Director: Kitaro Sakurai
Cast: Eric Andre, Lil Rel Howery, Michaela Conlin, Tiffany Hadish
Producer: Jeff Tremaine, Eric Andre, David Bernad, Ruben Fleischer,
Writer: Dan Curry, Eric Andre, Kitao Sakurai, Andrew Barchilon
There’s (human) shit, there’s (human) blood, there’s (gorilla) cum, police cars are crash landed through pristine New York art galleries, a wedding montage ends with a threesome with the officiating priest, a man is sucked like quicksand into a porta-potty, and I wish parts of this I made up, because every time I think of a Chinese finger trap, I am going to think of two dicks stuck on opposite ends, trying to get themselves free.
Eric Andre’s punk-humour is just that — punk-ish. Andre himself has noted how he has taken inspiration from punk-rock performances where the performers are “just screaming at the audience and doing back flips and attacking the audience, the audience attacking each other”. It’s wildness without a point, but if we are to look deeper for a point, we see it not in those performing, but in those reacting. It’s what I want to call empathetic voyeurism.
Take this for starters. Andre wants to take a selfie with a sleeping gorilla for this girl he is courting. The zoo gate is open and he goes closer than he is supposed to. The gorilla wakes up and humps him violently from behind, and later makes Andre go down on him. The first thing people are doing is screaming “Save him”, and then going ahead and filming it all anyways, knowing that, well, nothing can be done.
There’s empathy, there’s voyeurism — and that’s us. This same pattern is seen through the over-an-hour long road-trip film. A car has turned upside down, its passengers bleeding. A woman goes to offer aid, and the other stands, distraught, worried, filming.
Bad Trip follows Chris (Andre) who takes a road-trip from West Grove, Florida to New York, with his buddy Bud (Lil Rel Howery), with Bud’s escaped-convict sister, Trina (Tiffany Hadish), at their trail. They are traveling in a pink “Bad Bitch” car that belongs to Trina. The “trip” in Bad Trip is this journey where Andre and Howery perform these hidden-camera pranks along the way, with reactions being recorded in real-time. This, very easily, can morph beyond control— when Andre and Howery went into a barbershop to help free their penises stuck together on opposite ends of the aforementioned Chinese finger trap, the barber chased them with a knife. This was one of the first scenes they shot, and Howery, unused to this kind of violence almost quit.
The “trip” can also refer to an acid-trip, which is often how Andre’s humour feels like, and just to be sure, we also get a scene where they trip on acid by mistaking it for breath mints. It’s perhaps one of the best “acid-trip” montages I have seen in cinema, where the surreal and the real become one and the same, shapes swirling into and out of focus, as your existence swirls into and out of focus.
With hidden-camera pranks there is an inherent tension. This tension fills every scene, which is designed to go South with the smallest provocation. At one point Andre is pretending sadness, and willing to suck the cock of a buff military recruiter. I can tell you a few hundred ways this could have played out, with Andre’s fist up his own ass. It’s that tension that keeps the narrative adrenaline pumping. It is that very tension that I felt missing from Andre’s stand-up routine Legalize Everything, because there the “humour” was entirely in listening to something with shock-value as opposed to seeing it play out in front of you, with Takeshi’s Castle like stakes at play. It’s a wonder Andre isn’t dead yet. Or worse, disillusioned.