Every week for the foreseeable future, Vulture will be selecting one film to watch as part of our Friday Night Movie Club. This week’s selection comes from Vulture writer Jackson McHenry, who will begin his screening of Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar on February 19 at 7 p.m. ET. Head to Vulture’s Twitter to catch his live commentary, and look ahead to next week’s movie here.
In this long, cold, dark winter of 2021, I haven’t laughed harder, or more unexpectedly, than I did first watching Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar. Given the movie’s cagey trailers, I expected a tone more akin to the kind of Sundance comedies Kristen Wiig has made in the decades since Bridesmaids — softly funny, but muted. Needless to say, I was unprepared for the arrival, mere minutes into the movie, of Kristen Wiig playing a maniacal supervillain intent on killing everyone with mosquitos, or Jamie Dornan’s entire himbo secret-agent schtick, or the fact that the movie sets a scene where Dornan, Wiig, and Mumolo get wasted, dance, and then have a threesome to a club remix of “My Heart Will Go On.”
Barb & Star is one of those movies that is purely dumb nonsense, in an intentional, hilarious way. As Bilge Ebiri put it in our review, it feels destined to be a cult classic from the moment of its release. It has a sense of humor that trades in relentless pastel colors and non sequiturs, as if Airplane! were written specifically about and for middle-aged white women, or as if Lonely Island was created specifically around the concept of breathable summer wear. Though really, it feels all indebted to the specific sensibilities of Wiig and Mumolo, who built out the script by riffing in character and eventually had to be told to cut down on the number of talking animals. It’s a niche tone; you dig it or you don’t. Among the Vulture staff, responses have been divided, but I cannot help those who do not welcome Trish the water spirit into their hearts.
To bring this discussion back to Céline Dion, as all things must trend, that scene with the club remix of “My Heart Will Go On” is a glorious example of the movie’s whole sensibility at work. Barb, Star, and Edgar the inept spy decide to split a pirate’s treasure at the bar, learn that the treasure in question is some sort of powerful drug, and then space out to Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” right before that quavering flute solo catapults into the movie’s specific “Heart Will Go On” cover. According to Mumolo, she and Wiig got the idea searching for songs that might be funny on YouTube, and then commissioned their own version of it when they couldn’t get the rights to the specific club remix they’d found (there are, to be fair, a lot of options out there).
As Barb and Star go hog-wild dancing with Edgar, the scene cuts back to their little “talking club” back home, where Vanessa Bayer runs boring conversations with ruthless efficiency and everyone is making small talk about wicker chairs. It’s all a very goofy, very lame vision of cutting loose for two intrinsically lame characters, who nonetheless do go on to bang Edgar together. Barb & Star is delightfully positive about their sex lives, and barely bothers to introduce the conflict between the two of them over Edgar later on — Star gets equally, if not more mad, after learning that Barb almost went on a banana boat without her. My primary complaint about the scene is that the version of the remix available on Spotify is only one minute and six seconds long, which is far too short. Lionsgate, please release an extended cut so that I can sneak it onto the playlist whenever I go to parties at friends’ places (whenever that is safe to do again … ).
If, perhaps, you enjoy the Technicolor absurdity of a scene like that, or even if you have already seen the movie, please join Vulture (pronounced Vul-TAR) on a trip to Vista Del Mar with Barb and Star this Friday at 7 p.m. ET via our Twitter account. Let us all search for our shimmer together.
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar is available on PVOD via Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube, and Vudu.
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