Bad Trip is Borat revisited. Same basic idea – pranks being foisted on real people, with a bit of scripted dramatic infill (a story) connecting the gotchas together. The pranks are all standalones, one-offs, which explains that no matter how short this sort of film is (the two Borat movies and Bad Trip all come in at a sober 90 minutes-ish), they always feel a bit too long.
But is Bad Trip funny is surely the only important question? The answer is that, yes, it is. I went into laugh-out-loud vocalising at about 15 minutes in and erupted frequently right up to the final moments.
The plot is a string of spider silk caught on a breeze and sees Chris (Eric André) and best bud Bud (Lil Rel Howery) driving from Florida to New York in pursuit of a girl (Michaela Conlin) for Chris. They do this by “borrowing” the car of Bud’s insane/angry sister Trina (Tiffany Haddish), who is meant to be in jail but breaks free and heads off in an “I’m going to get those fuckers” fury, driving a police car with one door missing – she ripped it off, that’s how badass she is.
That’s it. The rest is stunts, which lean more towards the sort we saw in Johnny Knoxville’s Bad Grandpa film – private parts and bodily fluids – as well as physical maiming and bestial sex. But actually it’s plain old fashioned awkward social situations that come out on top, like when Haddish approaches a fairly ordinary looking cop and is overcome with how handsome he is. The look of bemusement on the cop’s face.
Bearing the brunt of the Candid Camera-style stuntery is André. This is his baby and an outgrowth from his TV show, The Eric André Show, which was a prankish affair. He’s the one who accidentally puts his hand into a blender in a moment of lovelorn reverie, sending blood fluming into the air in the juice bar where he “works”. And he spearheads the more audacious and obviously choreographed pieces, like when he breaks into song in a shopping mall, and is joined by dancers as he extolls the virtues of Maria (Conlin). An onlooker merely says “the fuck” and it’s enough for the whole thing to have been worthwhile.
Lil Rel Howery is an inspired choice as sidekick/sounding board. Black guys making mischief in a public space is a recipe for god knows what sort of unpleasantness and it really helps that “Bud” is obviously a good natured soul with an unthreatening doughboy physique. Haddish works a series of variations on the same gag throughout – she’s very very angry – and Conlin only really gets a couple of chances to show that she, too, can pull off this sort of daredevil dicking around, and she can.
The dupes/marks/members of the public are a blacker crowd than you got in the Borat or Bad Grandpa films, and there are some real advantages to be had from this decision, not least black audience’s call-and-response tendency to get involved, comment, play along. Though it doesn’t always go as planned – like the scene where Haddish is threatening to drop André from the top of a building and one female onlooker down below is shouting that she should just let him drop…
The daredevilry of the performers wouldn’t be anything without the reactions of the onlookers, in other words, who are in the main warm and honest, smart and funny, selfless and brave, as is often the case with these things. It’s well worth hanging on for the outtakes, which are full of “reveal” moments, plus a few instances where the prank didn’t go quite as well as it might have.
Humanity reaffirmed in 90 minutes-ish. Not a bad trip to be on at all.
There are five seasons of the Eric André Show on Amazon
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© Steve Morrissey 2021