That is, until a double-whammy of tragedy turns their futures uncertain. To escape, Barb and Star go on a “soul douche” vacation to the Florida beach town of Vista Del Mar. When they arrive, they’re welcomed by an Annie-style musical number of high-kicking hotel staff, who proffer flashy cocktails and seashell-shaped amenities. What a dream! However, amid the merriment of this sun-drenched setting lurks a sinister plot.The bouncy buddy-comedy premise is knitted into espionage spoof driven by the over-the-top villainy of Sharon Gordon Fisherman (also played by Wiig). With a blunt bob cut, a fierce fashion sense, and a fiercer theatricality, Sharon feels like the unholy love child born of a threesome between Dr. Evil, Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett’s Indiana Jones baddie), and proudly bizarre drag queen Yvie Oddly. Whether condemning a minion to death, praising her mice orchestra, or explaining how to make her favorite fountain drink, Sharon is a diva made of manic energy, moods, and angles. She is preposterous yet fabulous and surrounds herself with fittingly hilarious henchmen.
Chief among them is scene-stealer Yoyo (Reyn Doi), who opens the film by lip-syncing for his legacy on a bike ride while delivering newspapers, face, and menace. It is a perfect opener: odd and instantly funny. Like Cabin In the Woods, the cold open may have you scratching your head as Barb and Star pitches you from this dastardly plot to its soft heroines’ jaunty friendship. These two tales swiftly intertwine with Edgar Pagét, (50 Shades of Grey’s Jamie Dornan in the role that will redefine his career). Besotted by Sharon, he’s in the vacation town to do her evil bidding in hopes of finally becoming an “official couple.” That phrase might sound awkward, yet as Dornan repeats it over and over in a romantic flutter, it becomes an unexpected and hysterical recurring gag. Yet his evil schemes are swiftly derailed by the dynamic duo with an elaborate blend of drinks, drugs, dancing, and shed inhibitions.
If the plot doesn’t quite make sense, that’s because it is deeply stupid – and it knows it. Mumolo and Wiig prove masters of blending silliness with randomly raunchy jokes and the sublimely absurd to create a movie that is a non-stop laugh riot. There’s Austin Powers-style goofiness in the espionage thread, where clichés like tragic backstories, eccentric henchmen, spy tech, and convoluted evil schemes are sent up with plucky aplomb. There’s a generous dollop of WTF that welcomes in everything from wacky physical comedy to outlandish fantasy elements, out-of-nowhere musical numbers, and non sequitur but splendid cameos. Being weird isn’t in and of itself funny, but director Josh Greenbaum clearly understands the magic of Mumolo and Wiig’s zany vision and allows them space to shimmer.At the core of Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a friendship radiant, resilient, and unapologetically joyful. Like Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, a big part of the pleasure of this comedy is the fun of hanging out with these two fantastic friends who are unreservedly themselves and absolutely obsessed with each other. From their chatty introduction, we’re invited into the warm embrace of their bond, experiencing their love and lust for life in moments as big as finding new romance and as small as reveling in an exotic menu (veal-stuffed manatee!). By the end of their rollicking adventure, all I wanted was more… and maybe a pair of culottes to call my own.
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