Eric Andre once again starts things off with a batshit bang in his new film Bad Trip, which is finally dropping on Netflix after the ‘Rona halted its theatrical release last spring. (Some of you may have already caught it when it was accidentally leaked on Amazon Prime Video last April.) During the opening credits, a late-for-work Andre runs all over neighborhoods, literally plowing his way through people’s homes and scaring the hell out of inhabitants who were there to clean or fix something. (By the way, this manic sequence is set to Handsome Boy Modeling School’s all-too-apt “Holy Calamity.”)
Anyone who’s ever watched his Adult Swim program The Eric Andre Show knows the man has built a career out of destroying his surroundings. (Every episode begins with Andre demolishing his set before the crew comes in and replaces it once he gets tired.) Comic destruction, whether smashing objects or just screwing up somebody’s day, is the man’s bread and butter.
For Trip, Andre and several members of his brain trust (and that includes co-writer/director Kitao Sakurai and writers Dan Curry and Andrew Barchilon) got together with Jackass co-creator Jeff Tremaine to do something similar to Tremaine’s Bad Grandpa with Jackass alum Johnny Knoxville. Yes, Trip is another scripted comedy where Andre pranks his unsuspecting supporting players along the way.
The plot goes like this: Florida-based deadbeat Chris (Eric Andre) is immediately smitten when he sees his high school crush Maria (Michaela Conlin) at his job. But she’s only visiting; she lets him know she lives in New York, where she runs an art gallery. Sprung to the point where he’s damn-near stalkery, Chris convinces his pal Bud (Lil Rel Howery) to take a road trip with him so he can express his love to her. (And, yes, you get to hear the damn “Maria” song from West Side Story all through this thing.) They take off in a car that belongs to Bud’s bullying, incarcerated sister Trina (a corn-rowed, thugged-out Tiffany Haddish), who — unbeknownst to them — just sprang out of jail and is looking for her ride.
As flimsy as the plot sounds, it’s merely glue to keep all the elaborate prank pieces together (which are, of course, captured on hidden cameras). Andre and Howery mostly tour the South, causing bits of staged havoc like when they stop at a cowboy bar and Andre becomes a drunk, projectile-vomiting mess. Haddish also gets in on the nuttiness, shaking people to their core whenever she barges into public places, looking for answers.
This isn’t new territory for Andre. On The Eric Andre Show, he serves as a punk prankster, practically assaulting celebrity guests and people on the street with stunts that are usually both nonsensical and nihilistic. (The show is produced by anti-comedy duo Tim and Eric’s Abso Lutely Productions, after all.)
But, believe it or not, Andre goes in a kinder, gentler direction with Trip. Oh sure, he indulges in R-rated gags — with an emphasis on gag — all for the love of shocking and/or grossing out whoever witnesses it. (There’s one bit with a gorilla that, let’s just say, ends on a messy note.) But the marks are never the butt of the joke. In fact, he often gets empathetic reactions from the people he dupes. In his own twisted way, Andre uses Trip to prove that there are still decent people in this whacked-out country of ours.
And that’s perhaps the most shocking thing about Trip: it’s a surprisingly sweet, sympathetic film. Andre and Howery (who, I assume, is in this because Andre couldn’t get his longtime Eric Andre Show sidekick Hannibal Buress and Howery is also another bespectacled brotha from Chicago) do make a chummy pair of road dogs, with strait-laced Howery having to rope in Andre and his line-crossing antics. The whole film could be seen as Andre showing how even he feels his crazy ass needs to grow the hell up and be put in check every now and again. Besides, the man is pushing 40 — he can’t find wild, weird ways to get naked in public forever.
“Bad Trip” is out Friday on Netflix.