What happens when you let the story of a buddy road trip comedy collide with hidden camera pranks? The Netflix comedy BAD TRIP happened – and immediately entered the top positions of the Netflix charts. We’ll reveal in our review whether it’s worth watching.
OT: Bad Trip (USA 2021)
Chris Carey (Eric André) and Bud Malone (Lil Rel Howery) are best friends – and big losers. When Chris gets the chance to hook up with his high school crush Maria Li (Michaela Conlin), he has nothing else on his mind – and so he decides to be more active and determined than ever. However, the fact that this means stealing the car from Bud’s criminal sister Trina (Tiffany Haddish) and spontaneously driving from Florida to New York City not only tests Bud’s nerves. But also the mental and physical well-being of everyone who meets the chaos duo on their journey…
“Bad Trip” begins with Eric André (“Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special”) works as a car washer and is completely amazed when he tells a customer that his first great love has just shown up. He has to impress her and finally have the courage to ask her for her number – and then his clothes are swallowed by an overpowered vacuum cleaner. Even if the absurd second in which André’s character Chris stands there naked is pointed, the humor of the scene is generated much more strongly from what follows. Director Kitao Sakurai (“The Passage”) Captures Chris’ bewildered customer and runs the hidden camera footage as he struggles for words and tries to help Chris out of his predicament.
Tiffany Haddish as Trina Malone, a recent prison escapee.
This introduction perfectly represents one of the facets of “Bad Trip”. Because many, and almost all of the best, scenes in this alibi plot-meets-prank comedy are impressive because nasty hidden camera actions are answered with surprising empathy. Bar visitors worry about an explosively vomiting Chris, passers-by try to break up a heated argument between Chris and Bud, who have just rescued themselves from a spectacular car accident (!), a frugal, older gentleman excuses Chris’ manic behavior with a grandfatherly smile… It’s always surprising how friendly, caring or understanding the uninitiated environment reacts, and Sakurai and his editing team Matthew Kosinski & Sascha Stanton-Craven know how to dose these genuine, kind reactions correctly to counterbalance bewildered passers-by. The absolute highlight of the film shows how “The LEGO Movie 2” spokeswoman Tiffany Haddish scurries through the streets in a prison look and asks a man tasked with removing graffiti for complicity: the young man can see it written all over his face his conscience struggles – so much that it causes him visibly physical discomfort. It’s hilarious, heartfelt and strangely embarrassed, and that increases as soon as a (white!) actor dressed as a police officer questions the black (!) eyewitness. You could take this scene from “Bad Trip” and, in an overambitious hour of engagement, spend hours listening to its statements about internalized fears of racism, cohesion, distrust in the police and class differences. That’s how brilliant she is.
“It is always surprising how friendly, caring or understanding the uninitiated environment reacts, and Sakurai and his editing team Matthew Kosinski & Sascha Stanton-Craven know how to dose these genuine, nice reactions correctly and against bewildered passers-by: to balance within.”
Another facet of “Bad Trip” operates more under the motto: “Film logic, transferred to the real world,” because the hidden camera pranks always revolve around a loud, exalted Chris acting like he’s in an exaggerated RomCom – it’s just that the people around us in our real world don’t follow along like they do in romantic cinema: When Chris works in a smoothie shop and reveals his secret love in front of all the other customers, speaks loudly and pathetically about his love life on public transport, or otherwise the calm of a moment is disturbing for his “I’m the protagonist of a romantic comedy, agree with me!” demeanor, the humor of the sequences consists in the way the alibi plot slams against real, defensive behavior.
Eric André and Lil Rel Howery prey on unsuspecting people.
These passages are more unevenly successful: Sometimes André lays it on so thickly that it provokes the desired reactions too clearly, instead of the situation having an effect on its own. Sometimes the hidden camera action is too transparent or simply doesn’t provide enough humor to sustain its running time. But when these situations ignite, they provide a sardonic commentary on genre conventions – and combined with how much friendlier people react to some of the wilder pranks, they provide a curious, amusing glimpse into everyday human behavior. Still other “Bad Trip” segments are disgusting sketches that are narratively inelegantly leveraged into the alibi plot and overstimulating their humor. Although the practical effects are remarkably believable, they seem completely lost in “Bad Trip” as they contribute neither to the narrative thread nor to the general humor of the film. The pseudoplot, on the other hand, does its job to connect the individual sketches, but it doesn’t come close to the expressiveness of the second “Borat” or the emotional honesty of “Jackass presents: Bad Grandpa” that comes from the characters.
Also important: Anyone who watches “Bad Trip” should definitely stay tuned for the end credits, as they provide a worthwhile insight into the creation process. Among other things, it is revealed without false shyness that many sketches were filmed several times (and that the film team chose the most appropriate reactions), how the “victims” reacted to the denouement, and how André warns the film team when a prank threatens to go wrong .
“Sometimes the hidden camera action is too transparent or simply doesn’t provide enough humor to sustain its running time. But when these situations ignite, they provide a sardonic commentary on genre conventions.”
Conclusion: “Bad Trip” isn’t nearly as ambitious as Sacha Baron Cohen’s hidden-camera-meets-comedy efforts, nor is it as strangely fascinating as “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.” But individual moments are so wonderfully full-on that this comedy is clearly recommended for fans of this rarely seen subgenre.
“Bad Trip” is now available to stream on Netflix.