Film Review: ‘Girls Trip’

Girls Trip
Universal

Newcomer Tiffany Haddish steals a comedy that gives four black women the chance to indulge in the kind of raunchy, R-rated antics typically reserved for the boys.

Move over, Tyler Perry. Let “Girls Trip” director Malcolm D. Lee show you how it’s done. In what could easily prove to be the summer’s word-of-mouth comedy sensation, Lee sends four black women — AKA the “Flossy Posse” — on a long-overdue weekend getaway, as “Madea’s Class Reunion” meets “The Hangover” for a raunchy mix of empowerment and intoxication at Essence Fest, New Orleans. Get ready for girl fighting, male nudity, multiple self-help lessons, an impromptu prayer session and not one but two musical numbers — all of it so consistently outrageous that audiences shouldn’t even miss the absence of a cross-dressing black lady.

Whereas Perry’s work serves mostly as counter-programming “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf,” appealing to those who typically feel more comfortable going to church than going to the movies, “Girls Trip” has something for everyone — provided that they’re old enough to see a hard-R-rated comedy, and not so easily offended that an explicit demonstration of the so-called “grapefruit technique” would send them running for the exits. The movie’s equal-opportunity irreverence makes for a welcome addition to the bachelor-party genre, so often aimed at the frat-boy crowds. As Queen Latifah, who plays one of the Flossy Posse foursome, might say of the status quo, “That’s some white-boy shit right there” — whereas these girls are here to mix up the formula.

When bestselling author Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall, a veteran of Lee’s “The Best Man” movies) is invited to give a keynote speech at Essence Fest, she uses the opportunity to reunite her gang of college friends, whom she hasn’t seen in five years. Like liberated “Sex and the City” types, these ladies represent different facets of the female experience, from divorced single mom Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) to the aggressively sexual Dina (scene-stealing newcomer Tiffany Haddish). Ryan also hopes that the reunion will give her a chance to bury the hatchet with Sasha (Latifah), who launched a blog peddling celebrity gossip after a joint business venture fell through a few years back.

Like a Michelle Obama-elegant version of Oprah Winfrey, Ryan has published a book called “You Can Have It All,” pointing to her marriage to football star Stewart (Mike Colter) as evidence that she’s living the dream. But Ryan’s longtime girlfriends have known her long enough to see through the act, and while they’re more than happy to join her in New Orleans for the weekend, they’re not about to sit idly by while the unfaithful Stewart makes a fool of their best friend. Taking a page from the Perry playbook, much of “Girls Trip’s” personal drama centers on infidelity, faith (more in oneself than in a higher power) and doing right by one’s sisters — and though they may sometimes disagree (make that “almost constantly”), these girls always have one another’s backs.

As an example, take the wild zip-line scene, in which Lisa, whose bladder is full to the point of bursting, gets stuck dangling midway across Bourbon Street. You don’t need to have seen the trailer to guess what happens next: Look out below! And yet, unlike so many ad campaigns, in which the preview spoils the best parts of the movie, “Girls Trip” is just getting started, expanding upon the joke in a way that’s not just wet-yourself funny, but poignant to boot — because the situation could have ended very badly for Lisa, but instead offers the perfect opportunity for one of her gal pals to come to the rescue.

Not all the jokes are as effective as that one — a sausage-tasting confrontation with Stewart’s Instagram-star girlfriend, played by Deborah Ayorinde, fizzles when it’s meant to convince an important sponsor (Lara Grice, as the movie’s grimacing white gatekeeper) — although “Girls Trip” rivals even “Bridesmaids” in its ability to keep the comic situations coming. Add to that a series of legitimately steamy moments with the likes of Kofi Siriboe (as a well-endowed college kid with a thing for Lisa), Larenz Tate (as Ryan’s almost-too-perfect old flame) and Sean “Diddy” Combs (as himself).

When it comes to Hollywood studio comedies, most of the time, we’re lucky to get one unforgettable set piece, whereas “Girls Trip” screenwriters Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver deliver at least half a dozen. And rather than simply letting an effective joke stand, they double down, milking it for all it’s worth. Case in point, Dina doesn’t just explain “grapefruiting,” but vigorously demonstrates how it’s done, putting even viral-star sex adviser Auntie Angel’s viral video to shame. And before the movie’s over, we get to see how such a trick could go hilariously wrong.

