It's been six years now since Bridesmaids was released, and enough time has passed to make it clear that it paved the way for many undeniably similar films that will forever be compared to it. In fact, we may even be in Peak Bridesmaids Effect: this summer has yielded not one, but two crass comedies featuring ensemble female casts. Could it be that studio executives are finally admitting to themselves that there really are audiences for these movies?
The two movies in question do have a bit of a racial disparity. The first one, Rough Night, was released in June and had a mostly white cast (with the exception of Zoë Kravitz). It was poorly reviewed and so I never bothered to see it. I was convinced to see Girls Trip, which features four middle-aged black women friends taking their first trip together in five years, because the critical consensus was far more positive.
A bit more positive than my personal review will be, to be honest -- but, to be fair, only a bit. I found Girls Trip to be disappointingly contrived and often unnecessarily hokey. As always with a movie like this, it could be argued that the only sensible response to such a statement is: so what? This movie made me laugh, and I had fun. I was occasionally embarrassed for its stars, in its many cornier moments, but the long term impact of these moments was minor.
Presumably all four of the principal characters are in their mid-forties; three of them -- Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah -- are played by actors ranging in age from 45 to 47. The clear breakout star of Girls Trip, Tiffany Haddish, on the other hand, is 37. Was her character a child prodigy ten years ahead of her peers when all these women were in college together? I suppose I'm nitpicking now. Technically even at 37 that's middle-aged.
They certainly all four have great chemistry together. And while Pinkett Smith, Hall and Latifah are all lovely and give their characters plenty of dimension, Haddish is funnier than the other three put together. If there is any one reason to see this movie, it's her. Her energy bursts off the screen.
These movies do seem to feel obliged to have at least one gross-out scene played for laughs. There's no shitting in the streets -- but there is peeing, from a suspended position over a French Quarter street in New Orleans, with an encore! I saw this movie by myself and kind of wished I had gone with a woman friend so I could ask: would the pee really spray that wide, if pushed through pants? Inquiring minds want to know.
It's the kind of scene about which it's easy to have mixed feelings, a set piece clearly intended to give the film some level of notoriety. It did make me laugh. The humor throughout the rest of the film, coming from a more authentic place, is far more satisfying. It's worth noting that this was directed by a man, Malcolm D. Lee, and he seems to be fully on board with celebrating black women with fully realized sexuality, while simultaneously telling a story that stresses the importance of true friendship. Girls Trip does come close to getting treacly, but it never quite crosses that line.
It's easy to believe these four women are longtime friends, who mean the world to each other but also harbor longtime and specific resentments. Any middle-aged person, regardless of gender or race, can relate. This movie's circumstances are specific, if somewhat contrived, but its themes are universal. You could do worse than spend a couple of hours hanging out with these ladies.