Perfecting the raunchy, randy, female-driven comedy can be a tall order. “Bridesmaids” showed it could be done, though such successes can be few and far between. “Girls Trip” proves to be the heir apparent to “Bridesmaids,” a film about female friendship that nails the comedy, the boldness and the heart. There’s no need for high concepts or outlandish premises here; all that’s necessary is four longtime best friends and a city built for sin.
“The Best Man” and “The Best Man Holiday” director Malcolm D. Lee directs “Girls Trip,” and he’s clearly a man comfortable navigating an ensemble project. “Black-ish” writer Kenya Barris co-wrote the script alongside three female writers, Karen McCullah, Tracy Oliver and Erica Rivinoja. That feminine voice and influence comes through loud and clear in the banter among the friend group knows as the “Flossy Posse” (they even have matching necklaces).
Author and Oprah-in-training Ryan (Regina Hall) has invited her girl crew along for a trip to Essence Fest in New Orleans, where she’s giving a keynote speech and taking meetings to launch her brand with her husband and business partner, Stewart (Mike Colter). Making up the Flossy Posse are Jada Pinkett Smith as worrywart mom Lisa, Queen Latifah as gossip blogger Sasha (yes, there is a great “Set It Off” reference), and rounding out the crew is lesser-known comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish, who runs away with “Girls Trip” in a breakout performance as the wildly funny, completely uncensored and often unhinged Dina.
In the party atmosphere of New Orleans, Ryan’s perfectly maintained image and composure starts to come loose at the seams, especially when the posse discovers photos of Stewart stepping out on her with a sultry Instagram model (Deborah Ayorinde). It’s not just the infidelity, but the threat to her business ventures that cause Ryan to sweep it under the rug. Meanwhile, Lisa’s trying to get her groove back with a college kid (Kofi Siriboe), Sasha’s finances are in shambles, and Dina’s just trying to avoid any more run-ins with hotel security.
All the women turn in funny performances — it’s great to see Pinkett Smith cut loose, and the charming and radiant Hall displays a faculty for physical comedy — but this is Haddish’s movie, and will make her a star. It’s clear from the moment she hits the screen, gleefully sharing her tips for smuggling contraband onto a plane, and the epic dance battle where she owns the floor clad in a skin-tight tie-dyed jumpsuit and purple wig cements the fact.
The hijinks of “Girls Trip” are of the brash, bawdy and boozy variety, replete with X-rated discussions about sex and anatomy. These are women who like to have fun with their sexuality, don’t take it too seriously, own it, and are unashamed about their desires.
“Girls Night” acknowledges that women contain multitudes and reflects that in its ability to balance potty humor with heartfelt female empowerment. These elements never clash because the characters are fully formed individuals, real people with real relationships and real problems. It’s a refreshing representation, but it doesn’t sacrifice the laughs or the genuine love they have for their gal pals. The girls of “Girls Trip” prove that women can be many things: powerful, naughty, gross, hilarious and sexy, while still lifting each other up.
Rated: R for crude and sexual content throughout, pervasive language, brief graphic nudity, and drug material. Starring: Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish, Queen Latifah. Director: Malcolm D. Lee. Running time: 122 minutes. Theaters: Edwards 21, Edwards 14, Edwards 12, Majestic 18.