It says an awful lot about the immense likability of Girls Trip's quartet of leading ladies that despite the film's immense flaws, Girls Trip is still one of summer 2017's most relentlessly entertaining and unapologetically raunchy comedies to date.
That quartet, known collectively as the Flossy Posse, includes the hilariously uninhibited and sexually aggressive Dina (Tiffany Haddish), the recently divorced physician Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), the serious journalist turned gossip blogger Sasha (Queen Latifah), and Ryan (Regina Hall), the star of the group whose self-improvement writings and marriage to former NFL star Stewart (Mike Colter) have her on the verge of explosive fame along with an invitation as the keynote speaker at Atlanta's EssenceFest.
It's that EssenceFest that serves as the setting for much of Girls Trip, where the drifted apart women will unite for a weekend of ridiculously raunchy girl bonding.
Director Malcolm D. Lee, Spike's more under the radar brother who has delivered up such flicks as Undercover Brother and Barbershop: The Next Cut, has spent most of his career serving up films not far removed from Girls Trip, though certainly this film is on the bawdier and naughtier end of his usual cinematic spectrum. There's a formula to it and Lee, for the most part, sticks to that formula. The film earns its R-rating. Heck, for that matter, Tiffany Haddish practically earns the film an R-rating herself with comic bits that become increasingly outrageous and none quite so outrageous as an over-the-top "grapefruiting" sequence that had the promo screening's packed house practically falling out of its seats doubled over in loud laughter.
Of course, that wasn't exactly rare. Girls Trip has a number of flaws, though you'd have been hard-pressed to convince that promo audience that surrounded me and was clearly getting exactly what it wanted from the film. Girls Trip didn't just get a couple of loud laughs...Girls Trip got laughter, loud laughter, practically from beginning to end for the just over two hour film.
In the film, Regina Hall's Ryan has been invited to speak at EssenceFest in promotion of her bestselling book "You Can Have It All" and, indeed, she and her husband are on the verge of having it all with a multi-million dollar branding deal in the offing if all goes well at EssenceFest.
Of course, not all goes well at EssenceFest. And, of course, all works out anyway.
Ryan takes the opportunity to invite her girls for a long needed get together, though it's obvious that the years have built some distance and created some tension...most notably between the runaway successful Ryan and the barely surviving Sasha. Sasha views the weekend as an opportunity to snag some career saving gossip, an opportunity that surfaces when we not so surprisingly learn that Ryan really doesn't have it all and that marriage made in heaven has turned rather hellish.
At 122 minutes, Girls Trip would have greatly benefited from some serious tightening up. As much of the film was actually filmed at EssenceFest, Lee has tossed in a number of cameos ranging from Mariah Carey to Ne-Yo, Babyface, P. Diddy, Common, and even a little bit of Kevin Hart among others. These cameos feel natural, though they are excessive and often unnecessary. The same could be true for some of the extraneous characters in the film...Girls Trip starts to drag anytime we're not really dealing with one of our leading ladies.
Regina Hall is a true gem here, a convincing budding star who truly sells the inner conflict flowing through her entire being as she tries to convince herself and her fans that she still has it all. Queen Latifah adds a tremendous emotional core to the film as Sasha, whose compromised journalistic integrity is as much a life coping skill as it is anything. Latifah has always been an under-appreciated actress and here she's as convincing in a hallucinogenic-driven sequence with a certain lamp as she is being a wounded friend whose loyalty is understandably yet inappropriately questioned. Tasked with being the most responsible member of the Flossy Posse, Jada Pinkett Smith is made up to look quite a bit older than the group, a distracting make-up call, but her performance is still spot-on. However, the real star of Girls Trip may very well be Tiffany Haddish, whose comic fireball of weirdly compatible rage and loyalty keeps the film alive and vibrant even when comic bits stretch a bit too far and dialogue falls a bit flat.
Among the supporting players, Larenz Tate shines most brightly as an even-keeled musician friend of the quartet who seemingly shows up every time they need rescued, while Kate Walsh takes a caricature of a character, Ryan's white manager who uses grossly inappropriate lingo from the Urban Dictionary, and gives her a surprising amount of sweetness and heart.
There's an awful lot not to like about Girls Trip, though you should likely know going into the film whether it's going to be your thing or not. Was it my thing? Not so surprisingly, yes. Girls Trip is a perfect example of a film where the cast truly matters - there are performers who would have sucked the life out of this film, then there's this delightful quartet that manages to find just about every comic moment to be found from beginning to end.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic