The AmErican Dream has had a busy year. Alongside a smashing fifth iteration of Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show, Bad Trip marks the surrealist’s second effort for Netflix, after his arduous stand-up special Legalize Everything.
For the first time, Andre ‘appears’ to be telling a story, even if it is just a skeletal road-trip plot to provide a kind of gag itinerary. Following his show’s rotating set of Hannibal Buress surrogates in season five, Get Out’s Lil Rey Howery fills in the side-kick role in Bad Trip, as the two pals journey from Florida to New York in search of Eric’s high-school crush. Swiftly on their tail is Tiffany Haddish, who’s just escaped jail and realised they’ve stolen her car.
As suggested however, the story is merely structure for a film that entirely plays out like an extended series of remotes from The Eric Andre Show; hidden-camera skits comprised of unwitting participants that get caught in Eric’s on-location shenanigans. Some of the bits from the show, or at least versions of them, even make it here: the hand-in-the-blender grossfest, an art gallery horrorshow, and a hallucinogenic montage that recalls the ‘Bird Up!’ routine.
At times, the film even inches towards high-stakes stunts, including an impressive car crash and a brief but wonderful mall-set musical number, in which choreography and Andre’s penchant for cringe chaos combines in a wonderful mesh. But this is less Jackass, and more Borat or Nathan For You. (Allegedly, Andre gave a preview screening to Sacha Baron-Cohen and Nathan Fielder while the film was still being edited).
And with its full committal to real-world interaction on a level more physically visceral than the above examples, Andre starts to resemble something like a live-action Looney Tunes character. The world as his playground, we are treated to intimate relations with a gorilla and a White Chicks-themed karaoke set, as the general goal is to examine reactions to surreal occurrences, rather than anything like a politically-critical goal.
Truthfully, Andre shines as a comedic force when he is actively destroying the format he’s adopted. But if he commits at all, it can smack of a forced effort. Here, he gets caught somewhere in between, leading to a dry finale that doesn’t pay off an interesting anti-climax, when Eric finally meets his true love.
It’s doubtful this will have any purchase for those unfamiliar with Andre. But if you are, it’s quite a bit of fun. Its uncynical stupidity renders an extended analysis pointless – by the time you get to the Chinese finger-trap mishap, you’ll see what I mean.