Right from its mouthful of a title, Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a comedy very much unlike anything that ordinarily gets made these days. For one thing, it is very obvious that it had a screenplay, and that the actors said the words from the screenplay as they were on set, rather than riffing in spiral shapes around the material of the story and leaving it to the editor to cobble together a shaggy collection of jokes in roughly movie-shaped form. And for this reason alone, I would be prepared to slightly love the film. It's not a short movie, at 107 minutes, and I think it's hard to deny that it would greatly benefit from a bit of trimming, but even so, compared to the bulk of American comedies - even just compared to the one specific film you'd most want to compare it to, 2011's Bridesmaids, written by the same duo of Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig - this feels tight as a drum and laser-focused on the point of its scenes. Which is kind of shocking, given that the whole point of the film is to feel like a diffuse collection of whatever the hellΒ  Mumolo & Wiig thought would be completely hilarious in the moment they jotted it down.

That's one of the other things: Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a completely bugshit insane movie. And we don't get studio-financed bugshit insane movies anymore, certainly not from our comedies. This starts early, and it ends literally all the way at the end - even the end credits are doing some pretty random and goofy shit, taking the approximate form of musical dance party ending but treating it in a particularly acerbic, random way. Every new scene feels like it's introducing a new comic idea that the movie hadn't even implied was an option, so even as the film's primary joke - a couple of extremely Midwestern middle-aged ladies with even more extremely Midwestern accents go to Florida for the first time and are unironically dazzled by the tourist kitsch they find there - gets hit exactly as often as you'd expect in exactly the ways you'd expect, the film feels like a constant act of reinvention and gonzo surprises. To go into specifics would be to ruin the thing, but I think I can at least say without spoiling anything that, even after the first musical number, I wasn't expecting the film to pull out another musical number on me. That kind of constant surprise.

I just said the plot, but to make it a touch more formal: best friends and roommmates Barb (Mumolo) and Star (Wiig) lose their job in a middle-sized Nebraska town when the last Jennifer Convertibles in the world, where they both work, closes its doors. Not to mention, they've just been banned from their only friend group, a "talking club" run as a dictatorship by a tyrant named Debbie (Vanessa Bayer). In a funk, they take the advice of their peppy friend Mickey (Wendi McLendon-Covey), who has just returned from a trip to Vista Del Mar, Florida, to spend a week out having fun by the ocean. So off they go, right at the time that a supervillain with bone-white skin and jet-black hair, also played by Wiig, is preparing to unleash a swarm of mutated radio-guided killer mosquitos on Vista Del Mar, aided by the haplessly hunky Edgar PagΓ©t (Jamie Dornan), a henchman with a bad case of puppy love that his boss encourages to keep him easier to manipulate.

It says a whole lot about Barb & Star that it can have this entire subplot crop up - before we meet Barb and Star themselves, even - and it so quickly gets absorbed into the fabric of the film that it hardly seems odd. The film is spitting out absurdist nonsense like that at a feverish clip, both in the writing and its fantastic array of visual gags, staged by director Josh Greenbaum as something like the film equivalent to a Mad magazine comic. Some of the best jokes in the movie are just sitting there, hiding in plain sight in the frame, unmarked by the writing, in the confidence that we'll be ready and able to pay enough attention to the film to suck up all its visual delights. That's the third thing that makes this very different than the usual comedy: Barb & Star has actual style. A lot of that style is dictated by the setting and scenario: tacky colors, shiny surfaces, goofy shapes. Still, it works well - sometimes extremely well, as when Barb and Star arrive at the heaven-like hotel and spa of their vacation dreams, a riot of appalling pinks. And there are plenty of moments where Greenbaum (who has had a pretty robust career without ever making a narrative feature before; I hope very much that he's able to make another) goes beyond the obvious, to make elements of style part of the joke themselves; at one point, something as simply as sitting Wiig, Mumolo, and Dornan on a dolly and wheeling them through a hotel bar is hilarious in and of itself (this is also where I learned that the simple act of slowing down and distorting the audio of the Jimmy Buffett song "Cheeseburger in Paradise" could make me laugh hard enough to start coughing).

The film's secret weapon is that it's so aggressively random in its pile-up of absurd comic ideas that it can never get boring. It's possible to say that, oh, this kind of resembles Airplane!, or Austin Powers, or MacGruber, whether tonally or stylistically (also, I think that those three films make a good checklist: the more of those films you like, and the more you like them individually, the more that I suspect Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar is likely to be a good fit for your tastes), but given that the only real source of inspiration is whatever wacky bullshit Mumolo & Wiig thought was funny as an independent concept, the film basically just feel like a series of comically oversized clown mallets to the face. This cuts both ways: when it's clicking, Barb & Star is paralyzingly funny, and when it feels like the creators are just amusing themselves and locking us out, it can drag pretty hard. And unfortunately, it dragged hardest for me in the first act, despite the extremely game performances of all three leads and the side characters in making the warped live-action cartoon energy of this world feel plausible enoguh to keep watching. But every viewer will have different moments where they do or don't jibe with the film, I suspect; it's all about the bizarre, deadpan wavelength, and how long it takes you get on that wavelength, and how long you can stay there. Wiig and Mumolo are so committed to their bent, borderline-surreal characters that they make this a relatively easy process; as exhausting as I found parts of Barb & Star, and as annoying as I found others, I also can't name the last American comedy which, upon finishing it, I immediately wanted to watch again. It has a delirious amount of energy, whatever else we might say about it.