Tiffany Haddish gives a breakout performance in consistently entertaining and celebratory slapstick comedy
GIRLS TRIP (Malcolm D. Lee) 122 minutes. Opens July 21. See listing. Rating: NNN
Rough Night, the comedy about white girls behaving badly, tanked badly last spring. No way Girls Trip, about a quartet of Black women ready to party for a weekend, will meet the same fate.
For one thing, it’s not dumb enough to throw in something ridiculous like an unplanned murder. It simply brings together four professional women at a Black-woman-positive convention in New Orleans 20 years after they were dorm roommates and lets them get down and dirty. For another, it takes previously unseen sexual risks.
Sasha (Queen Latifah) is a journalist-turned-blogger who’s sunk to celebrity gossip mongering, while Jada Pinkett Smith, nurse and single mother, hasn’t been laid in two years and Dina (Tiffany Haddish) is, well that’s never clear. But she’s the very funny, loose – in more ways than one – cannon who gets the group into the most trouble.
Team leader is convention keynote speaker Ryan (Regina Hall), a self-help guru on the way to Oprah status, who has reunited the group for a weekend of serious partying. Thanks to her very white agent Liz (Kate Walsh), who hilariously tries to ingratiate herself with her Black “sisters,” Ryan’s on the verge of signing a zillion dollar TV contract alongside her perfect husband, retired football star Stewart (Mike Colter).
Soon it’s clear that there are cracks in the marriage, which threaten the deal. A wild night, aided and abetted by a hallucinatory elixir (hence the pic’s punning title) triggers a series of comedic conflicts and friendships are tested.
But what sounds like a by-the-numbers comedy is also a gobsmackingly raunchy riot, thanks to Haddish, the least-known of the cast, who deploys terrific timing in what feels like a non-stop series of sexually explicit jokes. You will not believe what she can accomplish with a grapefruit and a banana. The whole thing makes Judd Apatow look like Mr. Rogers.
Underscoring the story line is a celebration of Black everything. Hence, an array of popular entertainers – including Sean Combs, Maxwell and Ma$e – appear at the convention concert and female icons like Terry McMillan, Ava DuVernay and Lorraine Toussaint have cameos.
Not that this pic doesn’t have its problems. The trippy night descends into a bar cat fight that will make your eyes roll – though the dance-off that precedes it is fun. The male roles are two-dimensional (some might appreciate the payback after all those years of female window-dressing in movies). And the whole thing is hopelessly heterosexual – which feels like a missed opportunity.
But Girls Trip is funny and consistently entertaining, with female-empowering sexual content that will take your breath away.