Bad Trip fulfills its minimum obligation to produce a baseline number of laughs, and does very little else.
Bad Trip is yet another casualty of COVID-19’s continuing battle with theatrical releases. Originally set to debut in April of 2020, the film was ultimately picked up by Netflix, a fitting end for something that feels like nothing more than an extended episode of star Eric Andre’s titular Adult Swim sketch show. Adopting a mode similar to films like Borat and Bad Grandpa and TV shows like Impractical Jokers, Bad Trip is one of those hidden camera prank films held together by the loosest of narrative threads, in this case the tale of best buddies Chris (Andre) and Bud (Lil Rel Howery) making an adventure-filled road trip from Florida to New York so Chris can profess his love to high school crush Maria (Michaela Conlin). Hot on their trail is Bud’s sister, Trina (Tiffany Haddish), an escaped convict desperate to get her beloved car back, a bright pink Crown Victoria with the words “Bad Bitch” emblazoned on its back window.
What sets Bad Trip apart from its counterparts, then, is the fact that the entire narrative is situated in the real world, with 99% of the events playing out to crowds of people completely unaware that a feature-length movie is being made before their eyes. This particular wrinkle may not sound all that novel, but it’s easy to forget that even something like Bruno is nothing more than a series of set pieces strung together by voice-over narration and scripted scenes with its principal stars. Bad Trip takes things one step further by enacting even its throwaway moments —a visit to a gas station for snacks or Andre asking for love advice from passersby — in front of unsuspecting strangers and seeing what types of reactions they can conjure. This commitment to the conceit makes for a viewing experience that is far more compelling than it would be otherwise, even if the results don’t consistently muster hilarity. And though the film certainly has its fair share of big comedic set pieces, from Andre getting sexually assaulted by a gorilla to Haddish stealing a cop car in front of horrified onlookers, it’s the smaller moments that actually tend to produce bigger laughs, such as a woman praying to Jesus as Haddish holds Andre over the ledge of a tall building or a restaurant patron stirring up drama between the film’s stars simply to watch the fireworks fly.
For his part, Andre is a charismatic performer, infinitely likeable, with the punchline more often than not directed solely at him, keeping the proceedings surprisingly free of any mean-spiritedness. Howery makes for a fine straight man to Andre’s outsized shenanigans, although he really isn’t given all that much to do. The same goes for Haddish, who seems strangely hemmed-in by this real-life game of improv. Ultimately, though, all that matters with a movie like Bad Trip is if it delivers on the comedy front, and in that regard, the film provides a fair amount of guffaws, with a few laugh-out-loud moments littered throughout. Director Kitao Sakurai pretty much just points the camera and gets out of the way, resulting in a movie with no discernible style and more than a few missed opportunities. But if all you’re looking for is a comedy where a choreographed dance number plays out in a shopping mall food court while befuddled spectators look on with mouths agape, then Bad Trip gets the job done. Still, it’s hard to believe anyone ever thought this would be worth a $15 movie ticket.
You can stream Kitao Sakurai’s Bad Trip on Netflix beginning on March 26.