One wild and rambunctious getaway between four longtime best friends, culminates in a ‘Girls Trip’ that none of them will ever soon forget. Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish, 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. As the night progresses and the additives kick in, truths between the girls are revealed, testing their bond to heights never before reached among them. ‘Girls Trip’ is directed by Malcolm D. Lee, and is rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, pervasive adult language, brief graphic nudity, and drug material.
I shunned the trailer to ‘Girls Trip’. I found it to be every bit as generic as it was unfunny. But after seeing the actual film, I now know that what I perceived was the film’s biggest weakness was actually its biggest strength in terms of value to this film. Because of such, ‘Girls Trip’ might just be the biggest surprise of the year for me. I am flabbergasted at just how much I enjoyed this film because I didn’t give it even the slightest of chance in that two minute out-of-context trailer that doesn’t even begin to hint on what this film is truly about. Underneath the devilish R-rating, this film is a story about sisterhood and womanhood alike, and what it means to be a part of those important tribes. It’s a story that values the importance of friendship, and in that perspective it is a solid watch for both men and women of every age. This film is very much the kind of movie that you must watch at a theater because I found the irresistible blend of raunchy humor and heartfelt center to be something of infectious value that I couldn’t look away from. Inevitably, this movie will be compared to last month’s ‘Rough Night’, in that the two films have eerily similar setups, but once you have seen both films, you start to understand what the former is missing greatly, and soon their similarities take two completely different roads on the way to re-energizing the genre for women to prove that they can do it just as good as the men.
To label a comedy with an R-rating in 2017 usually means that you will throw in the occasional curse word to sentences that don’t exactly need it. This is thought of in gimmick terms, but what ‘Girls Trip’ does so terrifically is that it never settles for just bad language in getting its points across. This is very much a grown-up perspective that involves nudity, drugs, and all of the bottled fluids that you can handle. I would normally view this kind of thing as tacky or classless, but it’s funny how each event is properly built up and never given the kind of easy way out for its greatest laughs. There’s some real shock humor that constantly pops up to remind you of its rating, but nothing ever overstays its welcome in terms of material. My gut-busters never stopped coming, and equally played into the strong suits of each and every character on cast. The backdrop of New Orleans during the Essence Fest is one that couldn’t be more perfect for the kind of mayhem and debauchery that happens around our group, and it feels like the picture is constantly changing, evolving our quad of girls known as the Flossy Posse back into their younger selves the closer that their insecurities come into play.
On the subject of performances, all four girls each are given their equal time to share, but there is one who stands out above the rest; the hilariously energetic Tiffany Haddish. Considering she is the actress who we as the audience know the least about, it is quite a chance to leave the pacing of the movie’s humor in her hands, but Tiffany is up to the challenge. Her role as Dina feels like the kind of breakout power equal to that of Chris Tucker in ‘Friday’ or Kevin Hart in ‘Soul Plane’, she is simply that spellbinding. On top of it, she has an irresistible smile that will always bring a flavor of light-hearted atmosphere to the screen anywhere she lurks. Besides Haddish, it was nice to see Regina Hall again, this time taking front-and-center as kind of the leader of sorts of this group. Hall has transformed spectacularly from her days in the ‘Scary Movie’ franchise, but here we are reminded once again of the kind of powerful delivery that she can exert to change a film’s mood while adding a layer of heart to the script. It did look like early on the Pinkett and Latifah were going to be background supporting crew, but thankfully their stories do become more important to the forefront the longer that the movie goes, and the two longtime co-stars add a fresh slice of chemistry to round out this fabulous foursome.
The only real problem that I had with the film was its two hour runtime, but after taking in the entire production, I treat it as a positive AND a negative. On the plus side, the runtime feels slightly bloated for a comedy, but that is because every crazy incident that happens, we start to understand the bond between these ladies that other movies only tell us about. Where I feel that they could’ve done this better was in the variety of sequences that can sometimes feel formulaic amongst the setup that hit a time too many on repetition. Where this happens mostly is late in the second act with one bar exchange too many with very little payoff in the long run. That’s not to say that ‘Girls Trip’ doesn’t keep flowing, quite the opposite really. This is a two hour film that breezes by because you find yourself so indulged by the vibrant personalities that wither in this group. The third act was my personal favorite because it establishes just how much these “girls” turned women have grown. Most movies that center around womanhood always somehow end up with a man playing a pivotal role, but Lee is a filmmaker who sees value in his leading ladies, so he never takes the focus off of where it needs to be at all times. I did mention my disdain for the trailer earlier, and I find upon watching it now that much of the flat material is removed from the final product, a move that does wonders in keeping the laugh ratios to yearly highs for this critic.
THE VERDICT – Where ‘Girls Trip’ pushes the provocative envelope one step further in terms of material from other imitators, is the much-needed balancing of consistent jaw-dropping raunch humor with hearty sentimentality, two traits that make Lee’s latest a sensational good time. Haddish is a star in the making, but every woman here plays her part in taking a used idea and creating something fresh and innovative for the ladies in the audience who just want to have fun. To my female readers, don’t just see this one alone, see it with your entire entourage. This is one trip that never wears thin, despite its lengthy investment.