4 Globes out of 5
For the past nine years, Eric Andre has been delivering pranks and hijinks on Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show. From parachuting into a cell phone focus group to getting kicked out of the Republican National Convention for dressing up as a “freedom girl” (a cheerleader donned in red, white and blue, chanting “U-S-A”), Andre’s pranks have always been a glimpse into his bizarre but brilliant mind. Now, with his first feature-length film on Netflix, he’s no longer held back by television censors, and we get more than just a glimpse.
Bad Trip is Andre’s first proper foray into film. While Andre has appeared in movies before, most notably the 2019 live-action The Lion King remake, this is the first film he’s made in the style of The Eric Andre Show. Directed by The Eric Andre Show series director Kitao Sakurai, Bad Trip incorporates a frame narrative about a road trip with real pranks and real people who don’t know that they’re being filmed.
The frame narrative is, admittedly, relatively barebones, and for the most part, only serves to move from one prank to the next. That being said, the connective tissue between the pranks makes them feel less like YouTube clips and more like fully fleshed-out moments. The pranks are also incorporated into the narrative well and are not just side moments.
There is a disconnect between some of the pranks, however. If you’ve seen The Eric Andre Show, you’ll recognize quite a few that he’s done on the program, and longtime fans might feel a bit disappointed with the reliance on bits that they’ve seen before. But each of these still generates different reactions from the bystanders, so it’s not like you’re watching the exact same thing you’ve seen.
So, on one hand, there are the Adult Swim-esque pranks. But then there’s a different side of pranks: the ones that Andre couldn’t do on television. Some of these pranks are great, most notably one involving a gorilla, but some of them are pushing an envelope that Andre doesn’t need to push to be funny. The biggest example of this is a prank involving a Chinese finger trap and private parts. Luckily, the pranks that don’t land are few and far between, and the movie moves from one prank to the next at such a fast speed that nothing ever feels like it overstays its welcome.
This movie has been compared by a lot of people to Borat, but I disagree with that comparison. In Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen plays a character designed to play towards people’s prejudices. He utilizes this to get underneath people’s psyches and have them reveal who they truly are. For example, in the rodeo scene, when he yells, “We support your war of terror,” and everyone cheers, it’s showing how people will follow something that they think they agree with, and it’s specifically commentating on the Iraq War. Borat serves as an exposé on how terrible people can be. Bad Trip is not this. In fact, it’s the opposite. While its influence from Borat is apparent, Bad Trip functions at its best showcasing the good in people. There are multiple times throughout the movie when people help Andre’s character out, not knowing they’re being pranked. This emphasis on humanity is most highlighted as the end credits roll, footage is shown of people being told that they’re being pranked, and it’s one of the most delightful things that I’ve seen in a movie in a long time, only topped by the musical number that Andre performs in a shopping mall food court earlier in the movie. Seriously, I’m not joking: the shopping mall food court scene in this movie is one of the best scenes I’ve ever seen in a comedy movie.
Bad Trip is proof that Andre’s pranks work beyond just a late-night 10-minute Adult Swim show. It’s the hardest I’ve laughed watching a movie in a long time. With a lot of pranks and a decent bit of heart, Bad Trip is well worth an hour and 24 minutes of your life.