Hot on the high-heels of “Rough Night” is “Girls Trip,” another female-driven raunch fest. Where they differ in their twin celebrations of sisterhood is that this one is all-caps FUNNY. I haven’t heard an audience LOL this much in a long time. The jokes are sophomoric and bawdy in all the best inappropriate ways. So if you don’t like penis jokes, or foul language, or girls getting “turnt up,” then don’t bother. But if you need 2 hours of escapism, you could do a lot worse than “Girls Trip.” And trust me; you’ll never look at a grapefruit the same ever again.
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee (Spike’s cousin), working from a script by Kenya Barris (“Blackish”) and Karen McCullah (“The House Bunny”), the movie couldn’t be more predictable. But it’s not the narrative of four longtime friends heading to New Orleans to reconnect that hooks you. It’s the sheer bliss of watching comedian Tiffany Haddish steal the movie away from Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and Queen Latifah.
Haddish (“Keanu”) goes for the jugular, delivering an over-the-top comedic performance as Dina, the sassy, saucy, most-loyal friend in the group. Whether she’s celebrating a diagnosis that is “just chlamydia,” or delivering zingers too uncouth for a family newspaper, or beating up a co-worker for eating her Go-gurt, she’s the life of the movie. The others are simply along for the ride. And whenever the movie shifts gears to deal with trivialities like Ryan’s (Hall) marital problems, that ride comes to a screeching halt.
Ryan, a successful self-help author, is America’s sweetheart, poised to become “the next Oprah.” And paired with her sports-star husband, Stewart, (Mike Colter), they’re an unstoppable brand about to close the deal of a lifetime. That’s until a picture surfaces of Stewart getting it on with an “Instagram skank.” But while that infidelity fractures her marriage, it also brings Ryan and her girls closer together, and then apart, and then closer again.
The four college gal pals call themselves the Flossy Posse and they were once the “baddest chicks in the game.” This trip to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival is their first get-together in 5 years. Pass the shots and cue the music — via cameos by Common, Diddy and the Mariah — it’s party time. In between all the drinks and debauchery, the script reveals challenges each woman faces. Latifah’s gossip blogger, Sasha, is strapped for cash. Smith’s Lisa is the Type-A, single, working mother, who’s forgotten how to have fun. And then there’s, Dina, who just wants to get “white-girl wasted.”
Kate Walsh (“13 Reasons Why”) switches gears nicely from drama to comedy by playing Ryan’s trying-too-hard-to-fit-in agent. Larenz Tate (“Ray”) also shows up as old college pal, Julian, with a twinkle in his eye for one of the ladies.
The movie offers nothing new in its portrayal of female friendship, infidelity, or anything else issue-oriented. It’s not about that. Lee is after laughs and living in the moment, because one day you’re doing keg stands in a frat house and then in a flash, your friends are gone, off into the abyss of adulthood and responsibility. For the most part, Lee succeeds, letting his four women lead the way. Haddish is the comedic gem, but as the movie parties on, Smith gets some moments to shine, as Lisa is forced to ditch her dowdy floral frock for a hoochie-koochie little black dress to awkwardly prowl the hook-up scene. She lands a hot-on-top-of-hot younger guy (Kofi Siriboe), who’s extra-large man parts endow the film with some filthy fun.
The Flossy Posse is such a trip you can forgive the inevitable tropes required of the women-on-the-loose genre. There’s a catfight, a choreographed dance and a scene involving bodily fluids in which Smith’s character pees on a crowd while zip-lining over Bourbon Street. Naturally, Haddish adds the exclamation point to the scene. Her performance forgives a lot.
The jokes land, more or less, and everyone has their comeuppance. The heart and charm is unexpected. By the time the credits roll, you’ll want to call your BFFs and book a girls getaway of your own.
— Dana Barbuto may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.
Cast: Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Queen Latifah, Mike Colter.
(R for crude and sexual content throughout, pervasive language, brief graphic nudity, and drug material.)