“Saturday Night Live” has been a launching pad for some of the best (and a few of the worst) acting careers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
The list is long and features many names still working hard to this very day. Kristen Wiig, who spent seven years as an “SNL” cast member, created numerous memorable characters. However, her post-“SNL” work has been inconsistent, to say the least. She hit the jackpot with 2011’s “Bridesmaids,” co-written with Annie Mumolo, and then expanded her range in 2014’s “The Skeleton Twins” (alongside fellow “SNL”-alum Bill Hader). But following her disastrous turn in “Wonder Woman 1984” and her latest collaboration with Mumolo, “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar” (Lionsgate), Kristen Wiig should seriously consider firing her agent.
Saying that lightning doesn’t strike twice when it comes to “Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar,” is an understatement. To begin with, “BaSGtVDM” feels like a seriously unfunny comedy from another time altogether, say the 1970s or 1980s. In all fairness, the movie gets off to a brief good start, opening with an onscreen definition of culottes. This is followed by a newspaper delivery boy Yoyo (Reyn Doi) pedaling his bike down the street, flinging his wares onto lawns and porches, all the while singing along to Barbra Streisand’s “Guilty,” which is playing through his headphones. It’s all downhill from there.
Yoyo is employed by Sharon Gordon Fisherman (Wiig, in one of her dual roles), a vengeful villain with plans to blow up Vista Del Mar, Florida, a gulf coast town near Tampa, where she was bullied and humiliated as a child with a skin disease. Another of Sharon’s henchmen is Edgar (Jamie Dornan), who is not only tasked with carrying out the evil deed of unleashing genetically modified killer mosquitoes on the beach resort hamlet, but is madly in love with Sharon (who doesn’t share his feelings).
Meanwhile, in some unnamed midwestern location (I think the accents are supposed to be the giveaway), widowed and divorced Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig in the second of her dual roles) work at the last of the Jennifer Convertibles furniture stores. That is until they are laid off. With their “shimmer” fading and nothing to look forward to but their Talking Club — ruled by Debbie (Vanessa Bayer) who is rude to members Bev (Rose Abdoo), Pinky (lesbian comic Fortune Feimster), Delores (Phyllis Smith), Barb and Star — they decide to take friend Mickey’s (Wendi McLendon-Covey) advice and get a rejuvenating “soul douche” in Vista Del Mar.
As fate would have it, Barb and Star meet Edgar, who is feeling unloved by Sharon and drowning his sorrows, at the bar. This leads to all sorts of sexual entanglements. Lies are told, secrets are kept, a long friendship is threatened, and laughs are scarce. Even the usually delightful Damon Wayans Jr., as bungling spy Bunkle, is completely wasted here.
A pair of big song and dance musical numbers, including one with a shirtless Dornan, is not enough to save this train-wreck. Additionally, now is not an especially good time to release a revenge comedy in which terrorist act figures prominently. A career-low and embarrassment for all involved, including director Josh Greenbaum. Regardless, it’s never too early to start compiling the worst movie of the year list.
Screen Savor is a weekly column from SFGN’s film critic Gregg Shapiro. Shapiro is an entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in regional LGBT and mainstream media outlets. Shapiro is the author of seven books including the 2019 chapbooks, Sunshine State and More Poems About Buildings and Food. Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.