We’ve seen an awful lot of ‘girl power’ comedies these past few years from Rough Night to Bridesmaids to Bad Moms with not a lot of variety in between. A lot of movies have followed this formula over the years to a tee but it takes a little something extra to stick out from the pack. This film mostly pulls that off with an all-star cast and characters that don’t feel like carbon copies from some of the lesser films from this sub-genre.
Regina Hall is successful novelist Ryan Pierce in Malcolm D. Lee’s new comedy about the value of friendship and girls that stick together. After Ryan decides to reunite with her girlfriends – gossip columnist Sasha (Queen Latifah), free-spirited Dina (Tiffany Haddish) and pent-up divorcee Lisa (Jada Pinkett) – they head to New Orleans for Ryan’s keynote speech with her husband and discover that he’s been cheating on her. The only problem is that she’s known this whole time and is just continuing on with her trip because this “celebrity marriage” is basically just a business partnership at this time. What follows are a string of comedic set pieces and some surprisingly somber dramatic scenes with well-defined characters.
The most surprising aspect of the movie is that not only is it funny but the dramatic aspects of the film are also done especially well for a film of this ilk. The movie operates under the guise of a breezy romantic comedy but it always feels like there’s more substance than just that. It also may be due to director Malcolm D. Lee who has done outlandish silly films like Undercover Brother but also highly dramatic works like The Best Man. The dynamic between the four leading ladies sure helps a great deal as well with the relationships feeling very genuine rather than fabricated for the sake of whoever the producer wanted to cast in the film.
As much as I don’t usually care for Queen Latifah, she certainly held her own here and did her fair share of dramatic heavy lifting. She has a very emotionally conflicting role and pulls it off very well, doing more of that than outright comedic bits. Regina Hall is a strong leading lady in that regard as well, which also surprised me because I’m so used to seeing her as the goofy Brenda in the Scary Movie franchise. Jada Pinkett as the pent-up friend was quite good and she acted as the de facto mother of the group, which lent well to their dynamic. Finally, the real revelation here was Tiffany Haddish as the sexually liberated Dina, who we are introduced to in a sexual health clinic happily proclaiming that she has chlamydia because “it’s treatable!” She is very funny and definitely the Id of the group, loudly exclaiming anything that’s on her mind and confronting people at will. Haddish was also pretty funny in last year’s Keanu but here she gets to stretch her goofy comedy muscles and display some range.
Despite the tremendous amount of effective drama though, there are some great comedic set pieces as well. By now, everyone has seen the scene from the trailer where the girls are propelled between two buildings and end up urinating all over a crowd of onlookers. That stuck out to me in the trailer as one of those dumb gross-out bits in a dumb comedy and honestly while it was one of the lesser bits, it was still completely fine and didn’t take away from the movie. Most of the film’s humour doesn’t come from long set pieces but there is no shortage of funny scenes. Essentially any time Dina is on-screen and has dialogue it made me bust a gut and she does get to do quite a bit of material. There is also a later scene involving the description of a very illicit practice involving a grapefruit that gets a lot of laughs due to Haddish’s committment to the scene. A later scene involves a big brawl in a nightclub that gets some laughs as well.
All in all, it’s a terrific mix of comedy and drama with a healthy dose of genuine relationships that are handled in a mature way making this one of the year’s surprisingly great films.
Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)
* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)