In a world where major comedy brands like Jackass and Borat have cornered the market on hidden-camera prank movies, it's a pleasure to have a new voice at that very small table as Eric Andre, who has been wreaking havoc and destroying dreams on television for years, makes the leap to film with Bad Trip. Ironically delayed by the pandemic, resulting in it being released between the newest Sacha Baron Cohen and Johnny Knoxville joints, Bad Trip never feels like a relic of the era when those two pranksters dominated the subgenre over 10 years ago, and, in fact, finds a way to improve on the form of these large scale pranks by deliberately showcasing the footage where the public tries to help.
Like its predecessors, Bad Trip wraps its pranks around a proposed "narrative," with Andre starring as "Chris" opposite Get Out's Lil Rel Howery as his friend Bud, Michaela Conlin as his romantic interest Maria, and none other than Tiffany Haddish as Bud's convict sister Trina. Where Bad Trip excels is that these moments of exposition never feel explicitly forced into the movie and their status as bridges into the pranks are very, very short. In fact, there are so many gags and pranks in the movie that director Kitao Sakurai (channeling everything he learned directing 50+ episodes of The Eric Andre Show) often intercuts between moments where they clearly pulled the same prank on multiple people and it never pulls you out of the moment.
The thing that truly separates Bad Trip from all the other movies like it is that it doesn't use its pranks as a means to simply show shocked faces and illicit large responses out of those that have somehow stumbled into its path. Don't get me wrong, that stuff is present and part of the film, but larger than that is Bad Trip's commitment to explicitly showing that most people who see this mayhem unfold actually want to help.
Countless gags occur throughout the film including, Andre stumbling drunk through a bar and vomiting a Team America-sized amount of puke on unsuspecting patrons, while another moment shows him the victim of a tremendous car wreck where the vehicle explodes into a ball of fire. But the aftermath isn't just onlookers watching it unfold, they lend a hand to Andre and try to help him the entire time. One of the rare extended bits that takes place with Andre and one other person, rather than a crowd (which is most of its footage), we see him talking to an Army recruiter while openly contemplating drastic measures to get what he wants. The recruiter doesn't take the comedy bait, though, and instead approaches him with compassion. It's simultaneously tragic, funny, and heartwarming.
Andre isn't the only force of nature, as an unrecognizable Haddish unleashes herself on the public like a hurricane. Playing the role of an escaped convict, the Primetime Emmy-winner embodies the part in a way that's wholly on par with the two leads of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, which nabbed co-star Maria Bakalova an Oscar nomination. Though her comedic chops and improv soar throughout, her first sequence where she "escapes from jail" with some thanks to an unsuspecting man on the street is probably her strongest gag in the film.
Bad Trip also goes out of its way to try things that typically aren't seen in hidden camera prank films, with both an extended "dream sequence" (still a large scale prank filmed in public to get wild footage) and a huge drug trip sequence that combines the insanity of Andre's Adult Swim show with an actual effects budget. The film also delivers another unheard-of addition to the formula, closing itself out with footage over the credits where the gag is revealed and the people seen on camera are shown to be good sports about being part of the prank. Without spoiling too much, there's also a recurring gag about the 2004 movie White Chicks that pays off in the most spectacular fashion possible.
Bad Trip makes the case for why this genre shouldn't just be dominated by the same voices that have been doing it since the turn of the century. Eric Andre's work with his co-stars not only makes the "plot" of the film natural but their ability to sell their misfortune and tragedy to an unsuspecting public is not something that anyone can just pull off. Bad Trip is hilarious from start to finish and paves new ground for this specific comedy subgenre. We can only hope that Eric Andre almost being stabbed while filming the movie, a sequence seen in the movie and one of the few times he breaks character, doesn't scare him off from making more.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Bad Trip is streaming now on Netflix