That ’90s Show: Season 1

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Comedy;
Not rated;
Stars Kurtwood Smith, Debra Jo Rupp, Callie Haverda, Ashley Aufderheide, Mace Coronel, Reyn Doi, Sam Morelos, Maxwell Acee Donovan, Andrea Anders.

As a sequel to “That ’70s Show,” which built a solid following during its 1998-2006 run, “That ’90s Show” checks in on the happenings of Point Place, Wisconsin, in 1995, as Leia Forman (Callie Haverda), daughter of Eric and Donna (Topher Grace and Laura Prepon) from the original show, visits her grandparents, Red and Kitty (Kurtwood Smith and Debra Jo Rupp).

Leia stumbles upon Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide) and her group of friends next door. Feeling a sense of belonging she doesn’t get back home in Chicago, Leia asks to stay for the summer.

Thus, the show is 10 episodes of the misadventures of a new group of teenagers plugged into the formula of the old show, with some all-too-brief cameos from the original kids sprinkled in.

Red and Kitty, as before, hold court in their basement, with Kitty too eager to please, and Red annoyed at the return of chaos into his life. Smith and Rupp pick up their characters as if they never left them, ably anchoring the series with a firm connection to the original show.

As for other legacy characters, while it’s fun to see them pop up here and there, fans of the original show might be left a bit disappointed with how little they actually appear (Wilmer Valderrama’s Fez gets the most to do as a local salon owner). The focus is really on the new crop of teenagers, and whatever audience this show gains is going to depend on the audiences’ connection with them.

The main strength of the premise in this regard is that fans of the older show who might otherwise not relate to teenagers anymore likely grew up in the era being portrayed, allowing a sense of nostalgia to kick in.

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Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Lionsgate;
Comedy;
$19.99 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for crude sexual content, drug use and some strong language.
Stars Kristen Wiig, Annie Mumolo, Jamie Dornan, Damon Wayans Jr., Michael Hitchcock, Reyn Doi, Vanessa Bayer, Wendi McLendon-Covey.

If there were a way to turn pastels directly into a movie, Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar would probably be it.

“Golden Girls” meets “Austin Powers” in this zany comedy in which Kristen Wiig (as Star) and Annie Mumolo (as Barb) play a pair of daft Midwestern middle-aged roommates who breeze through life until deciding on a whim to embark on a vacation to Florida.

The “coming of middle-age” story, as described by director Josh Greenbaum, was co-written by Wiig and Mumolo as well, apparently based on inside jokes that developed during their own year’s long real life friendship, and characters who began to crystalize as they were collaborating on 2011’s Bridesmaids. Wiig even admits in the bonus materials that they thought up the title first and then came up with a story to fit it (to the degree that a story even matters to this movie).

Barb & Star plays like the movie version of an “SNL” sketch that never existed. The duo find themselves out of work when they learn the furniture store chain they work for closed down months ago, and no one bothered to tell anyone at their franchise to pack it in. So, with nary a care in the world, they depart their small Nebraska town for a resort community in Florida called Vista Del Mar, and run smack dab into the middle of a plot to destroy the town by an albino villain who seems like she’s on loan from Dr. Evil’s crew.

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This baddie, also played by Wiig, wants revenge on Vista Del Mar for embarrassing her during a shrimp festival years earlier, so she plans to unleash genetically engineered mosquitos to kill everyone. To prepare the attack, she sends her supposed lover, Edgar (Jamie Dornan), but things go off the rails when he encounters Barb and Star and engages in a drug-fueled sexual tryst with them that completely changes his worldview.

But really, the heart of the movie is Wiig and Mumolo, and they’re willing to throw everything at the wall for the sake of comedy. From improvised dialogue to musical numbers to shameless celebrity cameos to talking crabs who dispense sage advice with a voice that sounds like Morgan Freeman, the film isn’t afraid to try anything for a laugh. And for the most part, it works. The actors are charming, the gags are witty and unexpected, and the film just radiates lighthearted fun with every colorful setting.

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Mumolo and Wiig join Greenbaum for a delightful Blu-ray commentary track in which they discuss the making of the film and how fun it was to finally bring these characters to life.

Also included on the Blu-ray are nine deleted scenes that have a total run time of just under 13 minutes. These are basically just extra bits of comedy from the ladies, as is the six-minute blooper reel. There’s also a weird minute-and-a-half “Fashion Show” video featuring several characters from the film prancing around a fake beach in different outfits.

The making of the film is covered in two featurettes: the 10-minute “Barb & Star: Making Life a Little Brighter” is about the overall production, while the 11-minute “Barb & Star: Casting in Paradise” looks at the film’s various characters.

A Target-exclusive Blu-ray offers a few additional featurettes if anyone is so inclined for more.