I suspect that watching the latest film from Jeff Tremaine, the primary producer of both the Jackass franchise and Bad Grandpa, is going to have one of two impacts upon your brain, and both involve breaking you down in some way. Impact One is that the Bad Trip’s inherent stupidity, juvenile humor, and tasteless pranks will attack your senses and leave you begging the gods to either end the movie or take away your eyesight as quickly as possible. Impact Two is that all of those factors will break you down and ultimately have you submit to the foolishness of watching grown adults commit fully to acting like bonafide idiots in front of unsuspecting members of the public who have no idea they are being filmed.
The perpetrators of these crimes against humility are led by Eric Andre as Chris Carey, a perpetual slacker whose life in Florida is going nowhere. In an opening sequence, Chris is at his job at a car wash when a Shop Vac he’s using to detail a car accidentally rips off every stitch of clothing he has on, leaving him bare-ass naked in front of a customer. That’s what we’re dealing with here, folks. Take it or leave it. When Chris spots his old high school crush Maria (Michaela Conlin), he immediately obsesses about her, and when he eventually runs into her again later that day, he asks her out. She turns him down because she’s only in town for the day and is headed to the airport, back to New York City where she owns an art gallery. But she gives him her card and tells him to stop by if he’s ever in the Big Apple, which he takes as an invitation.
His best friend, Bud (Lil Rel Howery), is the more reputable and responsible half of their friendship, but he agrees to go to New York with Chris, and even borrow his sister Trina’s (Tiffany Haddish) car (bright pink, with the words “Bad Bitch” emblazoned across the back). And Bud thinks he’ll get away with taking the car because Trina is in prison, but naturally she escapes and vows to kill Chris and Bud for stealing her vehicle. She even breaks into a police car to begin chasing them up the highway from Florida to New York.
There isn’t a major scene in Bad Trip that doesn’t feature a staged, public situation in which members of the public are unwitting characters in this adventure up the East Coast. The pair, both of whom are Black, enter a country bar populated entirely by white people (admittedly, most of whom seem to enjoy their company immensely, at least until Andre begins spewing fake vomit in every direction); Andre accidentally sprays himself with petrol at a filling station; a fake car accident is staged and the two leads come to blows about the stupidity of the trip; and don’t even get me started about a zoo sequence involving Andre and a gorilla.
What I found consistently interesting—and perhaps not surprising—is that the biggest laughs result from people’s reactions to the actors’ antics and not so much the antics themselves. If there is the perceived threat of violence, most of the bystanders either pull their phones out to record it or they step in as peacemakers. The film’s biggest flaw is that Andre & Co. aren’t really that gifted at setting up their outrageous scenarios (with a couple of exceptions, like the zoo incident). But people are going to react like people, and that’s always fascinated me and filled me full of gleeful anxiety. During the end credits, we get to see the filmmakers (including director Kitao Sakurai, who has helmed every episode of “The Eric Andre Show”) come out of hiding to their prank victims, and those responses might be the best thing in the movie. Bad Trip made me appreciate the craftsmanship and skill that goes into a film like Bad Grandpa, which is not exactly a high bar—but it’s better than this most of the time.
The film is now streaming on Netflix.
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