Barris (creator of ABC sitcom “Black-ish”) and Oliver (with whom he co-wrote “Barbershop: The Next Cut”) are masters of the callback, finding unexpected ways to circle back and built upon earlier jokes — and from the look of things, the entire film has been given a thorough punch-up, as funny lines keep coming, even when characters’ mouths aren’t moving (a clear sign of ADR, or “additional dialogue recording,” where the filmmakers go in and loop new lines to make the movie better). In this case, it works like a charm, especially with Haddish’s character, a relative newcomer who nearly runs away with the movie — the way Melissa McCarthy all but stole “Bridesmaids.”

Whether smashing a wine bottle to confront Ryan’s no-good husband or going on about smuggling drugs in her “booty hole,” Haddish has an irrepressible, unfiltered quality that’s sweetened by the fact she’s by far the most loyal member of the group. She’s also a uniquely black character, and that’s every bit as important to the movie’s affirmational portrayal of African-American women as the way that the three other characters represent more colorblind ideas of success. Dina’s greatest asset is how she holds true to herself, and that in turn motivates her friends to follow suit.

Film Review: 'Girls Trip'

Reviewed at Regal Chinese 6, Los Angeles, July 11, 2017. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 122 MIN.

Production

A Universal Pictures release of a Universal Pictures, Will Packer Prods. production. Producers: Will Packer, Malcolm D. Lee. Executive producers: Preston Holmes, James Lopez.

Crew

Director: Malcolm D. Lee. Screenplay: Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver; story: Erica Rivinoja, Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver. Camera (color, widescreen): Greg Gardiner. Editor: Paul Millspaugh. Music: David Newman.

With

Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Larenz Tate, Kate Walsh, Mike Colter, Kofi Siriboe, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Sean Combs.

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  1. kg says:

    This would have been a better movie if I didn’t feel anti-white digs here and there. Why can’t we all just be women together, instead of feeding this discrimination and hatred. Girls pick up language colloquialisms from each other from a young age…black and white. Most white girls don’t use them inappropriately, as indicated in this movie. If they do, they are just trying to be buds, as they would with their white friends. Really??? Does everything have to be offensive these days? We should be one color…American!!! in this country and realize we have to unite. I am so so sick of this revenge crap,and the entitled, sinful act of racism coming from either (black or white) direction. Queen Latifa…I always enjoyed the movies I saw you in, but you obviously don’t really like white women. That is too bad, I would have enjoyed the movie minus that and the need to be over-volgar in a few parts.Someone needs to stand up and speak the truth about the attitude in society lately!!! Thanks a lot President Obama…way to unite the country!

  2. Ms. A says:

    This was one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time. I am a vivid movie lover from comedy to romance thru horror and drama. I loved this movie me and my girls of long time friendships. I definitely want a DVD of it with all uncut scenes as well as a few added scenes deleted from original film. Love, love, love, love this movie and all the actors. Four thumbs up .

  3. Adrianne says:

    Can I say that “each” character was exactly the same as the women I had friendships with in my life? No. Obviously the behaviors were “exaggerated” but it was fun to see the explosion of comedy land in all the right places. I agree the “sausage scene” was no that funny, but we needed the down time to catch our breath. The movie left me giggling, screaming, dancing in my seat, and wanting to cry. I got to see “hanging out” from a black woman’s perspective. Newcomer Haddish, as well as the Caucasian women, Grice, who played the agent, added so much depth to the characters played by Latifah, Jada, and Hill. I did not want the movie to end, although the ending left a strong message for women of all colors. What I don’t like in this article is how Tyler Perry is compared to Malcolm Lee. That was totally unnecessary, and once again confirms that some people want to create disharmony in the black community. I will see Perry’s movies, Lee’s movies and laugh through all of their projects, because there is room for ALL directors, and producers regardless of their color. Mr. Debruge next time please leave that garbage where it belongs-in the trash!!!!

  4. KKJ says:

    Enjoyed film, very funny, but, could not help but notice why the two ‘baddies’ were dark skinned, husband that cheated on wife with another dark skinned woman. Why can’t we have a well liked, professional, positive dark skinned character. Even the near perfect old flame of Ryan, fair skinned. What is this subtle message trying to reinforce?

