Since “Bridesmaids,” it feels like we have been waiting for our next great female R-rated comedy. “Bad Moms” nearly went there, and reaped quite the box office fortune for coming close. Earlier this summer, we saw “Rough Night” fail to excite audiences. With a dearth of well-reviewed, successful R-rated comedies, people began to grow pessimistic about the sub-genre’s future. Enter in “Girls Trip” to fill that void. In fact, it does more than fill the void. Despite a generic title and a somewhat formulaic plot, “Girls Trip” emerges as the best raunchy comedy since “Bridesmaids.”
The logline is simple. Four lifelong friends reconvene after losing touch with an expensive trip to New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival. Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) has emerged as the second coming of Oprah. Together with her college sweetheart and former NFL player husband, Stewart (Mike Colter), they are about to launch their own talk show and sponsorship empire. To close the deal at Essence, Ryan invites her best friends so they can reconnect for a girls trip. Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is a divorcee with a huge heart who has settled in to Mom-mode with her two kids. Dina (Tiffany Haddish) continues to be the party queen that exists without a filter. Sasha (Queen Latifah) used to be close with Ryan, but things stalled when Ryan’s ambitions left journalist major Sasha in the dust. Currently she runs her own celebrity gossip blog.
First things first, Tiffany Haddish needs to clear her calendar. While the movie might not have the same fervor that “Bridesmaids” did back in 2011, Haddish outdoes Melissa McCarthy’s performance in nearly every arena. Her Dina is over the top, but not without a moral center or point of view. At the very base, she has at least five monologue level scenes that will leave audiences gasping for air both in shock and in laughter. Prepare to never look at grapefruits again. Even when the jokes may seem to blend together, Haddish manages to make every second unique, specific and utterly hilarious. This is a performer who clearly needs more work ASAP.
What makes this movie sing is the dynamics of the four women in the center. Each raise each other up in every moment. Jokes pile up like an expert jenga. Jada Pinkett Smith has never been more loose. She offers up a nice, detailed portrait of a woman torn between motherhood and her partying past. Queen Latifah has always been a warm and welcoming presence on screen. Here she plays more of a straight man to Haddish and Pinkett Smith. However, she makes the most of selling the emotional commitment of the Flossy Posse. Finally, Hall carries the film aplomb. She sells her character’s emotional dilemma without detracting from the R-rated antics at hand. Coupled with Haddish’s antics, this is a quartet that one wouldn’t want to miss.
Director Malcolm D. Lee is the mastermind of creating a sleeper hit. Both “The Best Man” and “The Best Man Holiday” blend comedy and drama in organic and surprisingly effective ways. Here, he stages some outrageous comedic set pieces that work wonderfully. Cuts throughout an absinthe induced night hilariously depict endless amounts of debauchery. Additionally, Lee allows for the movie to slow down on occasion for some quieter moments with the group. Dina in one scene urges the women to pray with her in order to give thanks for their friendship. It’s moments like this that give the movie substance on top of the laughs.
Sometimes going to the movies is all about a fun time. “Girls Trip” doesn’t pull too many surprises. However, it successfully avoids common pitfalls of deriving conflict by pitting female friends against each other. Instead, the focus of the film is how, as a group, these women make each other the best versions of themselves. It’s funny enough to be a great night out at the movies. However, for those looking for a little bit more, it offers just enough new to feel fresh on top of being hilarious. It will be hard for Hollywood to churn out a better raunchy R-rated comedy this year.