Bridesmaids pretty much set the standard for the R-rated raunchy “girls misbehaving” comedy, and we have seen a lot of these female-centric versions of The Hangover. But subsequent films in this subgenre, like the recent Rough Night, Bad Sisters and even Sex And The City 2, have continually lowered the bar. And now we get to Girls Trip, an African-American variation on the girls behaving badly formula. But this is a dreary, offensive and largely unfunny comedy which, quite frankly, comes close to scraping the bottom of the barrel.
As with Rough Night, the basic plot centres on a group of female friends who were tight in college (20 years ago), who get together for a wild weekend. Known as the “flossy posse” they were known for their hard partying ways. Over the course of time though they drifted apart and haven’t seen each other for five years.
Ryan (played by Regina Hall) is now a successful author and self-help guru who supposedly has it all. She is married to Stewart (Mike Colter) a former football star; and is about to sign a lucrative deal to host her own nationally syndicated television talk show and book deal. She’s been asked to deliver the keynote address at the annual Essence Festival in New Orleans. So, for some reason she decides to get the flossy posse back together to share in her success.
Sasha (Queen Latifah) graduated with a degree in journalism but, strapped for cash, is now reduced to writing for a low rate gossip blog. She dishes the dirt on celebrities. Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is a conservative, straitlaced divorcee, a helicopter mum who tries to protect her two children. She plays it safe and leads an unadventurous life and has to be talked into going to New Orleans with her former friends. And Dina (Tiffany Haddish) is still the wild child, the sexually aggressive hard-partying type who hasn’t really changed her behaviour. She is unable to hold down a job because of her brash manner and a series of poor choices.
Once the quartet hits New Orleans the ladies cut loose. However, before too long old resentments, lingering tensions and new revelations threaten the friendship and test their bonds. Sasha learns the truth about Stewart, who has been cheating on Ryan with seductive and well-endowed Instagram model Simone (Deborah Ayinode). She has to choose whether to publish her scoop or remain silent out of loyalty to Ryan. Dina’s wild ways get them thrown out of a luxurious five-star hotel and they find temporary accommodations in a two-dollar hooker hotel. Cue plenty of drinking, brawling, crass sexual innuendo, and some frank dialogue – but little of it rings true.
Girls Trip has been written by a trio of writers, including Erica Rivinoja, who hails from a background in television and animated films; Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver (both worked on Barbershop: The Next Cut). Directed by Malcolm D Lee, better known for Scary Movie 5, Girls Trip gets the tone wrong from the start. As with Rough Night, I found it hard to believe that a successful character like Ryan would hang out with these losers by choice, especially at such a pivotal point in her career. This is fairly formulaic stuff, with plenty of the gross-out humour and crude dialogue we have seen before.
The main characters are an unlikeable bunch, and the time spent in their company is tiresome. At an overly generous 122-minutes, the film is way too long for what it wants to say. Although this ode to sisterhood delivers some positive messages about friendship, female bonding, the joys of being single in the 21st century, and staying true to yourself, we have to sit through nearly two hours of dreck to get there. The film also explores issues of race, class and gender politics.
There’s some surprisingly strong chemistry between the four leads though. Girls Trip reunites Latifah and Pinkett Smith twenty years after the both appeared in the heist thriller Set It Off. Hall delivers her usual solid performance here. Latifah always has a brash style and plenty of attitude, but here she often seems uncomfortable and doesn’t exactly bring her A-game. This is a breakout performance from Haddish, who delivers a volatile and scenery chewing performance as the unpredictable Dina, and she does bring some energy to the material, and virtually steals the film. There are also lots of star-studded cameos from celebrities playing themselves.
Girls Trip is a sub-Apatow like comedy, but it is largely unfunny, with too many flat spots and many supposedly humorous moments that are misjudged. The film features a tasteless sequence set on a flying fox over New Orleans’ famous Bourbon Street that sets a new low for this kind of comedy.
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Cast: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith
Release Date: 31 August 2017
Rating: MA 15+
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television