  5. I have a slight issue with the comparison to Tyler Perry. This is nothing like Tyler’s work, it should be compare to Rough Night or Sex in the City, you know the countless other movies about white women getting raunchy. Black women can do it too and do well at the box office.

    • CelluloidFan35mm says:

      I disagree. The forced melodramatic moments, cheating husband subplot and stereotypical “comedic” moments are a staple of Tyler’s work.
      You are correct to compare this with Rough Night or Sex and the City because they’re atrocious movies regardless of race and the fact that this did well at the box office just prove that the black audience will see almost anything with a black cast, no matter how bad the movie is and we’ll get the same regurgitated crap we’ve been accustomed to for years now.

  6. Kimberley Willay-Jenkins says:

    Why is nobody complaining about the lack of diversity? Funny how an all black movie with all black main characters is praised for being genuine and true yet any movie now with all white main characters gets dragged through the mud for not casting minorities.

    You can’t have it both ways.

    So, why wasnt one of the girls Mexican, one Korean, one Jewish and one black?

    Why is the line “That’s some white boy shit” acceptable?

    If someone said, “That’s some black boy shit” it would cause a million think pieces.

    • Why is nobody complaining about the lack of diversity? Because white people got the movie Rough Night. It’s clearly a white movie about white women, that’s why. You need to get your head out of the sand.

    • Akimboooo says:

      There were several non-black supporting characters. “Black” projects tend to be far more inclusive than white ones so your trolling is terrible.

      Start diversifying the hundreds of 90-100% white series and films (and businesses and industries) and maybe you won’t have to get upset about the few projects with no white leads.

  7. david resch says:

    Sounds like a funny movie….but i find the term “white boy shit” offensive. You can’t have it both ways folks.

    • CelluloidFan35mm says:

      Well, this movie does have the cliched stereotypical uncool white girl who thinks she’s in with the cool black crowd

  8. Lois McMillon says:

    Wow Master Sir Peter sure know how to put black women in check with this review. His racist review seems to say the Haddish role represents the true African American woman. How slick of you to find an opportunity to express a warped stereotype of your opinion of what is an accurate or inaccurate portrayal of Black women. Will you let society believe the truth that every ethnic group is essentially the same. There are multiple levels of success, wealth, class and underclass, wealth and poverty in ALL races in America. Why take a Hollywood comedy and use it as a reflection Odessa what is real or unreal?

  9. trinagyrl says:

    Why the comparison to Tyler Perry’s work?? Madea class reunion meets Hangover, I thought more like Bridesmaids meet Hangover. Also does the title have to say four black Women…why not just four women. I’m sure other races of women would connect with this work and enjoy themselves. The bonds of friendship are universal.

  10. Kahlil says:

    How About Sexist as a description for Girls Trip?
    What a piece of trash movie.
    Is this what women’s equality looks like?
    Grow up.

  11. kaycarroll says:

    The jury is still out for old girls trip.

  12. Blake says:

    hi, the first line of this review is pretty racist.

  13. Sharon says:

    Saw screenings 3 times and each time had me on the floor laughing, I had to see again just to hear the rest of the jokes! Fail! I need the DVD NOW just to hear what I missed. Way better than Hangover. Break out stardom for Tiffany Haddish as Dina!

  14. Lucy says:

    Excellent review. I am not sure what uniquely black means.
    Please explain

    • squeesh says:

      Lucy:
      What the reviewer meant by “uniquely black” is that the character is not some watered-down version of what white people think a black character should be like,—since the film was written, produced and directed by black people, she’s a more realistic black female character than you would normally see in a Hollywood film.

      • CelluloidFan35mm says:

        Realistic? Sure…if you call over the top caricature as realistic.
        Even other black people have their preconceived notions of what black people should be like.

    • CelluloidFan35mm says:

      I seriously doubt the reviewer knows what it means.
      I’m black and I don’t know what it means. From the way I read it, I assume that it has to do with something stereotypical.

  15. marie hayes says:

    The Best movie Ever made in a long time Down to the last scene 5 thumbs up for all my Girls I see you doing biger things outside of what life you going threw extraordinary

  16. CelluloidFan35mm says:

    Stop making excuses for this. This is just the same old regurgitated crap with stock characters, vulgar humor, forced dramatics and it’s being directed by hack Malcolm D. Lee.
    How about an R-rated comedy with ladies that doesn’t rely on raunch/vulgar humor to get by.
    I’ve seen better than this and they were actually clever and witty and funny. This movie is none of the three.

