Bad Trip (2021) ☆☆☆(3/4): You will wince – and then chuckle

“Bad Trip”, which was released on Netflix in last week, will make you wince and then laugh, and there are a number of outrageous moments mainly fueled by 1) the good comic timing of its few main cast members and 2) the real reactions from bystanders who happened to be around them without any knowledge on what was actually going on in front of them, yes, and hidden cameras. While this guerilla comic approach is familiar to anyone who watched “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (2006) or its recent sequel, the movie distinguishes itself via its own manic sense of humor and a bit of surprising sweetness, and you may find yourself smiling more as watching a number of behind-then-scene video clips during its end credits.

Right from the opening scene, the movie demonstrates how far it is willing to go for more laughs. As its hero, an African American lad named Chris Carey (Eric Andre), casually talks a bit with his latest customer at his workplace, we can see that something is going to happen sooner or later, and the movie does not disappoint us at all as Chris subsequently finds himself trying to hide his sudden embarrassing happening from a woman named Maria Li (Michaela Conlin), for whom he carried a torch during their high school period. Unlike the performers playing Chris and Maria, Chris’ customer was actually an unsuspecting bystander who did not know that the camera was rolling somewhere, and you will laugh more as observing how this guy tries to be sensible in front of that unbelievably outrageous happening.

Once the movie effectively sets the tone in the opening scene, the story moves forward to one year later. Chris is now working in a smoothie shop, and he is delighted to see Maria walking into the smoothie shop while he annoys some of his waiting customers, who incidentally suspected nothing even while noticing Chris’s pretty careless working method. When Maria, who has worked as the manager of some posh New York City gallery, finally remembers him and then invites him to the upcoming exhibition to be held at her gallery, Chris is understandably excited, and that fatefully leads to another deliberately disgusting comic moment to remember.

After giving the shameless impromptu performance of a certain well-known musical number in front of mall customers, Chris becomes quite determined to drive all the way to New York City even though he does not have a car. Fortunately, his best friend Bud Malone (Lil Rel Howery) has kept a vehicle for some time, but Bud, who is your average nerdy African American dude, is not so willing to have a road trip along with Chris because he has been afraid of his fearsome older sister, who is the owner of the car and has incidentally been in a state penitentiary for a while.

In the end, Bud is persuaded to help his friend, and he and Chris soon start their road trip toward New York City. Wherever they happen to stop by, they inadvertently got into trouble due to bad luck or Chris’ unwise behaviors. In case of one sequence unfolded at a big country bar, the mood feels a bit awkward as Bud notices that he and Chris are the only African American people in the bar, but the mood gradually gets loosened as they come to enjoy more music and alcohol, and that eventually leads to a couple of uproarious moments to make you wince and laugh alternatively.

One of the most hilarious scenes in the movie occurs at a zoo which Chris and Bud happen to visit along with a bunch of bystanders, who, yes, had absolutely no idea on what was going to happen at that time. I will not tell you more for not spoiling your entertainment, but I assure you that you will be amazed by 1) how director/co-writer/co-producer Kitao Sakurai, who wrote the screenplay with Eric Andre, Dan Curry, and Andrew Barchilon, and his crew members pull out several shocking comic surprises out of one familiar setup and 2) how much those bystanders were actually fooled at the time of the shooting despite the rather crude aspects of the setup.

Needless to say, this and many other scenes in the film surely look like nasty pranks at times, but many of those fooled bystanders are not ridiculed or humiliated on the screen at all. In fact, as reflected by what is shown during the end credits, they had no problem as subsequently amused to realize that they were totally deceived by Sakurai and his cast and crew members.

In addition, the movie is unexpectedly sweet as paying some attention to the long friendship between Chris and Bud, who are totally different from each other but turn out to be quite inseparable from each other as complementing each other. While Andre is likable as an irrepressible comic hero, Lil Rel Howery, who has been a scene-stealer since his breakout supporting turn in “Get Out” (2017), deftly holds the ground for his co-star as providing gravitas to the story, and Michaela Conlin and Tiffany Haddish, who proves here again that she is indeed a comic force of nature to reckon with, are also believable enough to fool bystanders just like Andre and Howery.

In conclusion, “Bad Trip” is often funny thanks to Sakurai’s skillful direction and the jolly comic spirit generated among its main cast members. To be frank with you, I was well aware of what I was going to get, but the movie kept catching me off guard during its 84-minute running time, and, in fact, I chuckled more than once during my viewing. In short, it is one of the funnier films of this year, and I think you should give it a chance someday.

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