A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a goofy, absurd comedy that feels a bit like Zoolander or Austin Powers crossed with A Very Brady Sequel. Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo (the writing duo behind Bridesmaids) star as the culotte-wearing best friends from the Midwest. Wiig also plays the movie's intentionally ridiculous villain, who's driven by revenge for cruel treatment she received as a kid. All of the movie's iffy content is over the top, including fatal insect and animal attacks, unknowingly taking drugs (which leads to a threesome), and the suggestion of lots of enthusiastic sex (little is shown beyond kissing). Jokes are somehow both crude and innocent, drinks flow at the vacation resort, and there's some swearing ("a--hole," "s--t"). One character threatens others with a gun and ties them up, and there's brief peril. While the stars' portrayal of the main characters is affectionate, it may also strike some as a little mean: After all, it's mocking women based on their haircuts, jewelry choices, and wardrobe. And the villain has a fictional skin condition that's reminiscent of albinism, a real disorder that cinema almost exclusively associates with nefarious characters. Ultimately, though, the movie celebrates Barb and Star for their optimistic, kind, forgiving, and easygoing natures. And their friendship is enviable: They're more than friends, they're soulmates.
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What's the story?
In BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR, Midwestern middle-aged best friends Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) are inspired to shake up their lives after a friend returns from a fabulous vacation. The inseparable pals/roommates travel to a Florida beach town in hopes of finding adventure, unaware that the city's annual seafood festival has been targeted by a domestic terrorist (also Wiig). Jamie Dornan and Damon Wayans Jr. co-star.
Is it any good?
This movie is a fun watch-together pick for adult girlfriends; it's a safe bet that most men and teens aren't likely to appreciate it for all of its girly, goofy glory. Wiig and Mumolo affectionately parody "average American women," simultaneously making their characters the butt of the joke and lifting them up to be the hero that they truly are. While they don't always make the right choices, the pair clearly demonstrate traits that parents and caregivers want to instill in kids: kindness, forgiveness, positivity, and an appreciation for the little things in life. Both Barb and Star have hit rough patches -- unexpected divorce and unexpected unemployment -- but they bolster each other with unconditional encouragement and support. While the movie's premise is utterly ludicrous, the straight-faced jokes zip, dart, and zing like a high-scoring round of pinball.
Star is only a few degrees away from Wiig's infamous "Target lady" character from Saturday Night Live. But Wiig also plays villain Sharon Gordon Fisherman, a juicy, delicious, over-the-top femme fatale who plots to murder an entire town. She has a fictional skin pigmentation condition, which perpetuates the problematic choice to give villains (especially in comedies) disabilities. In this case, her condition makes her appear more sinister -- but also, it's clear, supposedly more laughable. Yes, it's a made-up disease, but it's quite reminiscent of albinism, an actual disorder that cinema almost exclusively associates with nefarious characters. At the same time, Sharon is full of self-confidence, spurning her handsome henchman Edgar's (Jamie Dornan) romantic overtures: It takes more than good looks to warm her cold heart. The ultimate redemption, though, is that Barb and Star's amazing friendship and positive attitude give the rest of us the warm fuzzies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how villains, especially in comedies, are too often characterized as having disabilities. Does it change the impact of that representation if the disability is fictional -- or if the villain is a femme fatale-type (like Sharon)?
How do Barb and Star's communication skills help their friendship thrive? What happens when they start lying to each other? Why is communication an important life skill?
Compare the tone of Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar to that of other friendship comedies, like Romy & Michele's High School Reunion, Clueless, and Wiig and Mumolo's previous film, Bridesmaids. How is this one similar and different?
Wiig and Mumolo got their start in the L.A. improvisational comedy group The Groundlings. How is their character-driven comedic style similar to that of other Groundlings alumni, such as Will Ferrell, Melissa McCarthy, and Jennifer Coolidge?
- On DVD or streaming: April 6, 2021
- Cast: Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan
- Director: Josh Greenbaum
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude sexual content, drug use and some strong language
- Last updated: April 6, 2021
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