I wasn’t super-familiar with Eric Andre coming into “Bad Trip” (now streaming on Netflix). I’ve never seen an entire episode of Adult Swim’s “The Eric Andre Show.” I mostly know him by reputation, his guest stints on “2 Broke Girls” (my wife’s a fan) and the memes in which he’s depicted gunning down comedian Hannibal Burress.
Perhaps it’s my ignorance of Andre’s catalogue that allowed to me enjoy “Bad Trip” as thoroughly as I did? Viewers who are more attuned to Andre’s oeuvre appear to be less impressed by the picture. I look at it like this – if Yellow Submarine were the only Beatles record you ever listened to, you’d still likely dig it. It’s the fuckin’ Beatles. They’re good. It ain’t Revolver or Sgt. Pepper’s, but you don’t know any better. Andre is funny. “Bad Trip” is funny … uproariously so. I haven’t laughed this much or this hard at a movie in ages.
Andre stars as Chris, a goofy-ass gig worker who runs across his high school crush Maria (Michaela Conlin of Fox’s “Bones”) at the Miami-based auto detailer where he’s employed and again a year later at the juice bar where he now toils. Maria doesn’t remember Chris at first – he jogs her memory by referring to himself as “Retard Chris.” She’s friendly enough telling him that she’s only in town briefly and must return to the Manhattan art gallery she owns and operates.
Emboldened by his rekindled infatuation, Chris convinces his best friend Bud (Lil Rel Howery, the definition of good sport) to “borrow” the car (a hot pink Crown Vic dubbed “Bad Bitch”) of his incarcerated sister Trina (Tiffany Haddish) in order to drive from Miami to Manhattan in hopes of winning Maria’s heart. Bud begrudgingly agrees, but Trina escapes from a prison transport and is quickly in pursuit of the duo with murderous intentions for having stolen her vehicle.
The plot is thin (it’s essentially a reskinning of “Dumb and Dumber”) and it’s mostly just a frame upon which the filmmakers hang prank opportunities akin to those seen in “Jackass” and “Borat” and generally just wreak havoc across the Eastern Seaboard. The audience is treated to a ridiculous musical number, a far more graphic rendition of the gorilla rape from “Trading Places” and a number of other stunts … most of them involving a variety of bodily fluids.
“Bad Trip” isn’t for the squeamish or the easily offended, but it differs from its forebears through its optimism. Sacha Baron Cohen often stages gotcha moments in order to reveal his target’s stupidity or racism. Andre, director Kitao Sakurai and their co-writers Kathryn Borel, Dan Curry and Jenna Park often opt to depict basic human decency. Empathy is shown by a nurse who attempts to give Chris aid when he falls from a great height and later begins projectile vomiting in a honkytonk, a Marine recruiter consoles Chris when he’s bottoming out, one bystander tries to deescalate a fight between Chris and Bud and another tries to talk Trina out of dropping Chris off the side of a building. Goodwill is further extended when these folks are invited to be part of the joke as opposed to the joke itself during the closing credits blooper reel.
“Bad Trip” excels in showing real reactions to absurd situations. It’s also a wonderful showcase for Haddish, who finally makes good on all the promise she showed in “Girls Trip” – she’s unhinged and insanely funny here. Then again, you can likely take my opinion with a grain of salt – I’m the same critic who dug “Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy” and the “Mr. Show” movie “Run Ronnie Run!” Funny is funny whether it’s a comedian’s best work or not – and “Bad Trip” has certainly inspired me to check out “The Eric Andre Show” to see what it is I’ve been missing.