Director: Kitao Sakurai | 1h 26mins | Comedy
When his old High School crush comes back into his life Chris (Eric Andre), and his friend Bud (Lil Rel Howery), embark on a road trip to New York. After realising the two friends have taken her car, Bud’s sister Trina (Tiffany Haddish) tries to hunt them down.
There’s a reason that shows like Jackass and Impractical Jokers have become such a phenomenon over the years and it’s because of the humour to be found in real-life reactions. It’s hard to replicate the authenticity of a human reaction and the reason we are entertained by them – whether it be through people’s actions or reactions – is because we are able to relate to it. We ask ourselves “what would I do in that situation?”, a question that you’ll ask yourself at multiple points in Kitao Sakurai and Eric Andre’s absurd new Netflix comedy – a play on the pranking/stunt genre that leans heavily into cliche but is saved by it’s unique premise.
Chris, played by a slightly dopey but equally confident Eric Andre, discovers that his High School crush is doing an art exhibition in New York and decides to pluck up the courage to and tell her how he feels. Joining him on the road is his best friend Bud, who’s played a little more level-headed by Lil Rel Howery, who’s access to his sister’s car allows the pair to go on an extravagant road trip where they jump from one real encounter to another.
Usually you can tell when the film is about to jump to a barbaric encounter, as the slick cameras for it’s fictional side become a little grainy and more found footage, but it allows you to prepare for what’s to come without knowing exactly what’s about to happen. At one point, in a local bar, Andre climbs to the top of a scaffolding while drunk and plummets off the side. He then follows it up by projectile vomiting over everyone there. It’s a sight to behold and causes some of the most absurd and funny reactions you’ll see. It’s a scene that sums up the level of wit and intelligence implemented into a film like this, but it’s still incredibly entertaining.
Bad Trip is able to tap into the more sentimental side of the public, finding sweetness through all the absurdity.
Hot on the tail of Bud and Chris is Bud’s Sister, Trina. Played by the ever-wonderful Tiffany Haddish, who is completely stripped down to look unnoticeable as the film’s antagonist. But, what Haddish’s scenes do is add variety to the reaction-comedy we are seeing. As an actress she’s always been a great talker and the movie wisely allows her to interact on a one-to-one basis with real people. The funniest of these is when she crawls out from under a prison bus in an orange jumpsuit in clear view of someone cleaning. As the sheer panic comes onto the man’s face it really adds more spectrum-based humour to a film that could so easily become repetitive.
This spectrum is what makes the film feel fresher, often when you watch the fearless pranks on The Eric Andre Show (which Kitao Sukurai works on as a director also) we usually see a much more confined reaction, one that usually involves Andre being chased down by people. But, Bad Trip is able to tap into the more sentimental side of the public, finding sweetness through all the absurdity. When Andre confesses his dilemmas, about the girl he loves to an old man on a park bench, the man kindly offers advice and Andre starts a musical number. It’s funny but it also has a lot of heart, something that films like this rarely find.
The problem with Bad Trip is the story at its core, a narrative used only as a foundation to create absurd responses rather than a story to care about. When Jackass: The Movie (2002) was released it was praised, not as a conventional movie, but as an absurd collection of comedic pranks. It benefited from being exactly what it set out to be and it’s likely that Bad Trip would have received a similar reaction if it weren’t for the unfunny and forgettable fiction attached to it.
Despite being flawed and not particularly memorable aside from its wild pranks, Bad Trip still has a lot going for it. It breaks out of the confined reactions that came from The Eric Andre Show while still maintaining the public bravery that it’s star has always had, but, the film is considerably weighed down by a narrative that, while intentionally basic and cliched, can’t grasp you enough to keep you hooked in it’s non-pranking moments.