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"GIRLS TRIP"
(2017) (Regina Hall, Queen Latifah) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: Four college friends reunite in New Orleans to deal with their personal issues and get into all sorts of debauchery.
PLOT:
Ryan Pierce (REGINA HALL) is a successful author of self-help books married to a famous football player, Stewart (MIKE COLTER). But she misses her old college roommates, dubbed "The Flossy Posse," and engineers a reunion in New Orleans during a weekend festival honoring African-American women. Her friends include Sasha (QUEEN LATIFAH), a once-promising journalist who now runs a celebrity gossip website; Lisa (JADA PINKETT-SMITH), a divorcee with two young kids; and Dina (TIFFANY HADDISH), who's still an irrepressible party girl with a hot temper.

Through Sasha's sources in the paparazzi, the ladies quickly discover that Stewart is having an affair with a much younger woman named Simone (DEBORAH AYORINDE). Sasha debates whether to publish the incriminating photos, as she is behind on her bills, on the verge of eviction, and needs a big scoop. Meanwhile, Ryan flirts with an old college friend turned bass guitarist, Julian (LARENZ TATE); Lisa considers having a fling with a much younger man, Malik (KOFI SIRIBOE); and Dina discovers a love of absinthe.

But old jealousies and insecurities threaten the four women's relationship. Matters are brought to a boil when Ryan's agent, Elizabeth (KATE WALSH), puts together an extremely lucrative deal for Ryan and Stewart to host their own TV talk show -- as long as they continue to put forth the image of the perfect couple. The Flossy Posse urges Ryan to be true to herself and come clean to her fans.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
The new "Girls Trip" is the funniest movie of its kind since "Bridesmaids." This is the flick "Rough Night" wanted to be. And it really shows what an appealing cast, working with a smart script, and a good director can do in a subgenre of comedy that many feel has run dry. What is most impressive about the movie is its balance. The film balances raunchy, filthy, R-rated comedy with heartfelt female bonding drama as well as any movie you're likely to see come out of today's Hollywood.

The film follows four college friends now pushing 40. Regina Hall is Ryan, a best-selling author who has developed a brand by projecting herself as "the woman who has it all." Queen Latifah is Sasha, a journalist who runs a celebrity gossip website a la TMZ. Jada Pinkett-Smith is Lisa, a divorced mother of two very cute kids. And Tiffany Haddish is the free-spirited Dina, the one who can always be counted on for yelling things like "Let's get this party started!!!"

But all of them are lying to each other and to themselves as they embark on a getaway weekend together in New Orleans, where Ryan is to deliver the keynote address at the annual, three-day Essence gathering to celebrate African-American women. Ryan's football-star husband, Stewart (Mike Colter) has been cheating on her off and on for years, and she has been unable to get pregnant. Sasha's website isn't getting the hits it once did, and she's behind on all of her bills. Lisa hasn't been in a relationship for two years and is living with her mom. And Dina was just fired from her job.

There is some heavy stuff that each of the ladies is dealing with. But they deal with it all by getting into some truly funny and raucous situations in the Big Easy. In the middle of the film, director Malcolm D. Lee and screenwriters Kenya Barris and Karen McCullah hit the audience with three hilarious sequences in a row. I'll call them the Cooking Demonstration, the Absinthe Scene, and the Bar Fight -- and leave it at that. There is also a sequence in which Dina demonstrates an oral sex act called "grapefruiting" that is one of the most graphic (and most funny) things I've seen the MPAA allow in a flick. Seriously, you'll never be able to look at fresh fruit again the same way.

While all four leads are good in "Girls Trip," Haddish is the real standout. I wager that this movie will do for her what "Bridesmaids" did for Melissa McCarthy and what "The Hangover" did for Zach Galifianakis. More actors and actresses will become daring with citrus on the big screen after this flick.

I will say the film runs a bit long. It's actually 15 minutes longer than "Dunkirk!" Hey, it's not Apatow long. And, in this case, the longer running time does ultimately help make the final resolutions feel not so rushed. Those closing bonding moments you know are coming feel earned in this case. I expect a new comedy franchise has been born, and I look forward to trippin' again with these girls in a couple of years' time. This rates a 7 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed July 18, 2017 / Posted July 21, 2017


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