On the heels of the tonally disjointed girls gone wild movie Rough Night, here comes director Malcolm D. Lee’s offering, Girls Trip, his take on this kind of adult comedy. He’s seeking to match the outrageous escapades of The Hangover franchise blow for blow. He’s a surprising choice, when you consider that his filmography features polished black comedies like The Best Man and its Holiday sequel, the groovy nostalgia of Roll Bounce, and the easy uplift of Barbershop: The Next Cut. Who knew he even had an interest in such low-hanging and free-swinging fare?
In some ways, Lee seems like a kindred spirit to Ryan Pierce (Regina Hall), the Alpha girl in this quartet of college friends (Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and newcomer Tiffany Haddish) who gather together at the annual Essence Festival, after years apart, to get their freak on like they used to, before adult concerns came to dominate their lives. Ryan and her caddish husband Stewart (Luke Cage’s Mike Colter) are trying to sell themselves as the perfect power couple, so that they can snag a lucrative multimedia deal, while the other girls try to watch Ryan’s back – in between freak show episodes that include hallucinogenic drugs, golden showers, and dangerous new sex acts involving, of all foods, grapefruit.
While the character types on display and the hints of morality that sneak into the mix will be overly familiar to any moviegoer who has checked out a Tyler Perry-branded title recently, Lee and his winning leading ladies unnerve and upset our expectations by embracing the wild and trashy excesses of the genre. This Trip is an all-out celebration of the liberation of black female characters from the righteous fury and sexless piety of the most common presentations. Lee obviously doesn’t see anything wrong with bumping up against the norms and knocking over the pedestal. Girls Trip proves that these girls, especially the devilishly daring Haddish (who shows a game willingness to try anything), definitely want to have fun, and they are wiling to go harder than the fellas. (Opens wide Friday) (R) Grade: B