Hot on the heels of “Rough Night” comes another raunchy comedy about girls — or, rather, grown women — gone wild. “Girls Trip” follows a quartet of longtime friends who convene in New Orleans, where shots are poured, private parts are flashed and the bodily fluids flow like spilled Hurricanes.
Though ultimately a solidly entertaining addition to the women-behaving-badly genre, the movie gets off to a slow start. Narrated by Ryan (Regina Hall) — a self-help author who is “the second coming of Oprah,” according to one character — the comedy begins with a by-the-numbers introduction of the main characters. In addition to Ryan, who makes a picture-perfect couple with her retired baseball-player husband (Mike Colter), the foursome includes: frumpy divorcée Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith); acerbic celebrity gossip columnist Sasha (Queen Latifah); and the requisite wild child, Dina (Tiffany Haddish).
It’s a predictable setup. And yet the movie feels fresh and realistic in the way it documents how formerly inseparable friends have naturally grown apart over the years, leaving tensions where love used to be. Ryan is trying to fix that. Enlisted to give a speech at the Essence Festival, she orchestrates a reunion/all-expenses-paid vacation for four.
Things go quickly off the rails, and not just because Dina has smuggled drugs onto the airplane by hiding them, as she puts it, “where the sun don’t shine.” It turns out that Ryan’s Instagram-worthy relationship — not to mention the message of her book, “You Can Have It All” — is a sham. Sasha is secretly struggling to make ends meet, and Lisa, decked out in a chic muumuu, has stopped giving her own happiness much thought ever since she gave birth to her two children. Dina doesn’t actually have an inner life at all. That’s easily overlooked, however, considering her eye-popping antics. The movie thoroughly earns its R rating, as when Dina demonstrates a sexual maneuver known as “the grapefruit technique.”
That scene is just a droplet in a torrent of wild physical humor that barely lets up once the uninspired opening has been dispensed with. Haddish just about runs away with the movie. Her portrayal of the fast-talking, histrionic loose cannon steals nearly every scene.
But there’s enough limelight — and comedy — to go around. Each of the women makes an impression, especially in one set piece that takes place at a club, where too much absinthe turns the evening into a hallucinogenic fantasia. Director Malcolm D. Lee (“The Best Man Holiday”) makes inspired choices here, slowing down and speeding up the women’s voices before showing Sasha mounting a lamp that she has mistaken for a man. Lisa, meanwhile, licks a wall that she believes is a buff, naked college student, and Ryan chews out a poor cocktail waitress who she thinks has been bedding her husband.
“Girls Trip” has a serious side, too — although the transition between the tones is a little bumpy. The movie delivers a poignant message about how difficult it can be to let your guard down, even with — maybe especially with — your oldest friends. Beneath Ryan’s perfect veneer, she’s been struggling in silence, ashamed of the reality of her situation. But there’s freedom in honesty.
That message about the importance of sisterhood is somewhat undermined by the stubborn presence of an old male friend (Larenz Tate), a musician who has eyes only for Ryan and who keeps popping up, like a hot fairy godfather.
Despite his superfluous character — and an overlong run time — “Girls Trip” accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: shock and amuse. Along the way, it reminds us how important old friends can be.
R. At area theaters. Contains crude humor and sexual content throughout, strong language, brief graphic nudity and drug use. 122 minutes.