The candid camera/prank genre has a long history on television and film, perhaps most famously represented in Sasha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” films, which blends live scenes with real people with staged scenes with actors, and part of the fun is theorizing which pranks are real and which are staged.
Leaked by accident on Amazon last year and released on Netflix this year, “Bad Trip” starring Eric Andre and Lil Rey Howery, is another entry in that genre. The film follows Chris Carey (Andre) and Bud Malone (Howery), who have been working dead-end jobs in Florida, until Chris runs into Maria Li (Michaela Conlin), a high school crush who invites him to see her art gallery in New York City, and the two decide to drop everything and go on a roadtrip. Not having transportation, they take Bud’s sister’s (Tiffany Haddish) car, who is incarcerated. But, because the film needs a villain, she soon escapes, and trails them in hopes of getting her car back.
The film is outrageous and bold, often putting Andre in weird and dangerous situations, and it is clearly made for adults (I would treat it as a hard R). And if you don’t get Andre’s sense of humor, I can definitely see some people getting offended by it.
Despite how crass and outrageous it is, I found most of Andre’s stunts to be hilarious, though it is clear that the filmmakers were more concerned with making a good series of skits than a cohesive narrative, something “Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm” does a far better job at, as unlike “Bad Trip”, that film manages to have something of an emotional core.
While Andre and Howery do have some good on-screen chemistry, the film refuses to take itself seriously, and it’s definitely a primarily low-brow comedy. While this is fine, and arguably makes the film funnier as it is constantly making fun of itself and its protagonists, it holds it back from achieving any sort of lasting emotional resonance, and lasting impact once the film has shown its hand.
Still, it’s a worthy entry in this genre, even if as a film it is heavily flawed, working better when viewed as a series of loosely connected, low-brow adult pranks than a three-act narrative.
“Bad Trip” gets a 6.5/10