Bad Trip is the latest in the hidden-camera comedy subgenre that falls in line with the likes of Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa and Borat films, but is gross and funny enough to stand on its own. Directed and co-written by Kitao Sakurai, Bad Trip sports a wild trio of talented comedy stars and smartly utilizes the cast to the fullest of their absurdist potential.
Part buddy comedy, part road trip, and mostly hidden camera work, Bad Trip works its magic when it uses real people, as is the case with most of these movies. The opening scene—and arguably among the best Bad Trip has to offer—is a perfect example of this. While Chris (Eric André) is car washing some stranger’s car, we’re introduced to his love interest Maria (Michaela Conlin) as she enters the scene bombastically and in slow-motion, quickly capturing the heart of Chris in two seconds. The owner of the car he’s washing also notices her dramatic and dreamy gait, and all of a sudden, I find myself also captivated by Maria.
We soon learn that she was Chris’s high school crush, and so Chris instantly builds a bond with the man as he goes over how gorgeous she is and how he should approach her. Well, what ensues next is so utterly insane and equally hilarious, I’d rather not spill all the beans. Ultimately, she gets away this time, but they soon cross paths at Chris’s other dead-end job, where he learns that she’s become an art curator at a gallery in New York. So our journey begins as he enlists the help of his reluctant best friend Bud (Lil Rel) as they concoct a plan to travel to New York and escape the doldrums of their Floridian existence. Together, in a rather humorous scene, they steal his tatted-up, imprisoned sister Trina’s (Tiffany Haddish) car and head toward the Big Apple to confess his love for Maria. One of the funniest moments in the film has Trina breaking out of prison only to find out her car has been stolen, and she goes after the guys like a relentless Batman villain, and boy does Tiffany Haddish knock it out of the park. Can we get a spin-off with her just doing Boss Bitch stuff?
Eric André and Lil Rel make a promising duo. Still, it’s Eric André who is tasked with the most preposterous situations, leaving Lil Rel with a less-than-stellar Porta Potty stunt that feels over before it even begins. Despite Eric André doing the heavy lifting, Lil Rel keeps things grounded for the most part. The show-stealer, without a doubt, is Tiffany Haddish, and it’s a damn shame she’s not in it enough. In fact, for long stretches of Bad Trip, she takes a back seat to the madness only to spring up again and continually reset the insane meter. In one memorable scene, while hunting for Chris and Bud, she stops a middle-aged white guy to ask if he’s seen them, and she produces a picture where the man is literally in the photograph with Chris and Bud. The man is noticeably confused and bewildered. Their bickering back-and-forth is comedy gold; his unwavering denial and her relentless provoking almost seems scripted, and I couldn’t stop laughing. That poor man was so confused.
Not all of Bad Trip’s hidden camera hijinks work, but the movie keeps it moving and doles out stunts after stunts in such rapid succession that you’ll eventually find a gem that will have you chuckling uncontrollably. One scene that fell flat for me was a drug-induced stupor that overplayed itself. While it was indeed a bizarre sequence, it easily could’ve been cut from the film, and nothing of value would have been lost. One could argue that their overstayed drug-ridden adventure was ironically pretty low-key compared to the exploits that preceded it.
Like most hidden-camera comedies, Bad Trip does an excellent job of showcasing regular people’s innate empathy. Some are courageous and brave, some are deprecatory, and some are wise. In one scene where Chris is at a crossroads in his life, he finds an older Black gentleman sitting on a bench and asks him for advice on what to do, and this man gives him the wisdom and motivation Chris needs to jumpstart the whole trip. We don’t know who this man is or what he does for a living, but that is just one example of that human quality that these kinds of movies tend to bring out, and it’s wonderful to see.
Bad Trip is available now on Netflix.
Bad Trip is a farcical romp, but it is a stupidly funny romp that will catch you off guard more often than not. I will probably never forget that zoo sequence, and you probably won’t anytime soon; kudos to Eric André and Kitao Sakurai, who co-wrote this unapologetic and crazed journey.