Directed By Kitao Sakurai
Starring – Eric Andre, Lil Rel Howery, Tiffany Haddish
The Plot – This mix of a scripted buddy comedy road movie and a real hidden camera prank show follows the outrages misadventures of two buds (Andre, Howery) stuck in a rut who embark on a cross-country road trip to NYC. The storyline sets up shocking real pranks.
Rated R for crude sexual content, pervasive adult language, some graphic nudity and drug use
– Interesting twist. As to where movies like “Bad Grandpa” or this year’s “Impractical Jokers” integrate the story into the pranks, often stretching a narrative and a movie’s pacing to service an idea, “Bad Trip” instead integrates the pranks into the story. The satisfaction that this grants the film is that it actually does feel like a moving, unfolding narrative that you’re watching before your very eyes, but in addition to that, it’s also one where the pranks feel naturally realized instead of clumsily stitched together. This keeps the gags on the surrounding real life extras feeling innovative and unpredictable, if only for how the film’s material never limits itself with a condemning rating, giving us a movie that feels anything but watered down from the Eric Andre Show, that has made him a global comedian because of his unapologetic spills that he unleashes on everyone he comes into contact with.
– Non-stop hilarity. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that this movie succeeded at giving me some of the loudest and longest laughs of the year, but what is surprising is how that strength for comedy remains consistently prominent throughout the movie, making this an early favorite for best comedy of the year in my opinion. The deliveries from the talented trio of actors certainly helps in this department, mostly with how they elevate the material because of the raw and unlimited energy that they inflict in the heat of each sequence. But beyond that, I was also impressed with the originality of everything produced. Each gag never feels derivative of the last one, nor does it call on the actors to improv with the material that they’re given. This proves that everyone associated had faith in what they were constructing, and let the material do the talking, and it’s a decision that pays off in spades for a screenplay that is a gut-busting good time that begs to be watched with a crowd of friends.
– Fluid pacing. “Bad Trip” is a smooth, easy sit that never stalls nor lags in where the narrative or the entertainment factor for the movie drives towards, and there’s a couple of reasons for this. For one, this is a movie that rightfully knows what it is. Unlike “Bad Grandpa”, which for me ran as much as a half hour too long during a bloated second act, this movie barely clocks in at 79 minutes, and never overstays its welcome because of such a decision. In addition to that, the crisp editing remains a character in the movie who we depend on even more than Andre or Howery, because of how it keeps every transitional scene frequently moving. I can’t point to a single scene or sequence in the film that could’ve used additional altering, despite the fact that some gags, naturally, do succeed bigger than others. It’s a film that jumps right into the mayhem, yet refuses to show its entire hand in luring you in, saving no shortage of memorable moments scattered throughout to keep you in its grasp.
– Satisfying arc’s. This movie could’ve easily been just a vehicle for Andre, meant to showcase him as the next big name in comedy that will be the face of many big screen installments for the next few years. Fortunately, that isn’t the case, at least not alone, as the screenplay has a surprising amount of depth to its character arc’s, which evolves them throughout this trip with no shortage of life lessons. The final minutes of a meaningful third act really brought the mission and meaning of each character to the forefront, and supplanted with it themes that we the audience can extract and take from a hidden camera method of filmmaking, that quite frankly doesn’t often waste time with a conscience. Finally, the unfolding events of the story are rich with authenticity and realism. So much so that it doesn’t flinch from humiliating a character during what should be their biggest triumph, and approaches its lessons in a way that feels anything but cinematic because of what develops.
– Commitment to the craft. The dangers and risks that Andre specifically puts himself through during the duration of this film are nothing short of remarkable, and prove that the actor doesn’t skimp on what could’ve easily been shaped similarly with an extra. It proves that honesty goes a long way for him, but even beyond that casts him in a light that easily makes him the most valuable player to this movie, if only for the no fear attitude that he cements through some frankly testing sequences in his exchanges with gravity. Some of the behind the scenes peaks that the film’s closing credits takes us through alludes to this, but to truly appreciate the fearless demeanor and kept composure that he maintains, you have to experience them in the heat of the moment, where even the smallest accident could’ve killed or at least paralyzed him for the rest of his life.
