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In the past couple of years, the female-based ensemble comedy has evolved into a different animal than it used to be known as. Films like Bridesmaids and Rough Night proved that in spades, and Girls Trip is looking to join those ranks as a laugh-out-loud comedy that just happens to feature a group of female protagonists. Thankfully, director Malcolm D. Lee's latest film does not disappoint, delivering a hilariously touching, if not uneven, movie experience.
Ryan (Regina Hall) is about to have it all: the perfect husband (Mike Colter), a multimedia empire, and a hell of a product endorsement deal with a big box chain store. But she's missing something she hasn't had in five years: a reunion with her closest friends from college (Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Queen Latifah). That's about to change, as the girls are about to head to the Essence Festival in New Orleans, aiming to have one hell of a weekend, while making sure Ryan gets to her keynote speech in one, sober piece.
Admittedly, Girls Trip takes a little while to start, with the first act showing most of the film's cliched material in its introduction of the friends. We're introduced to our core friend, and her assortment of friends that range from prudish to over the top wild; as well as given their backstories and a healthy set of quirks to each. Yet even as Girls Trip stumbles early on, the film has an energy that's undeniable, eventually winning audience members over with a theme of friendship that's well built in the context of the film.
You can believe that these four women are the best of friends, which is something that's not always easy or focused on in a comedy of this type. Their comfort with each other only helps push the jokes they tell that much better, with Tiffany Haddish's Dina standing out as the most outrageous, and the funniest, character of the bunch. But even with a standout in the crowd, Girls Trip doesn't let one character overshadow the rest, as the film jumps between each of its leads and highlights their struggles and their charm. Each protagonist has a clear problem, some crazy antics that deal with trying to solve it, and an ultimate resolution through the film's slower, but more emotional, third act.
Sadly, this positive aspect comes at a cost, as the film's pacing suffers because of it. With the second act of Girls Trip revving its motor, and delivering the majority of the laughs, a momentum builds and sustains throughout that section of the film. But when a subplot involving Ryan's marriage, and some less than perfect developments, starts to take center stage, the tempo of the film takes a hit for the worse. At this point, we've already seen a killer dance off, a zipline scene containing a hell of a gross out gag, and some rather kinky suggestions on what to do with a grapefruit. So when the marital strife starts to rear its head again, it feels like the brakes are being slammed.
It's not that the more serious side of Girls Trip is underwritten. Quite the contrary, as the developments that close the film add a beautifully touching undercurrent to these friends we've seen raising hell all over New Orleans. The only problem is that those elements don't feel properly mixed into the film's overall chemistry, leaving a less than smooth transition into the film's final thoughts. But that problem aside, the guys / friends / family members that are being "dragged" to Girls Trip are more than likely going to have a fun time, because of the film's legitimate hilarity.
While there's still plenty of time-worn clichés in Girls Trip, there's a genuine sense of friendship, and comedy throughout, that make the film one of this summer's most surprising comedies. Those of you expecting the standard "chick flick" are going to be met with quite a shock, as this movie plays itself like any friend based comedy starring a pack of guys. Do yourself a favor, and see this one in a crowd, as fun will be had by all.