Movies

‘Girls Trip’ Is A Fun Romp That Rampages Through Naughty ’90s Nostalgia

It’s been two decades since college besties Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), Dina (Tiffany Haddish), Sasha (Queen Latifah) and Ryan (Regina Hall) — a.k.a. the “Flossy Posse” — slipped on their Salt N’ Pepa crayon-colored bombers and dominated the frathouse with their fly girl moves. Today, they — and we — deserve this madcap Girls Trip, even if Lisa, now a germophobic single mother-of-two, sets out for their reunion breaking TLC’s #1 fashion rule: no scrubs. “We ain’t going anywhere ’til you show some camel toe!” commands Dina. The dress code for their New Orleans weekend is skin-tight, one-shouldered, jewel-toned, and panty-free. Bourbon Street will see more of both ladies than either intended — which for wild Dina means things got really insane.

As for male scrubs, who cares? Director Malcolm D. Lee has constructed a showcase for his four comediennes, and since they’re not serious about love, neither is he. Dina discards men by the dozens, only forging a stable bond with the doctors who diagnose her chlamydia. Pinkett-Smith, so ripe and powerful in Magic Mike XXL, shrinks inside her five-foot-flat frame to play celibate Lisa like a husk thirsty for a splash of, um, male water. And Queen Latifah’s long been bored with onscreen hetero nonsense. Her struggling gossip columnist Sasha is only interested in a naked guy if he’s a celebrity whose paparazzi shots can help her make rent. In her sole sex scene, Latifah makes out with a lamp.

This shambling posse can’t keep pace with their perfect ringleader Ryan, a motivational speaker crowned the “Second Coming of Oprah.” After graduation, Ryan married her school sweetheart Stuart (Mike Colter), a handsome football star who slobbers over her in public. With her doting husband stuck to her side, Ryan’s conquered the talk show circuit peddling her smug guidebook, You Can Have It All.

Her title is a stretch. Ryan hasn’t seen her female friends in five years. The only lady in her life, red-headed agent Liz (Kate Walsh), clumsily cozies up to her client with slang she scoured from Urban Dictionary, forcing Ryan to issue a fatwa on Liz’s use of “preach” and “ratchet” and “hashtag black girl magic.” (If Liz looked up “flossy posse,” Urban Dictionary’s top definition is “a group of friends who all have perfect teeth.” True enough.) Ryan’s just so coolly unflappable that outsiders are desperate to copy her life, a schtick taken so far that when she nearly takes a sip of a flaming candle, Liz covers her lips in melted wax and claims it’s delicious.

Pinkett-Smith must be relieved she wasn’t cast as the wife who’s marriage is under tabloid scrutiny. She lives that life off-screen. But Regina Hall has fun with the part. She’s fantastic at walking the narrow line of playing a stiletto-wearing, good-intentioned goddess whom we’d love to watch break a heel. Hall’s mastered a self-satisfied giggle, which she squirts out enough to make Ryan obnoxious. When meeting with a blonde Walmart-eqsue marketing exec (Lara Grice) who thinks the Pierces could sell a fortune in sheets, she slides into the fake voice equivalent of a bubble bath: it’s soothing, but it makes your toes wrinkle. Still, when Ryan agrees to give the keystone speech at Essence Fest, a weekend of marketable femmepowerment and Doug E. Fresh concerts, if they fly in her gang for an all-expenses-paid fiesta, the girls are thrilled — and awkward about being urchins grateful for her largess.

Of course, Colter’s muscle-studded Stewart is too good to be true. You don’t get a free tequila shot for that guess when Girls Trip delivers every predictable beat from the de rigueur drug freak-out to the biohazardous stunt designed to prove girls can out-gross the boys. Each time the script wobbled into cliché, I cringed. The actresses are too talented to flail on hallucinogens. But they don’t think so — and thank God. They launch into idiocy with so much energy that even the dumbest scenes lift-off.

Bravado wins the day, especially for stand-up comic Tiffany Haddish, who rampages through the film aware that it’s her big Hollywood break. Haddish is the kind of weirdo that lights up the theater exit with wowed audiences pulling up her credits. (Her biggest to-date was as gangster Hi-C in in last spring’s Keanu.) Haddish’s Dina is the only character who doesn’t get, or need, an arc. She spends the whole film one beat away from bursting into flames. Haddish enters the movie attacking a male co-worker for stealing her lunch (the flick’s worst gag — there’s nothing funny about giving someone a goose egg for eating your Gogurt, and if you don’t believe me, flip the genders) and exits stealing the whole movie. You’re watching someone clue in the world that she’s a big star, a tingle so rare that I can list every time I’ve felt it, from Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover to Kate McKinnon in Ghostbusters. Haddish may have more range than both, though I’m rooting for McKinnon to get the showpiece she’s earned. In Girls Trip, Haddish leads the gang through her nightly prayer (“What? I’m not going to hell”) and then two minutes later molests a grapefruit with such gusto she’d be arrested in seven states.

Yet, all the women get their moments, some of the best of which Lee tucks into corners. After a spandex-clad fight sequence where the ladies are anything but superheroic, listen close to hear Latifah invent a new rap — “Bitch, Bitch, Bitch, Bitch” — and Pinkett Smith warble, “That’s misogynist.”

We had to hear the Queen spit rhymes, even lame ones, in a comedy that toasts ’90s nostalgia down to a concert clip of P. Diddy in a white suit spiraling his arm like Elvis. (His mumble-mouth hasn’t improved over the years.) When upstart Instagram models start a dance battle, millennial twerking can’t defeat classic moves from Janet Jackson and Missy Elliot. Girls Trip gives the Flossy Posse foursome a chance to prove they’re still at the top of their game. “Today is the last day that we will ever be this young,” declares Hall, a thought that might rattle you into spending your day doing something more edifying than watching her attack a sausage with a cleaver. But do you really want to?

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