I didn’t know what to expect from Girls Trip going in; I really liked the last two films from Malcolm Lee (sequels to Barbershop and The Best Man), but both were somewhat conservative in their comedic approaches. There’s nothing conservative about Girls Trip, however. It out-raunches the raunchiest of Apatow’s comedies, and it manages in the end to deliver just as much, if not more heart (as the only dude in the audience of my screening, I found myself fighting back tears during the rousing climactic speech).
There’s not anything particularly original or novel about Girls Trip — it’s about four long-time friends from college who now have disparate lives, who get together for a weekend of debauchery in New Orleans — but there’s so much chemistry between the cast and so much enthusiasm in their approach to the material that they manage to sell a lot of jokes that wouldn’t otherwise work in a typical gross-out comedy. There are a few moments, in fact, that elicit uncontrollable laughter that have nothing to do with the script and everything to do with the performances of these four women who manage to sell nearly every single joke.
Girls Trip centers on Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall), a self-help guru who — along with her husband, Stewart (Mike Colter) — “has it all,” the perfect marriage and the successful career. Ahead of an announcement that Ryan and Stewart are about to get their own talk show, Ryan decides to get her old friends together for a big weekend in New Orleans. There’s Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), a Type A mom with control issues; Sasha (Queen Latifah), a journalist struggling to keep her gossip website afloat; and Dina (Tiffany Haddish), a career screw-up whose primarily role in life seems to be playing the life of the party. Of course, Ryan’s marriage isn’t as perfect as the public thinks; her husband is cheating on her with an Instagram model, and she has to keep the perception of her perfect life intact even as her marriage has transformed into a business partnership. That’s where her friends come in to provide support and alcohol.
It’s a fairly basic set up, but Dear God, the way these characters fill in the spaces is ungodly funny. Jada Pinkett Smith is a huge surprise here, if only because her character is so at odds with what we think of Pinkett-Smith. She gets involved with a guy half her age with a giant dick and extracts more laughs out of that scenario than you might imagine. There’s also a scene where she straight-up urinates all over a New Orleans’ crowd from a zip line that will put audiences in stitches.
The MVP of Girls Trip, however, is Tiffany Haddish (who went viral last week with a story she told about Will and Jada on Jimmy Kimmel). This should be a huge break-out role for her, and she is so insanely funny that she’ll send you into a rabbit hole of YouTube videos from her stand-up routines after the movie. If there’s any justice in this world, she should be the next Jennifer Lawrence or Amy Schumer, and she and Deon Cole should be the new faces of romantic comedies.
There have been a couple of high-profile comedic failures from female casts in 2017 (Rough Night and Snatched), but both of those films thought they could succeed merely by hiring funny women and putting them in the same room. I mean, I love Kate McKinnon, but there’s no actress who’s called upon more right now to manufacture comedy out of nothing than McKinnon, as if the director is saying, “Do a funny accent and just be funny,” without providing her with proper material to support her performances. Girls Trip puts the cast in situations ripe for comedy — a 10-minute sequence involving absinthe, hallucinations, and Queen Latifah fucking a lamp is the funniest sequence of 2017 — and they take full advantage, elevating material with hilarious (and often filthy) performances without needing to manufacture it from thin air. Girls Night is wild, and wildly fun, and while all the character tropes are familiar, Hall, Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah and Tiffany Haddish manage through chemistry and will to make them feel new and fresh and in the end, still sell a heart-warming and crowd-pleasing finale that makes it the funniest, raunchiest comedy I’ve seen in a very long time.