Drunk Bus (2020) ☆☆☆(3/4): His life-changing bodyguard

“Drunk Bus” drives along a very familiar course, but it is more colorful and entertaining than expected. While this is your average coming-of-age comedy drama about a young man getting wiser via a sudden change coming into his drab daily life, it is thankfully equipped with enough humor and personality, and you may gladly go along with its ride as enjoying the good comic chemistry between the mismatched duo in the film.

In the beginning, the movie leisurely depicts how its hero’s daily life has been going nowhere for several years. Although he graduated from a college in Kent, Ohio around four years ago, Michael (Charlie Tahan) is still stuck in the campus area while earning his meager living via driving a night bus around the campus, and he has also been lonely and depressed for a while due to the recent breakup with his girlfriend who decided to leave him for getting a job in New York City. While his two close friends cheer him up a bit at times, his daily life still feels pretty glum and monotonous to say the least, and there is an amusing montage scene where he phlegmatically drives his night bus as usual while the bus is frequently bustled with drunken college kids.

At one night, Michael happens to be punched by one of those drunken college kids, and that leads to one unexpected change in his night job. On the very next night, he is approached by an imposing and heavily tattooed Samoan guy named Pineapple (Pineapple Tangora), and he is subsequently notified that Pineapple is going to work as his bodyguard for a while. Although he is not so pleased about this sudden change, Michael lets Pineapple on his bus anyway, and Pineapple soon turns out to be quite an effective bodyguard in more than one aspect.

As he spends more time with Pineapple on the bus, Michael finds himself talking a lot with Pineapple, who willingly gives Michael some advices on a number of different things including how he should be more active about life. As bringing Michael into several impulsive adventures, Pineapple certainly brings some spirit into Michael’s life, and Michael becomes more aware of how repetitive his life has been due to his indecisiveness.

Of course, there already comes a situation where Michael must make a choice sooner or later. His ex-girlfriend notified to him that she will soon return to the campus for some personal business, and she seems to be interested in meeting him again, though her text messages are rather vague to say the least. While reflecting on how unsatisfying their relationship was to him (She never allowed him to have sex with her for her religious faith, for instance), Michael also wonders whether they can restart their relationship again, and he becomes more conflicted as Kat (Kara Hayward), who is one of Michael’s two aforementioned friends, seems to be interested in getting closer to him.

Now you probably have a pretty good idea on where the story is heading, and the screenplay by Chris Molinaro simply moves from one expected narrative point to another, but its amusingly repetitive narrative course is packed with colorful characters and nice running gags. Besides Michael’s two friends and his goofy roommate, we also have one crusty old dude with disability whose nickname I cannot write here for a good reason, and I enjoyed how the movie delivers a nice surprise from this funny supporting character. In case of one of the running gags which is involved with a bunch of rude fraternity house dudes, it is probably a bit too much for some of you, but you will come to get accustomed to it, and you will get a big chuckle from the subsequent payback moment.

Above all, the main source of entertainment comes from the developing friendship between Michael and Pineapple, who later turns out to be much more than your typical ethnic stereotype. Although his advices do not solve every problem in Michael’s life, his good-willed positive influence certainly helps Michael become more decisive about a number of matters in his life, and we later get a little poignant moment when these two different characters show more honesty to each other.

The movie depends a lot on the comic interactions between its two main performers, who wonderfully complement each other throughout the film. While Charlie Tahan holds the ground with his earnest performance, Pineapple Tangaroa, a non-professional actor who just appeared in two films before this movie, brings considerable life and personality to his showier role, and his charismatic presence buoys the film a lot whenever he enters the screen. In case of several supporting performers around Tahan and Tangaroa, Zach Cherry, Sarah Mezzanotte, Dave Hill, Tonatiuh Elizarraraz, Martin Pfefferkorn, and Kara Hayward are solid in their respective parts, and Will Forte provides some extra humor as Michael’s busybody boss.

“Drunk Bus” is directed by John and Brandon LaGanke, who previously made several short films together before making a feature film debut here in this film. They did a fairly good job of balancing the story and characters between comedy and drama, and I was often charmed by its funny moments even while clearly recognizing its numerous familiar aspects. I surely discerned what it was going to do right from the beginning, but it did its job as well as expected at least, so I will not complain for now.

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