Girls Trip (Full Review)

Just because the movie is called Girls Trip doesn’t mean this one is strictly for the ladies. After all, everyone enjoys taking a trip with their best friends. The comradery between friends can create for some great laughs. With a director in Malcolm D. Lee (Best Man Holiday, Barbershop 3) that has proven he knows how to handle comedies with ensemble casts, all of the ingredients are ripe for Girls Trip to be summer’s best comedy.

GirlsTripTeaserPosterRegina Hall stars as Ryan Pierce, a famous author whose high profile marriage to a former athlete (Mike Colter) has her career flourishing. When her Agent (Kate Walsh) sends her to be a key note speaker at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, Ryan takes it as an opportunity to reconnect with her best friends from college. Rounding out Hall’s group of friends known as the “Flossy Posse” are struggling celebrity gossip blogger Sasha (Queen Latifah), divorced mother Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith), and unfiltered party girl Dina (Tiffany Haddish). But once their girls trip has started, old arguments and personal struggles threaten to ruin their friendship.

It takes a moment for the heavy laughs to kick in, as the best jokes in the film’s first half come straight from the trailers. The funniest scenes come directly from the personalities of the actresses rather than the writing itself. Tiffany Haddish is no greater example of this. Her exuberant personality shines through to the point that you wonder if she even needed a script. Some of the gross out humor might be overwhelming for some, but it rarely comes in moments that don’t feel organic. Every ‘R’ rated comedy has outrageous scenes, but thankfully Girls Trip throws its gratuitousness at you in realistic ways to make them funny even if you feel like gagging or turning away.

The story, at times, does fall into formulaic tropes of the genre that make it feel wholly unoriginal. There’s the cheating husband, the  “nice guy” (Larenz Tate) who comes along just in time to make the scorned woman think twice about her lousy relationship, the random dance sequence to 90’s music, the inevitable moment where everyone lashes out at each other … it’s all there. But as the film goes along, those redundant themes become acceptable thanks to the performances of the cast. The arc that Hall’s Ryan Pierce goes through, while not a new concept, is dealt with in a very refreshingly real way. Treated as an Oprah-like icon, the fact that her character is able to show both strength and vulnerability is undoubtedly inspiring by the film’s end.

There are other distracting flaws to Girls Trip. Kate Walsh is mostly annoying as Hall’s white agent who uncomfortably uses black expressions. An actress who is actually used to doing comedy would have worked better here. The editing is also noticeably and abundantly lackluster.  In almost every wide shot you can tell that the dialogue and character’s lips aren’t matching up. Yet, these issues pale in comparison to the genuine fun of the movie. The cast looks like they’re having fun and the story, while predictable, stands on strong merits making Girls Trip a trip worth taking.

FINAL GRADE: B

 

 

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Barbershop: The Next Cut (Full Review)

220px-BarbershopTheNextCutposterApparently, It’s never too late to make a sequel. And in the case of Ice Cube, over a decade isn’t too late to resurrect his popular Barbershop films from the early 00’s. Picking up 10+ years later can be a tricky thing for any film franchise. Luckily, with Barbershop: The Next Cut, O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson has a Director who knows all about delivering under those circumstances, in Malcolm D. Lee (Best Man Holiday).

It’s been 14 years since Barbershop 2: Back in Business, a movie that was decent, but not remotely as good as the first. Calvin (Ice Cube) is still running the barbershop he inherited from his father while he and his wife (Jazsmin Lewis) raise their teenage son (Michael Rainey Jr.) on the dangerous southside of Chicago. Like before, the film features an ensemble cast of characters, some old and some new. Eve returns as volatile barber, Terri, although she’s traded in Michael Ealy for Common as a love interest. Cedric the Entertainer also returns as Eddie, the wise-cracking older statesmen of the shop who rarely ever actually cuts hair. Other characters from the older films (Sean Patrick Thomas, Troy Garity) are little more than cameos.

There are a bunch of refreshing new faces in the mix this time around. Regina Hall stars as Angie, Calvin’s partner who runs the beauty parlor half of the shop. Along with her are feminist, Bree (Margot Bingham), and Draya (Nicki Minaj) who seems hell bent on stealing Rashad (Common) from his wife (Eve). Rounding out the comedic cast are Lamorne Morris as black nerd, Jerrod, Utkarsh Ambudkar as token foreigner, Raja, Deon Cole as Dante, the customer who never leaves, and J.B. Smoove as Barbershop bootlegger, ‘One-Stop’.

On the surface it would seem as if there are too many characters crammed into the shop this time around, but the film actually does a more than amiable job giving each character their time to shine. Whether it’s chemistry or comedic timing, this Barbershop feels as funny and charming as the original from the moment we first step in. Even Nicki Minaj, who is clearly the odd ball on the acting front, manages to slip in more than a few heavy laughs to justify her presence. The lone exception is Anthony Anderson who reprises his role as hustler, AJ, from the first film. Not only does his character provide few, if any, comedic moments, but his presence is completely irrelevant to the overall story.

Speaking of the overall story, like the original Barbershop, this film seeks to be both entertaining and thought provoking. Woven between the jokes are important questions raised about street violence, misogyny, and relationships, all of which are relevant to the black community. And while the film doesn’t actually get around to answering many of these questions, they do manage to get people thinking, and there’s merit in that, at least in a comedy.

The dramatic moments don’t always hit. One particular scene meant to be the film’s most dramatic, falls somewhat flat due to the character involved not being fleshed out enough. And sometimes, the film’s attempt to hammer home lessons comes off feeling like an after school special. But, again, the movie didn’t have to address these types of issues at all. They could’ve hit us over the head with another plot about a rival barbershop or something along those lines. But instead, Barbershop: The Next Cut takes the high road, and manages to sublimate a horde of side splitting laughs with an endearing message.

FINAL GRADE: B+