“Girls Trip” is the comedy that has been missing all season. It’s two hours long, which is pushing it, but it keeps the laughs coming from beginning to end.
It’s a story of friendship and of dreams lost and found, but with pockets of harsh, outrageous humor. It depicts characters and relationships we end up caring about, even as it provides more than a handful of sidesplitting moments.
It’s very much a modern comedy, though, in the coarse modern style, so if you don’t like untoward language or sex jokes, don’t torment yourself. This one isn’t for you.
The story unites four friends coming together for a long, boisterous weekend in New Orleans. At the center of the action is Regina Hall as Ryan, a best-selling author of self-help books telling women they can have it all. She is married to a telegenic former athlete, and they’re on the verge of signing a lucrative talk-show deal. But the marriage is strained, at best, and she’s holding her life together through sheer force of will. With Hall, we believe both the strain and the will. There’s a lot going on in that performance.
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We also believe in the friendship of the four women. Best of friends in college, they rarely see one another, but when Ryan is asked to make a speech at the Essence Music Festival, they have an excuse to get together. Jada Pinkett Smith plays Lisa, a physician still not fully recovered from a recent divorce who is living with her mother. Queen Latifah is Sasha, a once-serious journalist now writing a scandal-sheet blog. And Tiffany Haddish plays Dina, the wild woman of the group, who is at the center of most of the movie’s comedy.
Like “Bridesmaids,” big-laugh comic set pieces are surefire, and they don’t stop coming. Haddish demonstrates a sexual technique involving a grapefruit that will have audiences howling. There’s also a winning bit about a drunk old guy confusing the women for prostitutes. And something else about them all having absinthe hallucinations in a nightclub. Haddish is particularly funny, a comic actress who holds nothing back.
Yet even with all that comic invention, “Girls Trip” could not sustain itself were it not grounded in its human relationships. Director Malcolm D. Lee and the screenwriters (including Kenya Barris of TV’s “Black-ish”) invest in these women, and Hall is especially good at conveying a woman at the crossroads, having to choose between two difficult directions. Larenz Tate also brings nice, understated feeling to his role as a musician friend who has known all four women since college.
“Girls Trip,” in the end, makes an obvious play for the heartstrings, but what it says about the value of friendships forged early in life is all true. For the most part, “Girls Trip” balances sincere sentiment and boisterous comedy with honesty and skill, and for people who like their comedy a little nasty, this one’s a blast.
Rated R for crude and sexual content throughout, pervasive language, brief graphic nudity, drug material.