BAD TRIP is an outrageous and hysterical feature
BAD TRIP (2021)
In the ways of Bad Grandpa or Borat, Bad Trip takes the art of pranking and elevates it with a plot, which is something that needs to have strong talent behind its creation otherwise you instantly have a dud of a feature. Luckily, Bad Trip has Eric André, known for his absurd humor in his series The Eric André Show on Adult Swim. The involvement of him causing chaos through pranks seemed right up his fans’ alleys… now it’s just a matter of if it’ll work for the rest of us.
There’s a fine line directors of these kinds of “hidden” camera prank films and television series walk, but when done well and legitimately, it can lead to some brilliant, hilarious, and purposefully cringey content. Director Kitao Sakurai has been a long time collaborator with Eric André on his Adult Swim series, so coming to helm this was a fantastic choice; if it isn’t broke, why fix it? The pranks are executed skillfully without letting any of the real people in the scenes know that they’re being filmed, so their reactions are candid and occasionally aggressive, understandably shocked, and even sometimes sweet. Kitao doesn’t display anything here that would give me trust that he could successfully direct a more mainstream picture, but in the case of Bad Trip, this director knew exactly what he was doing with his filming decisions and gave us a trip to remember.
The story isn’t what makes Bad Trip, it’s the pranks. Yes there is a story that assists the pranks to move the film forward, but it’s in no way a necessary piece. We follow Chris (Eric André) and Bud (Lil Rel Howery) as they take a road trip from Florida to New York in order to accept Chris’ dream girl’s invitation. Similar to Bad Grandpa (another “Bad” title), the story is there just to set our leads on a trip from point A to B while making numerous pit stops along the way - these pit stops are where a large sum of the hijinks occur. I’d hate to break down every prank / joke within the film here because it’s worth going in as blind as you can, but just know that when you see a gorilla, expect the unexpected - this might even be the moment some turn off the film.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Bad Trip consists of only four actual actors (apart from a few background talent) in a film filled with people. Eric André, Lil Rel Howery, Tiffany Haddish, and Michaela Conlin are those four, and they do relatively well. You can tell that most of the lines said are improvisation with a base structure, most likely identical to the way Larry David operates in Curb Your Enthusiasm. They play off one another extraordinarily well and make the end results of each prank so much better to experience even if it ultimately makes the audience uncomfortable. It’s impressive, considering how huge Haddish is, that no one spotted her in the film, although they did just make a sequel to Borat and a good chunk of people seemed to have forgotten about him, so maybe it makes more sense than it seems. They’re all having fun with the pranks and the material they’re given. André especially is used to performing his crude, gross, and chaotic humor on screen, and you can see it within him how passionate he is in what he does.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
There’s really only one big spectacle shot in the film and it happens near the end. If curious about what it involves, just look at the original poster with them sitting on the upside down car. This scene is really well handled, especially if it’s to be believed that the people standing to the side of the incident were actually there when it occurred (something that seems very accurate based on the behind the scenes credit footage). The film is meant to feel as real as it can be until it just can’t be anymore, and when those unrealistic moments happen, the real people seem to know just what to say or do. When André falls and crashes through some tables it seems legitimately painful; when Howery is hanging off a building from far below it really seems like he is in a life or death situation - it’s all handled very well and makes for a better viewing experience because of it.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
With the talent of composer Ludwig Goransson on board, you’d expect big things to come out of your stereo system for this film. I mean the man took Hans Zimmer’s usual position as composer on the most recent Christopher Nolan feature, Tenet, for Pete’s sake. Unfortunately the score in Bad Trip is lackluster. I mean it’s a prank film, so I wasn’t expecting much, but to see such a name pop up in the credits alongside Joseph Shirely just left me wanting something extra. Although I can’t harp on the sound design too much because they did use “Thank You For Being A Friend” as a friendship song during the film, and who dislikes “Thank You For Being A Friend?”
Bad Trip is an outrageous and hysterical feature that will leave fans of The Eric André Show or Jackass satisfied. For others, the R- Rated jokes and gross-out humor might end up being a little too extreme, resulting in a partial watch.