Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar (15)
Verdict: Hit-and-miss comedy
2 Hearts (12)
Verdict: Saccharin howler
When Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo last collaborated as screenwriters, the result was the 2011 hit Bridesmaids.
Had the pandemic not delayed release, their new collaboration wouldn’t really have taken a full decade to hit the screen, but it was still a surprisingly long hiatus. Was it worth the wait?
Yes and no. The film has the jaunty title Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar, not least because the title characters (played by Mumolo and Wiig themselves, who had been improvising privately for years, as some friendly talkative suckers from Nebraska) . can get maximum enjoyment from the elongated Midwestern A sound.
The film has the jaunty title Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar, not least because the title characters (played by Mumolo and Wiig themselves, who had been improvising privately for years, as some friendly talkative suckers from Nebraska) . can get maximum enjoyment from the elongated Midwestern A sound
It’s a wide-ranging joke that won’t play very well this side of the Atlantic, but we’ll forgive them for that.
A little harder to forgive is a troubling feeling, especially in act 1, that they may be having more fun than we are.
The widow Barb (Mumolo) and the divorced Star (Wiig) lose their jobs as clumsy furniture store sales associates in the boring town of Soft Rock, then are thrown out of their treasured Talking Club gatherings, where they meet other empty middle-aged women with large her to discuss the mundane topic pulled from the Talking Jar (pronounced ‘jaaar’).
You’ve got it! It’s yet another Hollywood parody of the small town of Americana, which is fine, but the comedy relies so heavily on the way Barb and Star talk to each other that it starts to wear off pretty quickly.
Wiig in particular is a hugely engaging performer, but even she is only as good as her material. We need a change of scenery just as much as they do – and luckily we all get one when the couple, as so subtly foretold by the title, decide to vacation at the paradise resort of Vista Del Mar, on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Widow Barb (Mumolo) and divorced Star (Wiig) lose their jobs as clumsy furniture store sales associates in the boring town of Soft Rock and are then thrown out of their cherished Talking Club gatherings
We already know that Vista Del Mar and everyone in it is the target of a vampire supervillain (including Wiig). Determined to make the townspeople pay for her friendless childhood and condemned by her sunlight allergy to live in an underground hole, she plots deadly revenge through a plague of deadly mosquitoes.
She’s backed up by an unlikely pair of henchmen – a chubby boy named Yoyo (Reyn Doi, who channels Goldfinger’s Oddjob) and Edgar Paget, a mischievous Ulsterman (a whole game of Jamie Dornan), who falsely believes his sinister boss loves him.
From this point on, the film’s inexorable folly becomes much harder to resist, starting with a beautiful pastiche of a Busby Berkeley musical routine as Barb and Star arrive at the chic Palm Vista Hotel.
The mean plot derails when Edgar and Star fall for each other, but the crazy storylines hardly matter because what unfolds then is a sporadically very funny caricature of Florida itself.
The writers, along with director Josh Greenbaum and his design team, who render everything in absurdly vibrant pastels, are having a great time at the expense of all those huge resort hotels with unlimited buffets, cocktails and crooners sharing at the piano. They really have to complain that their movie is not getting a worldwide cinema release; it would look fantastic on the big screen. No doubt it will in due course.
For the rest of the story, let’s just say it offers a talking crab claiming to be Morgan Freeman, Andy Garcia in an unnamed cameo as some sort of shaman living in the swamp, and two life-saving pair of culottes. In short, it is very weird indeed, relying less on raw vulgarity than bridesmaids, and more on downright grit.
She is joined by an unlikely pair of henchmen – a chubby boy named Yoyo (Reyn Doi, who channels Goldfinger’s Oddjob) and Edgar Paget, a mischievous Ulsterman (a whole game of Jamie Dornan, pictured above), who falsely believes his sinister boss loves him.
Clearly, the hope is that in Barb and Star, Mumolo and Wiig have created a movie double act that will live on, joining the venerable tradition of idiotic friends founded over the decades by Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello and, more recently, Bill and Ted.
We need more women in that line, but don’t be fooled by this movie as a female empowerment megaphone. It’s just a dizzying comedy, a little tedious in parts, but inspired at times.
The inspiration for the spectacularly awful 2 Hearts was the true story of Jorge Bacardi, heir to the Cuban rum dynasty. In 2008, he received a double lung transplant from a much younger man, Chris Gregory, who had died of a brain aneurysm.
This has turned into a saccharine tearful in which two stories in different time frames eventually merge in predictable ways.
But Lance Hool’s film, featuring the Aussie heartthrob Jacob Elordi as Chris and Adan Canto as the barely disguised Jorge Bolivar, a muscular hunk whose life-threatening condition is portrayed as a mild cough, is the cinematic equivalent of the cheesiest satin Valentine’s Day. Day ticket you’ve ever seen.
Both now available on digital platforms.
Boys caught in a sad bromance
There’s an appealingly naive, slightly awkward energy about Running Naked, a bittersweet comedy about two Stoke-on-Trent men who bond for the first time in the hospital as teenage cancer patients.
Years later, Mark (Matthew McNulty) is a seemingly confident physician, while Ben (Andrew Gower) is an obsessive-compulsive mass neurosis.
Their devoted friendship lasts long after their illnesses go into remission, until they are put to the test when one of them has a recurrence. You’ll see the main turn of the plot come a mile further, just as you seem to be aiming the Territory Director Victor Buhler, previously claimed by the likes of The Full Monty and Calendar Girls. He never quite gets there, but his film still exudes a raw charm.
There’s an appealingly naive, slightly awkward energy about Running Naked, a bittersweet comedy about two Stoke-on-Trent men who first bonded in the hospital as teenage cancer patients.
PVT Chat is billed as an erotic thriller, but it’s sleazy rather than erotic, as Jack (Peter Vack), a young dude old and smart enough to have done more with his life, spent his time in his New York apartment City divides between online games. blackjack and paying an online dominatrix, Scarlet (Julia Fox), to act out his fantasies.
He seems inevitably addicted to both, to the extent that you wonder where his sad story is headed, until writer-director Ben Hozie cleverly opens it up by shifting focus from Jack to Scarlet and complicating their relationship. A dingy but clever film, shot in a New York that is never blessed with daylight.
Willy’s Wonderland is a lazy horror film starring Nicolas Cage as an enigmatic traveler, not so much laconic as stupid, who, when his car needs to be repaired in a town, is tricked into spending the night cleaning up a creepy, run-down amusement park.
Cage doesn’t have to do a lot of acting, which is always a bonus, but I can’t think of a better reason than to suffer this pile of hokum.
I had a great admiration for Slalom, a French-language film that is difficult to watch solely because of its subject matter and not because it is not fantastically acted and devastatingly well-observed.
Rising star Noee Abita is outstanding as a 15-year-old Olympic child prodigy who is under the spell of her much older coach (Jeremie Renier) who subjects her to sexual abuse which she interprets as a testament to his faith in her. An all too plausible story.
Slalom is available on Curzon Home Cinema, the other on most digital platforms.