A man (Eric André) runs into his high school crush (Michaela Conlin) who suggests he should visit her in New York some time, so he goes on a road trip with his buddy (Lil Rel Howery) to find her and declare his love for her.
Bad Trip is shot in ‘real life’ using a series of pranks, in a similar style to Jackass’s Bad Grandpa or Borat. Much like those films there’s a plot line that holds all the individual scenes together, and also like those films much of the comedy comes from people’s reactions to the ridiculous situations.
However, Bad Trip did manage to keep me on board more than the Jackass film and even Borat to some degree. I liked the various explorations of what ‘movie’ scenes might look like in real life to passers by; not strictly the showy gross-out stuff but ‘smaller’ scenes like emotional monologues, spontaneously breaking out into song, and wild declarations of love. There’s even a kind of public meet cute and some public flashback scenes. Some people are having none of it, while other react as if they are also in a movie.
What this also means is that the real life prank scenes actually serve the plot and keep it moving along. That’s quite a novel and interesting feat to pull off, and it’s bold to get the actors to deliver their lines like that and have to react to whatever happens. It struck me that Michaela Conlin spent 12 years doing the exact same script in Bones and so this must have been a pretty wild experience.
Perhaps it’s the Englishman in me but I didn’t like the sense that people were having their time wasted, or were needlessly scared shitless. It seems rude to put someone though that just for my enjoyment, and you get the sense the film makers felt the same way because at the end they show all the “it’s just a prank” bloopers and insist that everyone is having a good time. These scenes seem like an extra little bonus but as I was watching them I realised how anxious the film had made me, and that these clips were serving to release some of the tension.
I laughed though, a lot, and so to use that simple metric it’s a thumbs up from me. Bad Trip takes risks that pay off and manages to achieve something its predecessors didn’t - a coherent and (somewhat) engaging movie largely shot in the real world.