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Girls Trip Review

Rating:

5.5 out of 10

Cast:

Regina Hall as Ryan
Jada Pinkett Smith as Lisa
Tiffany Haddish as Dina
Queen Latifah as Sasha
Larenz Tate as Julian
Mike Colter as Stuart
Kofi Siriboe as Malik
Kate Walsh as Elizabeth
Mariah Carey as Herself
Ne-Yo as Himself
Faith Evans as Herself
Morris Chestnut as Himself
Gabrielle Union as Herself
MC Lyte as Herself

Directed by Malcolm D. Lee

Girls Trip Review:

Girls Trip wants to be a shocking adventure of grown women unfettered by the roles society sticks on them, allowed to let go of all inhibitions and reveal a side of their lives we’ve never even guessed at. Except that we have, because Girls Trip is bringing up the rear in a line of films trying to do the same thing, up to and including the very recent and very similar Rough Night, and shock without surprise is not a recipe for laughter. It’s a recipe for boredom.

Ryan (Hall), a lifestyle guru and possible second coming of Oprah, was not always the supremely put together ‘I-can-have-it-all’ wonder woman she portrays on TV. In college, she and the rest of her Flossy Possy were a group of hard core partiers, and with her biggest TV deal ever in the offing, it’s time to reconvene the old group for a raucous celebration. Descending on New Orleans with gossip columnist Sasha (Latifah), single mom Lisa (Pinkett Smith) and professional pain in the butt Dina (Haddish), it’s not long before secrets are spilling everywhere and the Possy is left wondering if they knew themselves or each other as well they thought they did.

It’s the kind of setup director Lee, who cut his directing teeth on best friend/old family get-together dramedy like The Best Man and Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins, should be able to do with one hand behind his back and it frequently feels like he is. He certainly understands the dynamics of storytelling with an ensemble with a dedication to leaving no man behind that would make twenty-year marine sergeants jealous. And his cast is game, particularly Haddish and Pinkett Smith, who will do whatever they have to for a laugh. Haddish in particular is Girls Trip’s secret weapon, a dervish of bad judgment and loud opinions who carries most scenes away with her. She behaves more like a construct than a person — Dina will do whatever is needed to create the most conflict in a given scene whether it fits with her previous actions or not — but Haddish is all in on her complete lack of filter. Whenever Girls Trip does manage to find a good laugh, and there are more than a few, it’s usually from something Dina has said. It may be Ryan’s party but its Dina’s film.

But for as many jokes land, there are countless more which thud to the ground like they were made of lead. Not because they aren’t conceptually funny or even well delivered, but because Lee constantly up stages himself with telegraphed set-ups and punchlines which undercut any real teeth a joke could have. Worse than that, it turns the few moments of emotional catharsis into a sentimental load a Lifetime movie would be embarrassed to be stuck with.

Even if none of that were true (it is and that’s a problem, though it’s not the problem), Lee still can’t get away from the inertia he’s struggling against. The reality is Hollywood has been trying new iterations of ‘fast friends let hair down for a weekend of fun’ ever since The Hangover landed, and Girls Trip frequently comes across as just the latest. That’s not the fault of anyone making Girls Trip, but it is the world they live in and no one seems particularly interested in rocking that boat. It would require a really fresh take on the friend night out film and while there are more than a few positive words which could be said about Girls Trip, ‘fresh’ is not one of them.

Not as funny, surprising, shocking or heartfelt as it would like to be, Girls Trip is the latest in the new field of R-rated buddy vacation movies. It’s strange that has become essentially a genre in and of itself, but it’s all too believable how the newer films in the oeuvre are treating their forebears like a playbook rather than an inspiration. It’s not bad, but everyone involved can and has done better. No one should be satisfied with Girls Trip.