At the end of March Netflix released “Bad Trip,” a film that features all of the hilarity and outrageousness that comes with the territory of the hidden prank premise, while also containing a genuinely interesting plot. This movie is filled with gags and real reactions of bystanders that range from extreme shock to sincere empathy for the cringeworthy character Chris Carey (Eric Andre), who is unaware of his excessive language and lude actions. “Bad Trip” follows Chris as he hits the road with his best friend, Bud Malone (Lil Rel Howery), to find the love of life, Maria (Michaela Conlin), in New York all while evading Bud’s crazy sister, Trina (Tiffany Haddish), who escapes from prison.
The story is quite simple, but it makes a statement with how it’s presented. Even when the film tends towards the cheeser or more cliche side of storytelling, it is unexpectedly unique. In other words, most comedy movies of this genre such as “Jackass” or “Borat” lack the kind of sentimentality that comes from the real interactions between the actors and the real people in “Bad Trip.” It strikes a balance between raunchiness and purity, which makes it incredibly satisfying to watch.
Eric Andre, the star of this film, employs his comedic style of randomness mixed with violence and just a hint of disturbed sexuality to create a defined tone. Crazed with a purpose is the best description, really. While the director of “Bad Trip,” Katao Sakurai, prepares the actors and stunts for the scenes, Eric Andre’s ability to improvise and stay in character even in some of the most embarrassing and inappropriate situations gives this film an opportunity to amaze audiences. One scene that distinctly demonstrates this, is Andre’s interaction with an ROTC recruiter. Instead of the man telling Andre to leave or getting upset by his cringeworthy behavior, the man attempts to console Andre’s character, Chris, by giving him a pep talk. In return, Andre, instead of continuing to act insane, shifts his emotions in order to show that this interaction helped his self esteem. In comparison to other films of this type, the interactions with the real world play a large part in the ways in which the story develops, making the situations altogether feel more realistic.
Just like many other films of this genre,”Bad Trip” relies heavily on this concept of pain as comedy. For instance, Chris seemingly goes through tortuous and gruesome scenes where his suffering gives the impression of being real to an outside observer. This reliance on violence plays into what Andre is comfortable with as an actor, but it also keeps the uncomplicated plot interesting.
While this isn’t necessarily unique to this film, the way “Bad Trip” handles racial stereotypes and related themes of violence is deeply intriguing. While there is no racial violence or bigotry explicitly expressed, Trina Malone embodies numerous racial stereotypes such as being violent and easy to anger, speaking in a specific kind of broken dialect, having face tattoos and, of course, going to prison. Tiffany Haddish uses this character’s stereotyped behavior to add a new layer to this film. When she’s in character, she commands every room or space she’s in and creates genuine discomfort in the people around her. While this role may not be the best representation for African Americans in the United States, Trina Malone serves a purpose. She plays the antagonist, acts as a foil to her brother, Bud, and her emotional growth at the end of “Bad Trip” is what makes the conclusion heartwarming (in a weird way).
This film has everything that an Eric Andre fan could want—including slapstick comedy, perverse situations and unabashed stupidity accompanied by randomness. It also captures a tenderness hidden beneath its provocative surface. While the characters in “Borat” and “Jackass” are there solely there to be ridiculed, Chris Carey’s hopeful nature makes him relatable to the audience, no matter how uncomfortable his stunts make them feel. “Bad Trip” is not a typical movie and challenges the expectations for prank-based comedy films due to the committed performances of its actors.
“Bad Trip” is available to stream on Netflix.
By Kyra Matus