The early moments of Girls Trip
did not give me hope, as they seemed eerily similar to the set up of last month's "girls gone wild" stinker, Rough Night
. Again, we have a group of women who were best friends in college but have since gone their separate ways reuniting for a vacation to some party city (Miami in the earlier film, New Orleans here) for a lot of sex, alcohol and bad choices. But whereas Rough Night
quickly descended into a painfully stupid plot about the friends trying to cover up the death of a dead stripper, Girls Trip
manages to stay bright and upbeat, and actually provides a few laugh out loud moments.
Credit goes to director Malcolm D. Lee, for not only rounding up a wonderful and charming group of leading ladies which include Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Tiffany Haddish, but for giving them real characters to play here. They're not just one-line spewing clones being dragged through an idiotic plot. We're allowed to grow attached and care about these women, because the movie gives them plenty of opportunities to explore their individual characters and their friendships with one another. We buy the relationship they share, because they act and talk like real women who have known each other for over 20 years. Is the plot contrived, and cliched as all get out? You bet! But these leading women give the film charm, energy and charisma to burn. Even if what's happening to them isn't that fresh or new, we're happy to be along for the ride because of them.
As the film opens, we're introduced to the four individual friends, who were once college roommates, but have since drifted apart and gone their separate ways, until fate brings them back together. Ryan (Hall) is a self-help author who is pegged to be "the next Oprah", and is trying to balance her successful and wealthy career with being married to former NFL star Stewart (Mike Colter from the Netflix Luke Cage
series). They have the image of a perfect relationship, but Ryan is having a hard time keeping that image intact as of late. She's been invited to speak at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, and decides to use this as an opportunity to reunite with her old sorority sisters, whom she has not seen in years, and invites them to come along as guests.
The girls (who used to call themselves the "Flossy Posse") each have their own lives and problems when they reunite. Sasha (Latifah) dreamed of being a serious journalist, but now runs a struggling blog that centers on celebrity gossip. Lisa (Pinkett-Smith) is a meek single mother whose life is so devoted to raising her two young kids that she's forgotten about everything else in life. Finally, there is Dina (Haddish), the wild-card of the group who gets all the best lines, and is probably set to make Haddish a genuine comic star, the same way Melissa McCarthy became a box office draw with her role in Bridesmaids
. Dina is the sort who never grew up, and has a violent hair-trigger temper. It's amazing how easy it would be for the character to become annoying or unlikable, but screenwriters Kenya Barris and Karen McCullah Lutz know just how to use her character at just the right time. It also helps that Haddish comes across as a genuine comic talent here who is willing to try just about anything for a laugh, including demonstrating a sexual act with a grapefruit that will likely be one of the most talked about moments of the summer movie season.
The ladies join together for a wild weekend in the city, and there is the expected drinking, partying, and patching up of old wounds that have kept these women from seeing each other for so long. Like I said, Girls Trip
holds no real surprises in its story. What it does have are the likable presence of its lead stars, as well as a genuine warmth that we haven't seen in a lot of recent "adult" comedies. And for once, the sentimental moments feel earned rather than shoehorned in. The big difference that makes it work is that we like these women when they are being crude and funny, as well as when they are opening up to each other. There's nothing all that sophisticated here, we just like seeing these talented actresses working together and playing off each other.
This may not be one of the better movies of the summer, but it is one of the more pleasantly surprising ones. Just like the character of Dina, this is a movie that could have easily been crude and obnoxious. However, it never lets its raunchy humor overtake the genuine sweetness at the film's core. Girls Trip
is just simply likable.