Call it a smoother Rough Night, a black Bridesmaids, an all-female Hangover. Whatever label you put on Girls Trip doesn’t matter. It is the knock-out funniest comedy of 2017 in terms of laughs per minute. Sit in an audience with this thing and you just might miss half the dialogue over the consistent roars from the crowd.

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It’s one of those movies that we just don’t see made successfully as much anymore because the tone between humor, raunch and heart is more difficult to balance than you think. It all works splendidly here under the expert direction of Malcolm D. Lee (the Best Man films) from a script by Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver. It’s R-rated to be sure, but as I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), Girls Trip doesn’t fall into any of the traps where other recent female raunchfests like this summer’s similar Rough Night landed. While I praised the cast of the latter, its storyline about the accidental death and later cover-up of a male stripper too often took awkward turns that infected the camaraderie we could feel between the ladies. This one has a “flossy posse,” as the group calls themselves, that fires on all cylinders.

The first-rate cast features Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and certified scene stealer Tiffany Haddish. Hall’s Ryan is a popular self-help author who is headed to New Orleans as the keynote speaker of Essence Fest. She decides to use the occasion to turn it into a weekend reunion of her old college sorority pals, whose lives have gone in different directions. Latifah’s Sasha is a once-serious journalist-turned-bottom-feeding gossip blogger feeling pressure to get a big scoop for her lowbrow website, which Ryan’s husband Stewart (Mike Colter) inadvertently supplies when photos of him in a compromising position with slutty Simone (Deborah Ayorinde) fall into Sasha’s lap. It doesn’t take long for Ryan to find out about the affair, but it is complicated since her agent (a very funny Kate Walsh) has come to New Orleans to lock in a sweet deal for a joint TV show for Ryan and retired NFL star Stewart offering relationship advice.

The quartet also includes Lisa (Pinkett Smith), a nurse and rather conservative divorced mother of two who is urged to loosen up by the group. Finally there is unhinged and unpredictable Dina (Haddish), who has just been fired from her job and has an opinion and a zinger for just about anything. Haddish’s delicious timing with a line rocks this movie from start to finish. These women are thrown into a number of broad comic situations but, pros that they are, never let them sail so far over the top that they fail to be believable in some way. A dare-you-to-do-it bungee jump high above a French Quarter street from one balcony to another becomes fodder for rolling in the aisle when Lisa gets stuck midway and has to pee. You can imagine the results. The comic pièce de résistance deals with a 200-year-old elixir Dina buys from a street vendor. She ignores his warnings that it should be taken in very small doses and uses it to spice cocktails for her friends, sending them all into an LSD-style girls “trip” that pays top comic dividends. And ever wonder about the grapefruit and the banana experiment? You will find out here. I also loved the big dance battle, even if a  bar fight takes things a little too far, but I am not complaining. We need to laugh these days.

Although the women dominate these proceedings, male cast members have their moments including Larenz Tate as Julian, an old friend of Ryan’s who might become much more, and Kofi Siriboe, whose apparent impressive endowment becomes a hot topic of conversation — especially for Lisa, who becomes the object of his affection. The real-world conflicts of these characters are never too far away, and Lee skillfully strikes just the right tone throughout to remind us life itself is never just as easy and fun as a girls trip can be. The music cues are first-rate. Producer is Will Packer along with Lee. Universal releases the film Friday, and you can bet word-of-mouth will travel fast.

Do you plan to see Girls Trip? Let us know what you think.