2017 | rated R | starring Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah, Tiffany Haddish, Mike Colter, Kate Walsh | directed by Malcolm D. Lee | 2hrs 2mins |

Studio Pitch: 4 college friends who have drifted apart by life re-kindle their friendship and bring out the best in each other during a girls trip.

Sometimes the celebrity press latches onto someone and shoves them down our throat. I’ve spent the last year hearing about what a brilliant comic voice Tiffany Haddish was – mostly based on her performance in Girls Trip. After sitting down with the movie it’s easy to see why – here Haddish occupies the very showy role of the sex-crazed life-living partier that everyone loves in these movies. The Wild Card. She’s the free-spirited firecracker compared to the rest of the characters shackled with real world responsibilities and dramas. In party comedy terms she’s no Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover but a whole lot better than Jillian Bell in Rough Night. When she grabs a bottle, immediately smashes it and puts it to a guy’s throat – and it’s a wine bottle instead of a beer bottle – it’s the best and most irreverent bit in a movie that’s otherwise pretty by-the-numbers.

Regina Hall is our straight-man of the foursome, Ryan, a Rachael Ray-type, posed to be the next Oprah with her on-and-off-screen husband (Mike Colter) so she needs to keep a low profile during the roucus girl’s week. The rest of the foursome includes gossip columnist Sasha (Queen Latifah), straight-laced mom Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith) and resident party girl and recently fired-though-it-hasn’t-slowed-her-down Dina (Haddish). College friends separated by life duties, the Flossy Posse all come back together for a weekend in New Orleans for the Essence Festival. Girls Trip doesn’t do anything new, but it’s a watchable, reasonably well built buddy comedy.

Often these studio comedies trade in dumb and broad, Girls Trip isn’t dumb comedy, but it is broad. Very broad. This is a movie where Pinkett Smith shows us how her character is out of the dating game by telling guys about her dropped uterus or drinking placenta milkshakes. Or where Haddish recreates the infamous Youtube “Grapefruiting” video. The movie shifts gears between a few modes: hard R-rated gross-out comedy, sweet female friendship film and thread through the middle of it like a skunk at the garden party is a Tyler Perry-esque domestic melodrama. An over-the-top zip-line urination sequence that makes a hard pitch toward gross-out movie immortality sits in the middle of this movie and a few minutes later Dina is given an interesting, kind of sweet, spiritual turn for her character, then a few minutes later the girls are tripping out on absinthe (EuroTrip style). A good portion of Girls Trip plays a bit like a New Orleans travelogue. Like a 90s sitcom where the whole cast goes to Hawaii for an episode and it seemed like a paid vacation, there are big portions of this movie where we just watch the Essense Festival or the New Orleans festivities. Common, P. Diddy, Maria Carey and several others perform on stage as themselves.

For better or worse, Girls Trip is a faithful version of the Judd Apatow R-rated comedy that is oh so trendy right down to the solid 2 hour running time. As it starts to wheeze into the climax we get a friend group make-up-to-break-up and, worse, hijinks get pushed to the side and the whole thing is overtaken by a storyline where Colter’s cheating husband forces Hall to choose between taking him back yet again or finally stand up for herself. It’s a public reckoning right out of a Madea movie. None of this ever reaches a cringe-inducing level, the cast and their chemistry works to keep it all a float, but the material doesn’t quite pop or deliver new spins on these archetypes.