As the man behind one of Adult Swim’s most aggressively absurd and essential shows, “The Eric Andre Show,” Eric Andre has presented an unready world with more insanity in “Bad Trip,” released March 26 on Netflix. As a writer and the lead actor, Andre is out to channel pure chaos into a light and fun comedy about a road trip between two best buds as they travel to New York City. Chris Carey — played by Andre — is a deadbeat who has to ask out his old high school crush, leading him to leave Florida and endure copious amounts of psychological and physical traumas to get to her. Carey is joined by Bud Malone — played by Lil Rey Howery — in a car stolen from Bud’s violent sister Trina — played by Tiffany Haddish. However, almost every other character seen in the film is a real person filmed by hidden cameras as they become subjects to hilarious misadventures.
“Bad Trip” falls into the same vein of entertainment as the “Jackass” franchise, with the humor operating as a complete rejection of any nuance or subtlety in exchange for pure stupidity and gross-out gags. This film is prank after prank and is not aiming to be more. The directing, cinematography and music are all passable, as the film is simply focused on taking the audience from one crazy moment to another, which is one of its greatest strengths.
Throughout the film, reactions from those subject to Andre’s absurd situations integrate very well with the flow of the plot due to solid editing and a well-thought-out script. At one point, a real person mentions a bar that becomes a location in the film for a fantastic, drunken prank. Plot elements are set up and paid off, and while the structure of the film is simple, it ties together hidden camera moments effectively. Real people become important elements of a preconceived story, which is impressive from a conceptual and technical standpoint.
While a lot of the hidden camera reactions are just people’s pure astonishment, some are fascinating. At one point, in the very predictable second act point where the main friendship is tested, two guys involve themselves in the conflict resolution of a movie they don’t know they are a part of. The off-the-cuff improvisations the cast uses to handle these dynamics are a testament to how good Andre, Howery and Haddish are as actors when they hold it together and work in the face of hilarious circumstances.
The overarching story of the film is bare-bones and vapid, but hidden camera prank movies are not out to tell great stories. Don’t expect to be wowed by the pursuit of love or the power of friendship because the film does not expect that. However, where “Bad Trip” falters is the lack of an intriguing story not being supported by enough compelling humor to make the overall experience memorable. The “Jackass” films cut the fat and do not bother with a story tying together the insanity, but “Bad Trip” has a weak story for jokes of varying quality.
While comedy is ultimately subjective — and Andre’s aggressive humor is niche — this film certainly has high and low points in its humor. Some of the jokes feel very tame and only elicit predictable responses of confusion from those being pranked. While not every joke needs to be as over-the-top and excellent as the Chinese finger trap gag — a gag so crude and stupid it becomes a true highlight of what the film is about — the story is already so weak that weaker jokes bring down the quality. Despite how well the film flows with integrated pranks, it can often seem as if a lot of the jokes are just filler until the grander scenes.
While the film fails to leave a lasting impression, it has its glorious moments of Andre absurdity. For fans of “The Eric Andre Show” or people yearning for more “Jackass” content, “Bad Trip” certainly fills that niche. Some of the film's jokes are truly memorable for those who enjoy mindless or absurd humor, creating a great film to be put on with a bunch of friends. A viewer won’t remember the names of the characters, but they will certainly tell a friend, “Just wait until you see this” when Andre walks into a gorilla enclosure. While “Bad Trip” is not a masterful or intelligent comedy, it is worth a watch on Netflix for a couple — for better or for worse — unforgettable moments.