Movies with titles that rhyme have a spotty track record. Think of Drop Dead Fred, Good Luck Chuck, From Prada to Nada or the mouthful that is Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. And don’t even get me started on Despicable Me 3.
All of which brings us to Barb and Star Go to Visa Del Mar, whose title and concept sound like the film spinoff of a forgotten Saturday Night Live sketch. Kristen Wiig and her writing partner Annie Mumolo (Bridesmaids) star as Star and Barb, best friends with screechy Nebraskan accents that I don’t remember ever hearing in an Alexander Payne movie.
When the two single, middle-aged women are cut loose from their jobs at a furniture store – seems the company folded and no one told their outlet until seven months later – they use the severance money and free time to book a trip to the fictional West Florida resort town of Vista Del Mar.
Wait, let’s back up a little. The first scene, which might have you thinking you’re streaming the wrong movie, features an evil genius planning a biological warfare attack on the small town that once did her wrong. (We’ll let you guess what town that is, but it’s fictional and not in East Florida.) She’s also played by Wiig, but the star is almost unrecognizable in a costume that looks like what would happen if you cast Tilda Swinton as Dr. Evil. She sends her henchman Edgar (Jamie Dornan) out to do the dirty work.
The villain looks looks like what would happen if you cast Tilda Swinton as Dr. Evil
OK, back to Vista Del Mar, where the two culotte-loving protagonists bump into and both fall for Edgar, who has an unrequited thing for his boss. The shenanigans that follow are a scattershot mix of impromptu musical numbers, quasi-celebrity cameos (e.g., a Morgan Freeman sound-alike) and middle-aged-lady humour. (The gals can’t order frog legs from the resort menu because all they can think of is Kermit riding his bike in The Muppet Movie.)
Meanwhile, the evil plot continues to march forward, with Edgar torn between doing his boss’s bidding and spending time with Star and Barb. (Perhaps not surprisingly, he’s most drawn to the one who plays both evil genius and Nebraskan naïf.) Damon Wayans Jr. pops up as Darlie Bunkle, the world’s most sharing secret agent.
I went into this one with high hopes, buoyed not only by Wiig’s work in Bridesmaids, but by her refusal to do a needless sequel to it. But it’s a hit-and-miss affair, with some comic bits that work wonderfully, and others that fall flat and/or overstay their effectiveness. I laughed deeply but not for long. Barb and Star amounts to a semi-forgettable vacation, made slightly more enjoyable by the fact that it’s the only sunny-destination trip you’re likely to take for a while.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is available Feb. 12 on demand.
2.5 stars out of 5