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‘Bad Trip’ more than lives up to its title

March 29, 2021
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Sometimes, you just know it’s going to be bad.

You settle in and start watching and within a scant few minutes, you’re made painfully aware that the next hour-and-a-half is not going to be the good time that you expected it to be. You might say that, instead, you’re going to have a bad trip.

Or a “Bad Trip,” as it were.

That’s the title of a new Netflix movie starring Eric Andre, Lil Rel Howery and Tiffany Haddish. It’s a feature-length distillation of the weirdo cringe comedy ethos of Andre, directed by the comedian’s longtime collaborator Kitao Sakurai. Basically, it’s a collection of hidden camera stunts and pranks stitched together through a bare-bones narrative.

It’s … not great.

I’ll concede the very real possibility that this movie simply isn’t for me, that this brand of aggressive absurdism doesn’t push my humor buttons. That being said, “Bad Trip” is less a movie than a deluge of self-harm and personal space invasion that occasionally features some not-particularly good dialogue. Did I laugh? A couple of times, sure, but nearly enough to justify the time spent watching something that, when boiled down, is simply a few comedians dicking around.

The plot, such as it is, goes like this. Chris Carey (Andre) is a guy living in Florida, working menial jobs to get by. One day, while detailing a car, he catches sight of Maria (Michaela Conlin, TV’s “For All Mankind”), his high school crush. After an embarrassing incident involving a vacuum, Chris is left to wonder what might have been.

He meets up later with his best friend Bud (Howery), who is struggling with his own personal issues. Specifically, he’s trying to get up the nerve to stand up to his sister Trina (Haddish), an aggressive ex-con who bullies Bud at every opportunity. They make a pact that within the next year, they’re going to have moved on and embarked on a grand adventure.

One year later, little has changed. Both are still working dead-end jobs, living the same lives. But when Maria walks into Chris’s new place of employment – a smoothie shop – he finally screws up his courage and says hello. After a brief, pleasant conversation, she tells him that she lives in New York and that he should check out her gallery the next time he is there.

To Chris, this obviously means that she is into him and that he should road trip to New York. He talks Bud into accompanying him and the two “borrow” Trina’s car – she’s in prison, so it’s not an issue. Only she escapes, and when she finds out what Chris and Bud have done, she swears to take back what is hers – and exact some violent revenge in the process.

What follows is a meandering trip up the East Coast, with the two BFFs making assorted pit stops along the way, engaging with the world in a weird and often unpleasant and off-putting way, and Trina close behind, stopping and accosting strangers at every turn in an effort to track Chris and Bud down. It’s a long and winding journey – one whose conclusion is pretty much the rest of the trip: weird, inexplicably violent and ultimately a colossal waste of everyone’s time.

I didn’t go into detail regarding the pranks and various confrontations that are this film’s primary raison d’etre, largely because of my fundamental opposition to spoilers. If you do deign to watch “Bad Trip,” it’s almost certainly for these set pieces, so far be it from me to ruin them for you. I will leave you with some hints, however. There’s nudity and a fair amount of blood. There are multiple car crashes and one pretty big musical number and a whole lot of confrontations with strangers (individuals and groups). All of it in service to the creation of chaos.

Unfortunately, the movie just isn’t that funny. When absurdism exists solely for the sake of absurdism, it’s just nonsense and noise. Building bits out of confronting strangers with open hostility is walking a razor’s edge … and “Bad Trip” winds up with sliced feet. Too often, the film leaves the viewer feeling uncomfortable alongside the participants, and while I believe that there is a place for the induction of discomfort in comedy, there needs to be some sort of foundation. Otherwise, you’re just being a d—k.

(I will note that the larger set pieces are fairly well-executed – again, the musical number warrants mention here – but their quality is largely undermined by the film’s go-to move of approaching random people in the street and engaging with them in an aggressive and/or intense manner.)

As for the performance of the cast, well … I’m guessing they accomplished what they set out to do, which I suppose is a point in their favor. This has been Eric Andre’s schtick from the beginning, so seeing it in movie form is unsurprising; it is edginess for the sake of being edgy and little more. Howery seems to be having fun, although the majority of his lines sound like they’re being read off of cue cards. Ditto Haddish, whose entire role revolves around accosting people who have no idea that they’re in a movie. Conlin gives the best performance of the bunch, though that’s an admittedly low bar.

Frankly, the highlight of the film comes during the closing credits, when we get to see people’s reactions when they learn that whatever insanity they were just subjected wasn’t actually real. For the most part, everyone handles it with good humor. For the most part – there’s one guy who is ready to let the whole crew know EXACTLY what he thinks.

“Bad Trip” is a real wet fart of a movie experience. The pranks and stunts aren’t enough to overcome the weak script and the narrative isn’t engaging enough to hold it all together. It’s a misfire on all levels. This isn’t as good as “Jackass” or even, God help us, “Impractical Jokers.”

A bad trip indeed.

[0.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 29 March 2021 12:04

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