Four college friends reunite to party for a weekend, and there are unexpected consequences. It is a premise not unlike another Summer 2017 film: Rough Night. Only, in Girls Trip there is no dead body, and there is a much more conventional narrative.
Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) and her husband (Mike Colter) have made a brand name out of their marriage. They are traveling to the Essence Festival in New Orleans in order to seal a sponsorship deal that could open doors to more money, more fame, and maybe a talk show. Ryan is on her way to becoming the next Oprah.
Along for the ride in New Orleans are Ryan’s old business partner Sasha (Queen Latifah) and their two friends, one of whom has become a single mother (Jada Pinkett Smith) and the other has never fully grown up from her college self (Tiffany Haddish).
Contained within this short synopsis is every point of character tension that the film has to offer. Ryan’s relationship with her husband is strained, but she feels pressured to remain in order to keep her career afloat. Ryan and Sasha clash over their past, and neither can fully trust the other as a result. And the characters of Smith and Haddish never fully see eye to eye on how to enjoy their weekend.
In terms of marketing, Girls Trip seems to hit its audience. The film is made to appeal to this audience, and it does so admirably. Even viewing the film from outside of this audience market, there are plenty of jokes in the film that work, as needlessly raunchy as they are.
That is, the jokes work when they are not drowned out by noise. Multiple scenes end in a breakdown of articulation, the characters yelling over each other so that no one-off joke can be heard. Even in scenes that don’t end in this fashion, the four leads often end up yelling crude things and laughing at their own jokes.
The film isn’t going for subtlety. But when it works it works.
Beyond the comedy, Girls Trip works on a story that is not trying to be novel. While this is justifiable to a point, the film plods along into another act seemingly after the film has reached a natural conclusion. At two hours, the film feels like it is padding out a runtime when it could have easily sufficed at 90 minutes. This final act, as well as much of the middle “fun and games” portion, don’t do any favors to the pacing.
By and large, though, the film does exactly what it needs to satisfy the audience that it wants. It is by no means the laziest comedy of 2017, and actually succeeds with gags that would feel cringe-worthy in another movie. And the energy that the four leads, particularly Haddish, bring to the film give it something worth sticking around for.
Even if the film sinks into juvenile gags and outdated references (I mean, how relevant is the “Grapefruit your Man” video at this point).
The four women in the friendship roles really are the driving force of the movie, and the film takes pains to make this friendship seems genuine and non-cliche. Narrative beats at the end make it impossible for these characters to avoid such cliches, but for the most part what we get is an ensemble that is worth rooting for.
Even if one half of this ensemble pees all over a street full of people in one, unnecessary sequence.
Perhaps you can see the pattern here. The film starts off moving toward a successful end, then it gets blocked by some sour gag or cliche narrative beat. In this way, it moves in fits and starts through its runtime, never truly amounting to anything that will be memorable come next week.
Girls Trip: C+
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)