Bad Trip is a perfect film. Over there. I said that.
Yes, it is true that the almost improvised romantic comedy, now broadcast on Netflix, does not have much in common with other movie titans. After all, the hidden camera genre is not known to receive serious acclaim from Hollywood and, for the sake of taste, this prank epic is blatantly lowbrow. (I will leave the most discussed scene in the film – one involving the star Eric Andre, a crowd of unsuspecting spectators and a violently excited gorilla – to speak for itself on this point.)
But, when condensed into a fast running time of an hour and 24 minutes, these hard-won and embarrassed laughs make this outrageous, offensive and occasionally disgusting movie minute by minute the funniest thing I’ve seen in one, a long time ago time. Reader, it’s … so … so … funny.
We’re talking about tears streaming down your face in a funny way. We’re talking about milk that comes out of your funny nose. We’re talking about two guys with their penises trapped in a finger trap, staggering helplessly along a golf course before being chased on the lawn by a furious guy holding a funny driving club. Of course, fans of this sort of thing expect nothing less than the people behind the cult success of Adult Swim, The Eric Andre Show.
Director Kitao Sakurai, who co-wrote the Bad Trip script with Andre and his Eric Andre Show colleague Dan Curry, keeps his film more grounded than the surrealist talk show, but not much.
Andre and co-leader Lil Rel Howery play friends Chris and Bud on this ridiculous travel adventure. When Chris is faced with his childhood crush, Maria, played by Michaela Conlin, at the car wash, an accident involving a defective vacuum cleaner leaves him unable (read: very naked) to shoot. So Bud, having stolen his sister’s hot pink Lincoln Town Car with a “Bad Bitch” decal on the rear window, agrees to take Chris from Florida to New York for another chance at the one he loves.
It’s a solid premise, elevated to its highest comic potential through Bad Trip’s incredibly well executed and utterly unshakable commitment to the play.
Instead of meeting our heroes through scripted scenes, we are introduced through a series of hysterical public acrobatics that position innocent passers-by as surprise assistants in Chris and Bud’s journey. The characters we know and love, both scripted and unscripted, are presented in a chaotic sequence of unplanned moments that seem heady, high-risk and surprisingly sincere.
Take, for example, Bud’s sister and main antagonist, Trina. Played by Tiffany Haddish, Trina enters the film in an acrobatics that forces a poor guy to help his criminal character escape from what appears to be a prison transport vehicle. This stranger, of course, did not know it was false and certainly did not recognize Haddish. (In an interview with Vulture, Andre said that they were specifically looking for targets that didn’t hit the cast.) The resulting chaos is a lovely mix of joke fun and surprising kindness that I’ve never seen in other play-centric films.
“You’d better go,” says the stricken man, visibly shaken, while Haddish is staggering in orange jumpsuits, asking if any guards have appeared. “You better fucking run,” he repeats.
She does that. And when an actor pretending to be a prison officer returns to the vehicle, asking about his prisoner, the stranger stoically covers him, refusing to give up on her. The officer leaves, and soon Trina returns for a hug, happily calling the man “an accomplice to my shit.”
He is understandably and adorably baffled by the gesture.
Through the palpable restlessness of the stranger and Haddish’s exaggerated performance – did I mention how amazing she is at this? – we learned everything we need to know about Trina, her bets and what kind of movie we will be watching. Achieving this balance of narrative continuity, dramatic tension and absolute hilarity is what this comedy team does so well, and the feature film format allows them to do this over and over again with increasing success.
From a surprise musical in a shopping mall to a waitress very willing to discuss her sexual history, every stop on this trip is worth it. I won’t reveal anything else, but … Bad Trip is a perfect film. Over there. I said that again. It’s sweet, it’s short and, damn, it’s funny.