REVIEW: “BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR” (2021) Lionsgate

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Prepare for fun cameos, unnecessary but much loved bouts of singing, and a very different tale of friendship with Director Josh Greenbaum’s wonderfully fun “BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR.” It’s a fun throwback to a kind of comedy that you don’t see much of anymore, a delightfully silly ode to friendship and surprisingly – to culottes. With hilarious one-liners sprinkled throughout this film, it’s true core is that while romances and spies can take center stage, Barb and Star really show how true friendship will never go out of style and age, well age can be just a number.

The storyline plot is simple, an evil woman and her sidekick are plotting to flood Vista Del Mar with murderous mosquitos and then comedy ensues. That’s honestly the set-up for this film so I didn’t want to beat around the bush when diving into this review. During the first scene, you’re clearly being asked to forget wherever you think this film might be about because it’s more ridiculous than you think. For this reason alone, you MUST continue watching because everything that follows is sheer crazy, silly, corny fun. We follow middle-aged best friends Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) who visit Vista Del Mar, are the best of friends and seem all too content with their oh-so-talkative lives – sitting on the display couch in the department store they work in is a highlight of their day – well that and the ‘Talking Club’ they belong to that gives us some wonderfully obscure hilarious moments between Debbie (Vanessa Bayer) and Delores (Phyllis Smith) and let’s just say ‘hot dog soup’ is a highlight. So the notion of them going on holiday naturally already brings a plethora of comedic possibilities to the table – well that and the fact that said table materializes to musical numbers, a mass murder plot, and a love triangle involving charming undercover spy Edgar Paget (Jamie Dornan), only reiterates the absurd fun this film gives us, but it also showcases just how controlled a film it really is given the silliness of it all. As they encounter our charming undercover spy Edgar and unbeknownst to the women, he actually works for our villain Sharon Gordon Fisherman (also played by Wiig) whose plan is to murder all of Vista Del Mar.

The oodles of fun this movie brings us are just too many to mention, but highlights include: Yoyo (Reyn Doi) kid-villain extraordinaire opening with a lip-sync of “Guilty” by Barbra Streisand that will stick in your head for days, a packing of suitcases for the vacation, ‘Trish’, an absolute creation of a best friend of theirs that has a full life and death story to her, to the lounge pianist singing a song called “I love boobies”. Plus the cameos, oh the cameos, they are all over and one must keep an eye out for every single one of them.

One thing to be completely appreciated about ‘BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR‘ was that in an era when a lot of things feel designed by committee or a reboot of a reboot, it feels like a truly wacky idea that could only come from two friends being real screwball idiots together​ in real life and transferred to the big screen just for the sheer pleasure of it all. The comedic chemistry is just fantastic and so much fun to watch.

So with that a note to Barb and Star  — I demand a sequel, so please pitch where they go or what they do next as it was everything we all needed in life and by far the most I’ve personally laughed in a very long time.  Do I want to go party with Barb and Starr and go everywhere with them? Yes, Yes I do and so should you.

Grade: B+

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Review screening: Courtesy of Ginsberg/Libby PR

“BARB AND STAR GO TO VISTA DEL MAR” IS NOW AVAILABLE ON VOD

REVIEW: “THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS” (2018) STX ENTERTAINMENT

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I truly wasn’t sure what to expect from “The Happytime Murders”Brian Henson’s (son of Muppet creator Jim Henson)foray into the adult puppet genre’ aka #MuppetsGoneBad, but it wasn’t a VERY adult comedy about puppets to be sure. But fear not, this isn’t Ernie and The Cookie Monster doing puppet porn, however it could be described as a bit of #Muppetsoncrack..or should I say sugar, as snorting sugar is their ‘crack’.