– Exceptional trio. The work of Andre, Howery, and Haddish are all cast in a great light here, and all for exceptionally different reasons that challenge them. For Andre, it’s the chance for a starring role that he doesn’t let slip through his fingers. He’s every bit charismatic as he is emotionally complex, and even when you think you have his character’s personality and limitations figured out, Eric keeps you guessing with a careless-but-caring characterization that will inevitably make him a comedic face for the decade. Howery is perfect as the story’s straight man, managing laughs when they come to him, but playing off the perfect reactions to all of the chaos that surround him. The chemistry that he supplants with Andre is nothing short of brilliant, and really makes their life-long friendship as characters feel rich with believability for the way they each support and prolong what the other one is throwing. Also buzzworthy is the transformation of Haddish, who even with the familiarity of her fast-talking deliveries surprises with an antagonist for the aforementioned duo that challenges her in ways no other role to date has. She juggles imitation and humor accordingly, without one sacrificing the other, and does so while bringing forth what might be her best performance since her colorful debut in “Girls Trip” that won her the hearts of many.
– Top shelf production. While nothing as compelling or experimental as a major motion picture with the backing of an unlimited budget, “Bad Trip” does bring with it a barrage of behind the scenes measures that makes this an anything but mundane production surrounding it. The variety of camera angles, both near and far sighted, are remarkable for the way they cover the madness from every desired angle, and astound with amazement when you consider that they had to do this without any of the outside people figuring out that what they were doing was manufactured. Also impressive is the film’s make-up, which for one scene in particular impressed me for the desired effect that the scene’s context asked for. Without spoiling anything, I will say that there is a call-back to the movie “White Chicks”, and it’s one that not only looks better than its predecessor, but also impressive for how it transformed two male dominated features like Andre and Howery’s into believable females that I would probably hit on at a bar under the right circumstances.
– Gross out’s. I can understand that a movie like this will feature some risque material that colorfully earns its R-rating, but how far some of these instances took us proved all the more unnecessary to me when you consider these scenes mentally already outline what we’re not seeing with sounds and alluding. Certain instances involve a rape scene involving a gorilla, that gorilla spraying his seed, two scenes involving vomit, and a scene involving a vicious laceration. Reaching for such low-hanging fruit in a movie with already so much going for it comically feels like a tragic misstep, but beyond that approaches a level of visual shock humor that occasionally distracts and takes away from what importantly was established in the context of the scene, and for my money would’ve been better used if only done once, to preserve the freshness of the gimmick.
– One nagging issue. While most of the production that I previously pointed to exceeds expectations, the issue of sound mixing within the entirety of the picture proved frustratingly faulty for how it clouded the coherency of every prank sequence. The microphones in question aren’t bad for the prominent actors like Andre or Howery, but they fail to capture articulately the words of the real life extras around them, that often jumble words as a consistent annoyance to the integrity of the scene. Thankfully, in some scenes they use subtitles to fill in the blanks, but these moments of relief are few and far between, and not used during every scene involving hard to hear dialogue. For the ones that lack its blessing, a lot is left to be desired to the back and forth exchanges that they share with the story’s three central characters, leaving us with only their facial resonation’s to grant us access into what is actually going on.
– Faulty inconsistencies. If the pranks exerted in the movie are done as a spark of fate and consequences, then Andre and Howery’s character never see them coming, thus they should be lasting impacts on what each of them go through. This is one of my biggest problems with the hidden camera genre as a whole, because they never acknowledge the aches, pains, or anything else exposed in previous sequences within the movie. That problem doesn’t end with “Bad Trip”, as bloody injuries that are seen bandaged in one scene one day, then never again in the same day, is one of the few instances this happens during the film. Also in tow are the cleanest clothes in the age of mankind, as vomit-stains and fecal stains just magically disappear between scenes. This could be excused if they washed them in a washing machine between scenes, but then I ask what clothes they wore while that was going on, considering they only brought one pair of clothes for the entirety of their trip. Finally, a major car explosion takes place near the end of the movie, but thankfully it’s one of those car explosions that go out in ten seconds, as in the next cut of the same scene there isn’t so much as a flicker of a flame being prominent on said vehicle. It’s the one glaring distraction in a movie with so much attention paid to it by the production team, and is consistently inconsistent in the permanency that it displays.
My Grade: 7/10 or B-