This format is a shorter, more to the point, off-shot of the normal review/op-eds I normally do. A ranking will be given at the end from a scale that starts at (from the lowest to the highest): Bad – meh – fine – good – great. Anything not appropriate for these “scores” will likely warrant a more in-depth discussion, which is what I normally do, so this range does not cover all movies, just the ones that I think are suited to this format.
Comedy is ever evolving. When Jackass was at its prime in the late 90s and early 2000s, it was the thing to see for teenagers around the world and then it mostly faded to obscurity or as fond memory for people of my generation; then, following the success of movies like Borat, Bad Grandpa was released and it was a box office success and was positively received by a lot of reviewers and audience members. It ushered in a new wrinkle to the Jackass formula: The trademark Jackass recklessness and uninterested to personal wellbeing infused with pranks on unsuspecting members of the public in the vein of Borat. I liked Bad Grandpa – at least I remember liking it, I never returned to it after 2013 – and, after a few attempts, I started appreciating and enjoying Eric Andre and Tiffany Haddish’s signature comedy styles, and I will watch anything with Lil Rel Howery in it. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy Bad Trip overall; there were several pranks that genuinely made me question if the intent was to make me laugh and despite a few standout moments, I never felt the movie came together even as a set of elaborate pranks or as anything more.
That’s not to suggest that the movie does try for something more, which is why Bad Grandpa is the frame of reference here and not the more socially satirical Sascha Baren Cohen movies, and I would like to kick off this review with the positives first, because although I didn’t enjoy this, I don’t think it is because of incompetency or bad conceptualization from the filmmakers involved. Most surprisingly of all, I really like the actors and the commitment to the bit they brought to the movie; Eric Andre is his usual, energetic, and mostly naked self, while Haddish commits to playing a scummy and deranged sister to Howery’s standout character who is (without any backing from the writing) instantly likeable and incredibly funny, loser/wimp brother and best friend to Andre. All three main actors have chemistry between them and work surprisingly well together and that comes through in the best pranks pulled. The first 20 minutes I was really sold on the movie, since the few good laughs the movie got out of me where in those opening minutes and a lot of it worked because of how well the actors worked off the vibes of the people they were pranking and off each other. Other than that, I loved the creativity behind setting up the pranks, filming them, and keeping them a secret from participants; behind the scenes footage from the credits were a lot fun to see and get access to how the production kept these elaborate, over-the-top, and complex pranks secret and feel real to the unsuspecting crowd.
At this point, there isn’t much left to say beyond “I found most of the pranks in the movie unfunny”, especially since the movie blatantly wants nothing to do with social commentary or any form of storytelling. I could criticize it for the obvious inject scenes of exposition or justification of why characters are where they are and doing what they are, but that is like criticizing a boxer for KOing their opponent too early; they could have toyed around for a bit longer, but that could backfire spectacularly and isn’t really their priority. I did find the couple of instances that the movie specifically sets up and returns to an object and a reference to be some of the best bits, but those were more like inserts to justify those pranks rather than deliberate set ups.
In general, I enjoy comedies but never really desire to see one, so that is why I don’t cover them as often; also, I don’t find the rhetorical discussion around them to be of any interest or have informative qualities. I really like Cohen’s comedies and Bad Grandpa, but I didn’t like this one so does this make Bad Trip bad? I’ve seen the initial reaction the movie got (before it got picked up by Netflix, it was one of the dozens of movies that got delayed indefinitely due to the pandemic) and was pretty positive all round with reviewers citing those movies as pretty good references of whether this movie will appeal to you, and that didn’t work out for me obviously. Personally then, Bad Trip was a MEH experience since I didn’t find most of it to be funny, however there were a few good moments and it is one of those movies whose production and execution of certain aspects I found interesting. However, as with any comedy, there is a strong possibility that it will appeal to others and, if you have a Netflix subscription and want to see a comedy, it is not a bad choice, especially with a few good friends and a few cold beers.