Mark Reviews Movies

Girls Trip

GIRLS TRIP

2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Malcolm D. Lee

Cast: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Larenz Tate, Mike Colter, Kate Walsh, Deborah Ayorinde, Kofi Siriboe, Lara Grice

MPAA Rating: R (for crude and sexual content throughout, pervasive language, brief graphic nudity, and drug material)

Running Time: 2:02

Release Date: 7/21/17


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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 20, 2017

One thing is for certain: Girls Trip should make a star of Tiffany Haddish, who plays Dina, the rowdiest, most vulgar, and funniest of the movie's quartet of friends. It's a role that easily could turn sour, but there's such joy in Haddish's performance that it's impossible not to find the character endearing, too.

Yes, she's crude and occasionally violent, even, but one gets the sense that there's no maliciousness behind any of it. She's fierce but mostly fiercely loyal—to her friends and, as problematic as they may sometimes be, her principles. Yes, she lunges at a man with a broken bottle, but the man did one of her best friends wrong. Yes, she throws some office equipment at a co-worker, but the guy did steal her lunch from the break room fridge. Is the response too much? It probably is, but the fact remains: Don't steal somebody's food.

It would be easy to talk almost exclusively about the character and the performance. It's kind of tempting, too, but the combination of the character of Dina and Haddish's performance is just a relatively small part of this movie. That might be why the character works as well as she does. It's just a shame the rest of the movie doesn't work as well as the character.

The other three characters are Ryan (Regina Hall), Sasha (Queen Latifah), and Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith). They've been friends since college, when they would stop an entire club from going about its business so that everyone could watch their dance moves on the floor. They called themselves the Flossy Posse.

Graduation came. Jobs were taken. Ryan married her college sweetheart Stewart (Mike Colter). Lisa married a man and had two kids, before the couple divorced. Sasha went from legitimate journalism to running a celebrity gossip blog. Through it all, Dina just kept being the same Dina who celebrates when she finds out her social disease is one of the curable ones.

Over the years, they've drifted apart because of family, work, little dramas between them, and fights that probably should have happened, just to get the bad stuff out in the open to work on it. Now, all these years later, Ryan is a successful author and public personality—"the second coming of Oprah," as someone puts it. She will be giving the keynote speech at a festival in New Orleans, the crew's old stomping grounds, and she decides it's the perfect opportunity for the Flossy Posse to reunite for a weekend of talking, drinking, and partying.

Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver's screenplay gives each of the women her own story. Well, Dina doesn't have one, because she doesn't need it. All of her drama is resolved in her first scene—being fired from her job but executing an intriguing strategy of pretending that she isn't being fired. She's mostly here for the occasional moral support and plenty of jokes.

That's a good thing, because the majority of the remaining characters are involved in some fairly standard-issue subplots that are taken with some seriousness. Ryan and Stewart's marriage is in trouble, entirely because he's a philanderer who's currently involved in an affair with a social media celebrity (played by Deborah Ayorinde). Sasha's business is in financial trouble: She's about to be evicted from her apartment, and a major advertiser plans to drop their sponsorship if she doesn't get a big story to get some eyes on the website this weekend. Lisa has so been busy with work and her kids that she hasn't had sex in the two years since her divorce. The other women—especially Dina—want that to change on this trip.

The tone shifts from comic to dramatic with a distinct sense of separation between the two (In other words, here's a joke scene, and here's a serious one). The comedy is mostly on the part of Dina, since Ryan and Sasha are too busy with their respective dramas. There is some amusing material involving Lisa, mainly a sequence involving a full bladder and a zip-line over Bourbon Street (a scene that Dina ultimately steals), as well as her dilemma about whether or not to sleep with a younger man (played by Kofi Siriboe). Dina once again takes over this subplot, with a scene in which she does unspeakable things with a grapefruit and a banana. While the movie tries to pay it off with another joke, the setup is far funnier than the punch line.

Have I mentioned how funny Haddish is here? She has an exit, which is interrupted multiple times by Dinah's forgetfulness, that's a simple but great display of comic timing.

In between the big shifts exists something of a nebulous party movie, with musical performances, plenty of cameos, and scenes of the women not doing much of anything but taking in the luxury of a VIP experience. Girls Trip tries to be so many things—a crass comedy, a look at the personal and professional difficulties women face, a behind-the-scenes look at a fancy event—that the movie never finds its footing. It could work as any one of these things (Relatively speaking, it excels in its comedy), but with all of these modes together, it's too jumbled.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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