In The Happytime Murders, a private detective named Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) picks up a new case, which leads him directly into a series of brutal puppet homicides. Someone is targeting the cast of The Happytime Gang, a once popular sitcom whose cast has hit hard times, and Phil has to team up with his old partner Det. Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) to solve the case. In addition to McCarthy, whose slapstick performance comes off as rather effortless, you’ll also encounter Maya Rudolph, portraying Bubbles, the noir P.I. secretary to Philips, Elizabeth Banks as ex-human girlfriend Jenny, and (a sadly under-utilized) Joel McHale as smarmy FBI Agent Campbell.

The murder mystery in and of itself, isn’t anything you haven’t seen before – neither is the twist at the end. These cute puppets though are revealed as porn addicts, drug addicts, plastic surgery addicts, sex addicts and worse, in other words, just like us. But that’s really what the joke of the whole film is – as they make due on jokes of puppet racism, puppet stuffing, what happens to puppets in jail, and to be honest, some of it was quite funny. It’s a somewhat weird, crazy and ingenious idea to be honest. It’s like Henson knew he had this one opportunity to tell an adult-oriented puppet story that entertains comedically, has an actual storyline and isn’t a cartoon type film. But when I say it’s for adults, it’s because it truly not a family-friendly movie in the slightest. It’s over-the-top heavy on sexual humor, along with violence, although how ‘violent’ is it really to shoot a puppet and stuffing blows up – or have a dog-attack on a puppet when 5 yr. old’s tear their dolls apart like this everyday. Well, it could be used in the context of point, because subtlety won’t make the point that puppets can be used to tell stories, but also have something meaningful to say in that story. But it’s mostly effective due to Bill Baretta and Melissa McCarthy being talented comedians who know how to make their sillier jokes feel like extensions of their characters and the relatively absurd reality in which they live.

The humor in The Happytime Murders can be raunchy and sophomoric, and its story will no doubt be too simplistic for some, but those who don’t suspend disbelief and go with the flow of imagination here, are missing out on what was intended to be an hour and a half of some good laughs.

I expect The Happytime Murders to be a hit among McCarthy and adult Muppets fans alike, as well as those seeking a don’t-take-it-so-seriously fun comedy in the closing days of summer.

Media Review Screening: Wednesday, August 22, 2018 ~ Courtesy of STX Entertainment

REVIEW: “OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY” (2016) Paramount

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“OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY” delivers exactly what we all need right now.. some much needed laughs. With 2016 so far being the probably one of the worst years in the history of well..ever..this film is just what the ‘Office’ ordered.
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This over-the-top fun ensemble comedy about what happens when a company holiday party goes way, way, way out of control and things start flying out of windows and reindeers are drinking from toilets.

Basic storyline: uptight sister/CEO Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down the Chicago office of father’s company, Zenotek, mostly because of the antics of her hard partying brother, Clay Vanstone (T. J. Miller) and cancel the office Christmas party. Branch manager Josh Parker (Jason Bateman) plans an epic bash against her wishes to win over a big client Walter Davis (Courtney B. Vance) to prevent the axe from falling on all the employees. OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY
But of course, the party quickly gets way out of hand, leaving the office in mess of chaos and destruction. Oddly enough, there is a relatable plot in this movie also, and a somewhat decent one at that. Yes, Bateman is Batemen and Anniston is Anniston, but truly, we aren’t looking for Oscar’s here – we are looking for a laugh and we do find those. With the top-notch supporting cast which includes Kate McKinnon as the hysterical HR manager Mary, Olivia Munn as tech/coding expert Tracey Hughes, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Fortune Feimster and so many more. It’s truly a full ensemble comedy in the truest sense of the word.
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It leaves out the super crass and vulgar, which is nice, though it does have a few ‘huh’ scenes, it definitely doesn’t go down the worst of roads in that extreme. Teens will likely want to see this movie and I recommend it as a PG-13. It also has a momentary sweet homage to Prince and David Bowie that gets a round of cheers from me and most of the screening I was in.

Can you disect this movie piece by piece and find all it’s flaws..sure you can..but why? Just go have fun with it and laugh at the ever-devolving scenario of a party gone nuts.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, December 6, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Nationwide Release: Friday, December 9, 2016