Synopsis: When four lifelong friends travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there’s enough dancing, drinking, brawling, and romancing to make the Big Easy blush.
Stars: Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, Larenz Tate
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Running Length: 122 minutes
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
Review: The latest in a long line of Women Can Be Raunchy Too comedies (like Bad Moms and Rough Night), Girls Trip is better than you or I thought it would be. Maybe it was wrong to doubt it in the first place, though, because it stars four actresses who could each easily headline their own film and is the kind of free-for-all extravaganza of ribald humor rarely seen anywhere in film lately. Better still, it winds up touting a message of acceptance of oneself from within instead of opting for an easier and more expected takeaway.
The members of the Flossy Possy are four friends that grew up together, went to college together, lived together, but then forged their own paths in varied directions. Sasha (Queen Latifah, Joyful Noise) is a gossip blogger nearly bankrupt, divorced mom Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith, Magic Mix XXL) hasn’t had a fun night out in years, man-loving Dina (Tiffany Haddish) just got fired from another job, while Ryan (Regina Hall, Vacation) is reaching the pinnacle of her career as an Oprah-esque self-help guru that seems to have it all.
When Ryan is asked to be the keynote speaker at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, she decides to make it a (ta-da!) Girls Trip and invites her three best friends that she hasn’t seen in years. Over the next several days the women party, play, fight, dance, take absinthe, and a whole host of other NSFW activities that can only be appreciated when experienced with friends.
The four women elevate the material to something better than it ever was intended to be. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that Latifah was originally approached to play Hall’s part and vice-versa. Both actresses have done those types of characters before and it’s nice to see them take on something different, especially Latifah who’s taken some pretty bland roles lately. Pinkett Smith seems at home in the mother hen role but let’s loose when she’s good and ready.
Truly, though, the star of the show is Haddish as a wise-cracking, foul-mouthed broad that owns her sexuality and honesty like a badge of honor. Impossible to embarrass, Dina will say anything and do anything to get a reaction out of her friends and Haddish goes to the same lengths to set herself apart from her costars who all have more experience on the big screen. What Haddish does with a banana and a grapefruit at one point should earn her some sort of special medal for bravery.
Sure, the movie feels cheaply made with an abundance of “group” shots that look like they were filmed at different times and badly photoshopped at that. Then there’s the supporting cast that seemed to be comprised of actors that would work for scale just to keep their health insurance going. I’m not saying that Kate Walsh (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) is in it just for the money but she does subject herself to some pretty embarrassing “I’m so WHITE!” dialogue and one whopper of a sight gag when she drunkenly grabs the wrong cocktail glass.
This is one that would be best to see with a large audience and if they are anything like the people I screened this with, it will only add to the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ feeling. There’s a bit of graphic nudity early on in the film that elicited screams of laughter from the audience, screams that remained going strong for a solid minute. Then there was the projectile urination scene…but I’ll let you see for yourself what that’s all about. While it frustratingly bottoms out several times, it sticks its ending with a fresh message of be your best self that feels genuine in its delivery.
The script from Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver and direction from Malcolm D. Lee are, to be honest, nothing special. Most of the jokes are telegraphed in advance and even some of the tackier vulgarity feels also-ran. The movie heads in exactly the direction you think it will and rarely strays off course. Allowing his movie to go on too long by a good 15 minutes, Lee seems beholden to give each actress the exact same amount of screen time, whether we like it or not. This creates a Girls Trip that overstays its welcome at times but ends with a bang.