that features so many over-the-top moments (even a few glorious musical numbers), an aggressively bright color palette, a genuinely funny and very physical performance from Jamie Dornan, and the escapist images of a beach paradise that we needed during the dreary early months of 2021. Barb and Star are two of my favorite characters that I have encountered in a film in quite a while. They manage to be vivacious, raunchy, charming, and hilarious all at once. These are two iconic comedic performances that deserve to be remembered for years to come. This is also just a truly odd film. Narratively it jumps from spy film parody to romantic comedy to buddy comedy to musical and back again many times over. Some might find that a bit distracting. I found it incredibly entertaining, as all of the elements were perfectly constructed and added new layers of comedy as the film progressed.
Many have praised Kristen Wiig for her performance in Bridesmaids (a film that was also written by Wiig and Mumolo), which continues to be a film that I very much enjoy. But I found her performance here to be even more developed and effective. I was so enamored with these incredibly odd characters that she and Mumolo have created. They just really commit to their eccentricities and the viewer is simply along for the enjoyable ride.
If you think of Jamie Dornan as simply Christian Grey from Fifty Shades of Grey, he will definitely surprise you here. While he gives stilted and bland performances with his co-star Dakota Johnson in those films, as both were clearly just riding them out for the paychecks (much like their Twilight compatriots), here he is visibly enjoying working with these incredibly funny women and we see him deliver a very earnest and comedic performance. You can just tell that everyone involved here is having a blast working on this film.
The soundtrack is also just as fun as the film, itself. I’d suggest waiting to do that Spotify search until after watching the film, though, as there are so many comedic moments that happen as the result of song selection. Matching the wackiness of the narrative, the soundtrack incorporates songs that encapsulate who these women are and perfectly highlight the vibe of the film. The movie also features many cameos from folks that will have you laughing heartily and one that had me gasping in surprise.
Is Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar the best film of all time? No. But is it an incredibly enjoyable and hilarious bit of escapism that is necessary and vital in 2021? Definitely. This is a film that I have been recommending to all of my friends, who, after watching it, have all stated that they find it just as funny as I do. In closing, just do yourself a favor and rent Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar. If you’re like me and need a fun escape from the stress of the pandemic, this is the film to check out. It wears its brand of kitsch and camp on its sleeve proudly (along with its love of culottes) and never shies away from being truly zany. Personally, it is the most enjoyable film that I’ve watched in ages, and that definitely counts for something right now.