Director: Malcolm D. Lee
Stars: Regina Hall, Queen Latifah
3 (out of 5) Globes
Cinema history is littered with starmaking moments. The camera dollying up to John Wayne in “Stagecoach.” Tom Cruise sliding around in his tighty-whities in “Risky Business.” Julia Roberts singing Prince in a bathtub in “Pretty Woman.” In “Girls Trip,” it’s Tiffany Haddish giddily shrieking “It’s chlamydia, y’all!” like a high schooler who just found out they’re going to Harvard. The stand-up/actress isn’t a no-name; she regularly stole “The Carmichael Show” (RIP) as the epically unashamed Nekeisha. But Haddish starts off her new movie at a 10 and never dips below. It’s the kind of turn — like Michael Keaton in “Night Shift” or Jack Black in “High Fidelity” — that makes you want to see her in everything and wonder why she isn’t everywhere already.
Also like Keaton and Black, Haddish isn’t the lead. She’s one of the main foursome — besties since college who reunite in New Orleans after drifting ever so slightly apart, as friends tend to do as life wears on. There’s Regina Hall’s Ryan, a bestselling marriage guru whose perfect husband (Mike Coulter) is cheating on her with an Instagram star. There’s Queen Latifah’s Sasha, an esteemed journalist-turned-clickbait gossip monster. (This one hit close to home.) There’s Jada Pinkett Smith’s Lisa, a mousy divorcee. And there’s Haddish’s Dina, ready to coax them out of their grown-ass adult shells, bring them — and the movie — up (or down) to her level.
“Girls Trip” takes a while to get going, but Haddish always brings the pain. Once drink and unusually potent absinthe start flowing, her costars loosen up, throw caution and good taste to the wind. They’re not given much to do, and it’s barely a movie. But even lame set pieces — a fish-eye lens-heavy drug trip that wouldn’t pass muster in a bad ’60s counterculture movie; a long bout involving not one but two of our stars urinating on crowds; some sex business called “grapefruiting” (OK, this is pretty funny) — survive on the strength and dynamism of its foursome. Even a bit where Queen Latifah shtumps a lamp is something else.
Comparisons to “The Hangover,” “Bad Moms” and “Rough Night” will fly, but “Girls Trip” is better than any of them. After all, it knows what not to do. It doesn’t have much plot. It doesn’t have our heroes kill someone then ask us to pray they get away with murder. It doesn’t get too serious, though it is sincere without being saccharine. Each character’s storyline is stock, but you care about them anyway; the bittersweetness of their reunion helps ground a movie whose excess ad-libbing helps balloon it to super-sized Apatow-length. Ad-libbing is usually a lazy way to save a nothing movie, but these four are so on-point 122 minutes with them is almost not enough — and we don’t just mean Tiffany Haddish.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge