Most of us have that group of friends that we can connect with almost instantly. The shared bond is like a pilot light that stays light when they are not around, but turns into a full blaze when you reconnect. Girls Trip explores these bonds while providing enough comedic fuel to make sure the film spreads like a contagious wildfire of laughter.
With a group of writers consisting mostly of women and people of color (Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver, and Erica Rivinoja), Girls Trip was able to create an enjoyable trip without having to heavily rely on caricatures and stereotypes. The story itself takes the typical route most female friend reunion comedies take. We meet our characters and instantly see what they have in common only to be transported to the present and spend the rest of the film being convinced why they still are great friends despite their many differences. The biggest distinguishing factor in this film comes from the comedy writing, keeping the pace of the film even. At a little over 2 hours, the basic approach to the story could have easily crippled the audience with boredom but the continuous comedic punches and series of sight gags keep us laughing well into the more serious moments.
There is a minor disconnect in the film as it tries to juggle the uproarious humor with some emotionally-minded moments. Director Malcolm D. Lee is no stranger to trying to blend both tones, but Girls Trip proves to be trickier with how comedy heavy the film is. The emotional climax doesn’t have any weight in the film and instead feels like a necessary obstacle needed to be worked through until we get more jokes. There is very little build up to these moments, so when they do inevitably happen, we struggle to find the emotions the film wants us to experience. This is especially true of one specific scene in the film that is meant to be a religious revelation, but ends up feeling completely out of place with how little to no development went into the lead up to it, or even the follow through of it after. Just like an absinthe-induced hallucination, one minute it’s there and the next it’s gone, leaving you to wonder, “Did that really just happen?”
There are a number of cameos in the film, ranging from Morris Chestnut to Mariah Carey, and each help provide an added layer of entertainment. Malcolm D. Lee stylistically treats parts of the film like a music video, whether it’s a dance sequence with our protagonist or an intimate performance with Ne-Yo. The most effective of these scenes are the ones that combine both elements, having the cameos and actresses interact with each other, which usually takes the form of Dina (Tiffany Haddish) getting sexual with them. These serve as another great way to keep the film engaging, but in a few instances there is some kind of exposition going on also, and fans of the performing musical artists are likely to to tune this attempt at story and character development out in favor of watching the concert. Luckily, any scene Tiffany Haddish is in is impossible to tune out.
In every comedic ensemble, there is one person that is unafraid to take their character to the extreme, making them the most memorable part of the film. In Bridesmaids, it was Melissa McCarthy. In Pitch Perfect, it was Rebel Wilson. In any comedy, it’s usually Kate McKinnon if she’s in it. In Girls Trip, Tiffany Haddish is the undisputed MVP. Every character has a complementary actress (Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, and Jada Pinkett Smith) to give their roles life, but Haddish is personally responsible for the survival of the entire film. Her understanding of comedic timing and quick-fire humor keeps up consistently laughing as she delivers jokes and hilarious reactions in such quick succession that we are left gasping for air.
Behind the thick layers of gloriously vulgar comedy and forced sentimentality, there’s a message of black cultural identity being re-appropriated by other races and groups of people. The entire film centers around a festival that empowers an entire race, and the film has several empowering themes in it. One of the most important is female sexuality and the destigmatization of sexual exploration. Throughout the entire film, our protagonists talk openly about their sexuality and their sexual needs. Of course, much of the time it is used for some comedic effect, but that doesn’t make it any less empowering or important. We even see several leaders in their respective field briefly talk about important issues, such as Ava Duvernay talking about the “magical negro” trope in films.
Girls Trip may take us on a narratively familiar journey, but it more than makes up for it with comedic companionship and socially conscious, sexually liberated approach. So while some elements in the film are common, Tiffany Haddish makes this film shine with her comedic gold.