Many of my favorite comedies are some of the dumbest movies in creation. To be a good comedy, you just have to strike the right chord for the right audience. I remember the firsts time I saw the Pepsi Uncle Drew commercials with NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving dressed as an old man. They were hilarious. For a film version to work, they just needed to keep that same energy.
Foot Locker employee, Dax (Lil Rel Howery), is down on his luck and putting everything he has into managing a streetball team that can win a tournament at New York’s famed Rucker Park with a $100,000 cash prize. But when his rival (Nick Kroll) steals his star player (Aaron Gordon) and his girlfriend (Tiffany Haddish), Dax is forced to find a new team. Luckily for him, he stumbles upon 70 year old, streetball legend Uncle Drew (Irving). Drew agrees to play in the tournament, but only with his old teammates, which include a preacher (Chris Webber), a blind shooter (Reggie Miller), a man who doesn’t walk or talk (Nate Robinson), and a 7-foot karate instructor who has beef with Drew (Shaquille O’Neal).
The story is as formulaic as they come, but Uncle Drew succeeds in doing what comedies are supposed to do. The laughs are plentiful and organic from the start. The most prominent comedy with NBA players that I can remember is Space Jam. And while it is a cult classic, none of the players in it did a very good job on the acting front. That isn’t the case here. Retired NBA vets, Miller, Robinson, Shaq, and Webber are all absolutely hilarious. WNBA legend Lisa Leslie also adds comedic flare as Preacher’s tough as nails first lady. The simple fact that they are all clad in makeup and acting like old people while showcasing their ridiculous basketball ability, only adds to the fun.
Uncle Drew doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is. It has a central character that audiences can root for, and a supporting cast that each have their own unique quirks. If Shaq playing a karate instructor, Chris Webber doing a baptism by putting a baby through his legs, Kyrie Irving singing and dancing to music from an 8-track player, and Reggie Miller yelling swish while blindly bricking shots at an arcade, are not funny to you… then you should save your money. But if you found the Uncle Drew commercials goofy and fun, then this film has enough to make your sides split in laughter even if you aren’t a basketball fan.
FINAL GRADE: B
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.
Regina 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