Release Date: July 21, 2017
Director: Malcolm D. Lee
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 122 minutes
The comedy genre is in a crisis in Hollywood. Since the emergence of the Judd Apatow brand of improv-focused comedies, it feels as though the ability to write a tight, 90-minute comedy script has been lost. Rather, producers will gather a bunch of talented comedy actors together with a barebones script that’s filled with moments to insert whatever gag feels appropriate at the time of shooting.
Characters aren’t well developed; tone isn’t established or maintained; and pacing is inconsistent. On top of all of that, these movies are all in the 110-to-130-minute range with plenty of fat needing to be trimmed. Girls Trip manages to succeed despite many of these issues because the actors were able to rise above the material, rather than the material being outstanding in any way.
Like many a great group comedy film, Girls Trip opens with our heroes coming back together for a reunion trip where they’re going to relive their glory days. Ryan (Regina King) is an Oprah-esque, self-help celebrity on her way to a major brand deal with a department store; Sasha (Queen Latifah) is a washed-up celebrity gossip journalist on the brink of bankruptcy; Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) is a single mother who hasn’t gotten laid since her divorce two years prior; Dina (Tiffany Haddish) doesn’t really have a backstory, but she’s hilarious so that slips your mind.
The four women have excellent chemistry together, and it is only thanks to the actors that the plotting doesn’t fall apart. Each character (except for Dina) expresses growth that you would expect in those over the age of 40. The relationships feel lived in, and when hot tempers flare, you see how long-held annoyances grow into full-on insults.
But while these relationships flourish, the comedy unfortunately falls flat. I’m glad to report that the funniest moments were not resigned to the trailer. In fact, those funny moments in the trailer generally have funnier conclusions in the actual movie. The film just didn’t bring enough laughs to enter the realm of iconic comedy films.
So often the film would go from scene to scene without any jokes, and you could feel the energy in the theater deflate. And what makes this all the more disappointing is that so many of the film’s best moments were scripted. Writers Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver have comedic chops, and with one or two more trips to the writers’ room, this film could have really popped.
Unfortunately, the film as is will be relegated to the land of the forgotten gems on Netflix. One of these days Hollywood will take notice that the greatest comedies of all time were great because of their scripts. Girls Trip succeeds thanks to fantastic performances from its stars, but I can’t help but wonder what we could have had.