Here we are, again. You likely know by now that I enjoy watching comedies but I’m not crazy about reviewing them. Mileage varies far too often on what passes for funny. But I have a responsibility to you all, so – as always – I’ll do my best to represent the film honestly and objectively, even if objectivity is pretty much obliterated in the face of comedic filmmaking. But I’m playing catch-up with this one, so let’s give it a whirl.
From director Michael D. Lee (Undercover Brother, Scary Movie V), Girls Trip (why no apostrophe?! There should really be an apostrophe!) follows four lifelong friends as they look to rekindle their relationships with each other by traveling to the Essence Festival in New Orleans. Along the way, their modern lives clash with their desire to relive the good old days and things quickly become far more complicated than any of them had intended or desired.
Let me say that, while I was aware of and perfectly at ease with Girls Trip‘s R rating, I was significantly unprepared for exactly how R-rated this film would turn out to be. This is an absurdly raunchy movie. That doesn’t bother me, of course, but it definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. The sheer audacity of one of the sight gags, in particular, was almost worth the cost of the ticket, if for no other reason than to witness the reaction from the rest of the crowd. You’ll know that scene is coming when they start taking about grapefruits. Be ready.
As I’ve said ad nauseam, there are copious viewpoints out there regarding what’s funny and what isn’t but, for me (with the full understanding that absolutely nothing about me places me even within range of the film’s target audience), Girls Trip is a mixed bag. I’m a fan of cleverness and wit, in any form. It can be delivered verbally, visually, physically, or any other way, and I’ll enjoy it as long as it’s something creative that I haven’t seen, heard, or thought of before. Girls Trip has some of that, to be certain. I laughed from time to time, though not nearly as often or as loudly as the group of women to my right, who guffawed uproariously at the mere sight of the four leads wearing wigs. Yeah, some people are just easy.
But a lot of the humor was of the slapstick nature, and there was plenty in there for the sake of shock value, as well. In most cases, any sense of wit or intelligence was abandoned for the sake of these particular gags. There was also the clichéd our-leads-are-high-on-something-they-shouldn’t-have-ingested “joke” that’s been done to death and I’m just sick of seeing it. To be fair, Girls Night added some extra context and urgency to that scene that, while not making it any funnier, did contribute some unpredictability and narrative importance.
So, big surprise, I liked some of the comedy and some of it, I didn’t. That’s pretty par for the course for most comedies, these days. In most cases anymore, the funniest movies are those that don’t even market themselves as comedies (think the Guardians of the Galaxy series or films like The Edge of Seventeen or Hunt for the Wilderpeople). But few films are single-note, and that goes for Girls Trip, as well. As is common, these days, the film adds some gravitas and seriousness to the proceedings as it progresses. That’s become a formulaic approach to the modern comedy and Girls Night does little to toss the convention on its ear, but it still allows the cast to put their versatility on display and give them a little more to sink their teeth into.
Regina Hall is the primary protagonist of the group, playing successful author Ryan Pierce. Pierce receives the lion’s share of the attention from the script and the most thorough and satisfying character arc of anyone in the film. Hall is endearing, charming, and invincibly likeable in the role and, even when Ryan makes some questionable and self-destructive choices, it’s tough not to feel for her and pull for her to come away from them a stronger person.
Her three friends – Sasha, Lisa, and Dina (Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tiffany Haddish, respectfully) serve dually as both support for Hall’s character as well sources of additional and various styles of laughs. My two favorites were Hall and Smith. I liked Latifah. But Haddish annoyed me from the first moment to the last. For many – and possibly even for most – she will be the best part of the film. For me, she was loud, boorish, and crass while being almost entirely without intelligence, wit, or charm. Part of the bothersome aspect was Haddish’s performance and part of it was her character’s development in the script. And that grapefruit moment I mentioned was all her, as well. She gets in a couple of decent lines, but I mostly just wanted her to go away.
The bottom line is that I didn’t unabashedly love Girls Trip, but it wasn’t without its merits, either. I did laugh periodically throughout the film and I specifically enjoyed watching Regina Hall deliver a performance that was surprisingly layered and complex – especially for this type of film. I don’t think there is enough story to justify the two-hour runtime (even the women to my right ran out of steam after about 90 minutes), but audiences seem to be enjoying it much more than I did and it’s performing very well at the box office. That’s a good thing. If you wanted to see it before, or if my description of the film suggests that’s it’s in your wheelhouse, then go check it out. Only good things can come from its continued success.
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