Barb and Star have been best friends for years. They share a house; they work shifts together at the same store; they even have the same favorite name: Trish.
But when these Midwestern, middle-aged gals lose their jobs due to the store closing, they realize that all of their stories and shared memories are old. They haven’t had a new adventure since they don’t know when.
They’ve lost their shimmer.
So, when a friend suggests a vacation to Vista Del Mar, they take it as a sign. “I can’t believe I’m saying this,” Barb says, “but let’s throw caution to the wind like a couple of rock and rollers!” And without further ado, they pack up their hair curlers and culottes and travel to the Florida paradise.
Of course, upon arriving, things take an unexpected turn for the pair…
A woman with an allergy to the sun has hatched an evil plan to destroy everyone in Vista Del Mar for teasing her about her pale skin when she was a child. And it just so happens that Barb and Star accidentally cause her henchman (and almost-boyfriend), Edgar, to lose a key component for the weapon after a wild night of partying (and falling in love) with him.
Will Barb and Star save the town from a horrendous mass murder and rediscover their “shimmer?” Or will Edgar’s devotion to his evil mistress conquer his newfound love?
Barb and Star have an incredible friendship. When Barb’s husband passed away, Star was there for her. And when Star’s husband had an affair, Barb reassured her friend that it wasn’t her fault. And even when the ladies lie to each other and get into an argument, they both apologize, genuinely feeling bad for their deceptions.
Edgar falls in love with Star and helps her to overcome her negative self-image brought on by her ex-husband leaving. And in turn, Star shows Edgar what real love is, making him realize that he shouldn’t have to beg someone to love him back.
Barb overcomes her fear of, well, everything. When Star lies about being sick in order to sneak off with Edgar, Barb seizes the opportunity to try things she’s never been brave enough to do before—such as snorkeling and wearing socks with individual toes.
The women kindheartedly offer to be friends with Sharon Gordon Fisherman (the woman trying to kill everyone) when they realize that she’s never truly had a friend before.
Barb and Star are rescued from drowning by a sea spirit. At one point they believe they have seen each other’s “shimmers” (and even though it’s actually just a reflection of light, nobody tells them this).
During an argument, Barb and Star say they don’t want to be together when they get to heaven. A woman asks God to open up the “Pearly Gates.” A man sings a song wondering if he is in heaven or hell, and he offers up prayers to seagulls. A woman is told to find her “truth,” and she later states she is a phoenix. A girl is called a “white devil.” We see a talking crab (though it’s unclear if it is “real” or a woman’s imagination).
Barb, Star and Edgar all have sex together one night. After that, Star and Edgar continue sleeping together. For the most part, this is all kept off screen (though there is a shot of legs on a balcony). However, we do see lots of making out, people covered only by sheets and people in their undergarments. We also see both men and women in revealing swimsuits.
There is lots of descriptive language about sex. We hear crude references to male and female genitals. There is grinding and groping while dancing. A man and woman suggestively put sunscreen on each other. There are close-ups of two women’s behinds while dancing, as well as a man removing his belt. We learn that a woman had her genitals pierced.
A flashback shows a teen girl covering herself in a pool after accidentally losing her clothes (though nothing critical is seen).
Some couples kiss. We learn about an extramarital affair. We see two same-sex couples. Someone jokes about HPV. Barb says she used to have a crush on a cartoon character, and we later see him on display in heart boxers. There is lots of talk about a “soul douche.” A man wears a shirt that makes it look like he is a woman in a bikini.
After genetically modifying mosquitos to have a lethal bite, a woman sets them loose on their creator (killing him offscreen). Later she is also bitten by the bugs—though she is saved by an antidote.
We hear about a woman’s suicide and several murders. We learn that a girl was eaten by alligators and that a man was trampled to death by shoppers. A talking crab goes into the ocean to die at the end of his life, which some might construe as a suicide.
Two women are forced to choose between jumping off a cliff to their deaths or being eaten by alligators. They choose to jump, though their clothing serves as a parachute and they are unharmed.
Several people are held at gunpoint. Two women get punched in the face. A man knocks a woman unconscious with a jar. Someone’s house is blown up. Two men tackle each other.
There is an inaudible use of the f-word. Someone else starts to say it but is cut off by a sneeze that conveniently makes it sound like the whole word. The s-word and “d–mit” are used five times each. We also hear one to two uses each of “a–,” “a–hole,” “d–n” and “p-ss.” God’s name is misused 25 times, and Christ’s name is misused once.
We also hear frequent substitutions for various vulgarities, including “gosh,” “darn,” “shoot,” “freaking” and “effing.”
People drink wine and cocktails throughout the film. Barb, Star and Edgar drink a multi-gallon alcoholic drink with unnamed pills on the bottom that causes extreme inebriation and hallucinations.
Barb and some other people smoke marijuana. She also worries about being falsely arrested for smuggling drugs through her behind.
The plot involves bullying throughout the film. Sharon admits that the reason she wants to kill everyone in Vista Del Mar is because the people there bullied her about her pale skin when she was young. This bullying is quite extreme both in the name-calling and the physical aspects (she is shoved into a human cannon and shot out at its deadliest setting). We also see several women being bullied by their “friend” for not following her social rules.
In addition to attempting mass murder, Sharon uses Edgar throughout the film, manipulating his love to get him to do her evil bidding and lying to him about several things. She also says she kidnapped a child.
We hear disturbing tales about parents abandoning their families and families going missing. A woman says her dad died of heart attack. A man sings a song about his friends passing away. A woman knocks down a “suicide,” the name for a drink made by mixing all of the soda fountain flavors together.
There is toilet humor throughout with references to constipation and diarrhea, among other things. A woman refuses to eat frog legs because they remind her of Kermit the frog. A restaurant offers endangered species as delicacies.
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar shocked me for a couple of reasons. First, because I was not expecting that deadly mosquito plot twist. That felt like a cheesy, kiddie-movie, bad-guy masterplan. Secondly, because when compared to other Kristen Wiig films I’ve seen, this wasn’t nearly as foul as I was expecting.
Of course, the film isn’t exactly what I would call “clean.” Even though we don’t see any sex on screen, the film can still get really raunchy with all the naughty talk and innuendo about it.
You also won’t hear Barb or Star swearing up a storm, which is why I was nearly halfway done with the film before I heard someone utter an actual curse word. But once the language started, it only gained momentum from there. And about that mosquito masterplan: Even Barb and Star, with their charming naivete, know it’s pretty crazy to kill people for bullying you as a kid.
It’s really nice to see Barb and Star’s friendship stand the test of time and to watch them each overcome their own insecurities, especially since they’re genuinely kind—I mean, come on, they offered friendship to a woman who tried to murder them. Unfortunately, this comedy’s focus on sex; its failure to rein in foul language; and its weird, homicidal villain will steer many audiences away.b
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.