Besides the missing apostrophe in its title, Malcolm D. Lee’s Girls Trip is also missing originality, wit, and class. In their place are predictability, trash talk, and raunch.
The Production: 3/5
Besides the missing apostrophe in its title, Malcolm D. Lee’s Girls Trip is also missing originality, wit, and class. In their place are predictability, trash talk, and raunch. That isn’t to say there aren’t funny moments spread throughout this overlong girls’ weekend-in-New Orleans raunchy romp, but it isn’t as consistently amusing as something like this should have been (it’s no female The Hangover though that was obviously the goal), and once the character dynamics get established, the movie follows its paint-by-numbers plot threads exactly the way one expects.
After being inseparable college pals in 1992, the self-named Flossy Posse has gone their separate ways in the intervening years: biographer Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall) has married a famous football player Stewart Pierce (Mike Colter) and established a husband-and-wife brand that’s about to go national with their own talk show and tons of endorsements; fellow writer Sasha Franklin (Queen Latifah) has drifted from hard-hitting Times reporter to an internet celebrity blogger on the verge of bankruptcy, Lisa Cooper (Jada Pinkett Smith) married and divorced and is now raising two kids as a single mother and a nurse, and wild gal Dina (Tiffany Haddish) bounces from one raucous encounter to the next oblivious to the chaos she instigates around her. Ryan decides to reunite with her college posse on an expenses-paid weekend in New Orleans when she’s selected to be the keynote speaker during Essence weekend celebrating black sisterhood. But old grievances and new betrayals intrude on their drunken, sex-filled weekend, and there is great doubt whether the posse’s loyalty to one another can withstand some startling revelations that the weekend brings.
The screenplay by Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver includes a mix of comic and dramatic interludes for the quartet of ladies: everything from Ryan’s husband’s affair with another woman (Deborah Ayorinde) who’s now pregnant to the friends trying to offer sisterly advice to one another in terms of their personal and professional lives. Along the way, there is much drinking and a couple of serious flirtations: Lisa finds herself pursued by a much younger man (Kofi Siriboe) while Ryan’s fidelity is tested when former friend Julian Stevens (Larenz Tate), now a bass guitarist for Ne-Yo, offers her the kind of male support and honesty that’s been missing in her marriage for far too long. Meanwhile, the girls get schooled by Dina in the art of grapefruitin’, the pedestrians along Bourbon Street are treated to a double dose of “golden showers,” the Flossy Posse engage in a dance-off with a rival crew containing Stewart’s pregnant girl friend, the quartet have a memorable encounter with absinthe (director Malcolm D. Lee’s most inspired sequence), and, of course, a girl fight breaks out in the middle of the House of Blues. There is also plenty of trash talk, one startling moment of full frontal male nudity, and a long list of cameo appearances including P. Diddy, Common, Ne-Yo, Mariah Carey, Faith Evans, Morris Chestnut, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, and Ava DuVernay.
There is believable chemistry between the four stars of the movie even if one must stretch one’s believability quotient to think they’d all be in the same college class together. Regina Hall’s Ryan Pierce serves as the film’s narrator, and her personal and professional story does become the “A” plot of the movie even if the actress spins her wheels for quite a long time while she weighs the balance of her hurt pride versus the lucrative monetary pie she’s about to be served. Meanwhile, Tiffany Haddish walks ferociously away with the movie with her explosive motormouth trash talk and her fearless way of saying or doing anything for a laugh. Queen Latifah tries to dig more deeply to find something fresh about the character she’s playing: a former promising journalist who must dip her toes in celebrity scandals now to pay the bills. Jada Pinkett Smith is the least interesting of the foursome and seems less invested in the weekend’s shenanigans than the other three ladies. Mike Colter makes an attractive scoundrel, and Larenz Tate is his polar opposite as a man genuinely interested in Ryan and not the riches associating with her might bring. Kate Walsh has some fun moments during the weekend as Ryan’s agent Elizabeth who tries to smooth over the rough patches and settle the stormy relationship seas which continually threaten to derail the big deal she has set up.
3D Rating: NA
The film has been framed at its theatrical ratio of 2.40:1 and is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is excellent throughout, and there is never a moment where things aren’t in focus and very detailed. Color is rich and fully saturated but never to the point of blooming with accurate and appealing skin tones. Black levels are very deep throughout as well. The movie has been divided into 20 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix places all of the dialogue in the center channel. The abundance of music from pop, rap, and New Orleans street music to the background score by David Newman gets the full surround treatment. Atmospheric effects aren’t always blended seamlessly into the fronts and rears but sometimes explode out of nowhere for a moment before receding.
Special Features: 3.5/5
Audio Commentary: director Malcolm D. Lee, bursting with pride about the film and his actors, contributes a pleasurable commentary track. Though with occasional silent spots, he generally finds anecdotes to share about his performers, some of whom he’s worked with on several occasions, and the crew whom he often singles out for praise.
Deleted Scenes (10:12, HD): seven scenes may be viewed together or separately and with or without director commentary on the reasons for their exclusion.
Gag Reel (25:17, HD): one of the longest outtake reels in recent memory
Planning the Trip (10:12, HD): director Malcolm D. Lee, producers Will Packer and James Lopez, choreographer Jamal Sims, and stars Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Larenz Tate, and Mike Colter talk about their enthusiasm for the project and their joy at how well the shoot went.
Outrageous Moments (5:35, HD): the director, the producers, and the stars mention specifically the movie’s three most memorable moments of raunch: the full frontal nudity scene, the zip line sequence, and the grapefruitin’ episode.
The Essence of NOLA (5:45, HD): the importance and difficulty of shooting in New Orleans during the actual Essence Music Festival weekend is discussed by director Malcolm Lee, producers Will Packer and James Lopez, and stars Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Larenz Tate, and Mike Colter.
“Because of You” (2:58, HD): an extended version of the song performed by Ne-Yo in the movie.
DVD/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.
Girl power in all its messy glory comes to the fore in Girls Trip, a comedy-drama in the same distaff lane as Bad Moms, Bridesmaids, and Rough Night. While the film runs too long and could have used some tightening with fresher writing and better focus in the dramatic moments, it’s undoubtedly funny and will likely please a lot of people.