  17. Lanee O'Neil says:

    I enjoyed the movie! It was funny, and sad at the same time. The screening audience laughed through the entire movie

    • squeesh says:

      Look, there are enough comedies that are raunchy, and enough comedies that aren’t to go around and please everyone. Just take your pick of what you want to watch. I don’t like comedies that are too nasty and vulgar either, and so I’m rel choosy about what I want to watch. A the same time, I like seeing movies with women that look like me for a change (yeah, I’m black,lol.) Might check out the white female counterpart to this, Rough Night, just to make the comparisons.

  18. Marie says:

    Variety and the author of this piece should be ashamed of themselves. This movie has nothing in common with Tyler Perry’s work except for the presence of black people. And the race of the bother the actors and characters in Girls Trip actors has nothing to do with the story. So why mention it? Did your review of LaLaLand tell us that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are white? Why do your reviews always indicate when an actor is not white as though white is the default and everyone else is the exception? Please stop printing reviews that describe people’s race unless it is pertinent to the film’s story.

    • Kevin D says:

      “as though white is the default and everyone else is the exception”
      I hate to say this but basically this IS the case: white is the default dominant race in films and everyone else IS the exception. America wants to see more of a mix, but again and again its white white white on all fronts!!
      I realize its galling and appalling, but it..”is”. Times are changing but its slowwww.

    • CelluloidFan35mm says:

      Yes it does. This totally resembles something Tyler Perry would’ve direct himself but this has no sermons every fifteen minutes.

      • CelluloidFan35mm says:

        @squeesh:
        I have seen many of Tyler Perry’s films (My family members are fans and usually get stuck watching his movies while visiting them.) and there is in fact a comparison in terms of forced drama and telegraphed comedy bits. The trailer may not show that but it’s in fact in the movie. Perry may not be the only black director around but that doesn’t excuse lazy, tired and stereotypical filmmaking and Malcolm Lee is guilty of this as well.
        To be clear, I’m black too but I can see through the BS to know that many of the movies other black filmmakers are essentially the same ole, same ole.and I refuse to support crap filmmaking, black, white or otherwise and do not have some blind loyalty like you do because a character has the same skin color. Actual quality counts for me.
        When a black filmmakers does a sci-fi movie or a horror movie or a sword/sorcery movie that’s actually good, then it will be as diverse as you say they are.

      • squeesh says:

        Celluloid Fan:
        Obviously you haven’t seen very many Tyler Perry films—his films are rarely as vulgar as the average Hollywood film, so there is no comparison there. From what I’ve seen in the trailer, Girls’ Trip is NOTHING like any of Tyler Perry’s films. And he isn’t the only successful black director around,btw. it kills me how some white people act like all black films are the same, without any distinction whatsoever, when they are as diverse as any other films from any other culture on the planet.

  19. Ellie says:

    Waiting for the comedy in which women don’t mirror grown men acting and talking like adolescents.

    • Kahlil says:

      Thank you. Ditto

    • Foxx says:

      Oh so you mean you’re waiting for a drama? How do you define adolescent, because it seems like having fun and cussing isn’t what you think adults shouldn’t be doing. You think there aren’t women in real life who don’t say or act the way they are portrayed in comedy films? Also, it’s comedy, and comedy is usually funny when immature and adolescent things happen. And comedy also likes exaggerate situations to make them funny, that’s practically what comedy is all about. I guess you want women to not be as funny as men can be.

      • CelluloidFan35mm says:

        That’s not what Ellie meant and you know it. There are a lot of funny comedies that do not rely on adolescent behavior or immature vulgarity for its humor. That’s the problem with these comedies and that goes for men AND women alike. Your description of what comedy is all about is the approach Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen or Amy Schumler takes and they’re painfully unfunny bordering on pathetic.

        But mainstream comedies in general has gone as low as they can possibly go and has now hit rock bottom.

  20. nycrn says:

    Love the review. Glad it’s compared to Bridesmaids which had me on the floor laughing. Will see!

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