What a difference fleshed-out characters and a committed cast can make. This shouldn't really be news, but plenty of movies seem happy to overlook both — especially in the popular sub-genre that is the big night out comedy. "Who needs more than stereotypes when everyone's drinking, partying and acting like a lunatic?" appears to be the usual line of thinking. "And why bother with good performances when the script is a bundle of cliches?" The answer to both questions is on display in Girls Trip, a genuine and largely entertaining film that'll help wipe Rough Night and the recent Hangover sequels from your brain.
As certain as it's a fact that no good can come from drinking absinthe, Girls Trip follows a tried-and-tested path involving four friends, a raucous weekend away and a crazy amount of alcohol. It's not hard to predict what will happen as self-help guru Ryan (Regina Hall), gossip columnist Sasha (Queen Latifah), single mother Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and wild child Dina (Tiffany Haddish) head to New Orleans for the annual Essence festival. Once close college pals dubbed the Flossy Posse, they've lost touch of late, becoming caught up in their own lives and troubles. A lavish vacation and a let-loose attitude might be just what they need.
We're not going to reveal exactly what the gang gets up to, since that would spoil the fun. The point is, the details don't really matter. Viewers have seen most of it before and director Malcolm D. Lee knows it — although to their credit, writers Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver still find a few unique inclusions. Even so, Girls Trip is unmistakably the latest in the recent string of ladies-behaving-badly flick (think Bridesmaids, Bad Moms and Fun Mom Dinner), and it doesn't do much differently, plot-wise. If anything, one of the reasons that the movie stands out is because it isn't pretending to tell a new story. Rather, it's happy evoking laughs while also feeling authentic.
And it's that authenticity that's key. Plenty of the gags swing and miss, and some are downright cringeworthy. How much you'll chuckle in certain parts of the film might depend on your threshold for gross-out humour, while other scenes definitely overstay their welcome. Yet there's an energy and intimacy to Girls Trip that's inescapable. As silly, crude and debauched as the antics get, the warmth and joy surrounding the four protagonists continually sets the movie apart from its predecessors. These gals are written and played like real women who are actually friends, instead of bland female figures being humiliated to prove they're just as unruly as men.
Kudos, too, to Hall, Latifah, Pinkett Smith and Haddish. Depicting characters who not only seem like they want to hang out with each other, but that audiences want to spend time with, isn't as easy as it sounds. Doing it within a bawdy comedy is all the more difficult still. The quartet repeatedly hit the mark, with Pinkett Smith a particular delight as the tightly wound mum learning to be herself again, and Haddish not only stealing every scene she's in but putting her stamp all over the film. To say that her delivery of bedroom tips will stick with you is definitely an understatement.