The Eric Andre Show, like so many of today’s best television comedies, is intensely revered by critics and its hardcore fanbase yet virtually unknown to the public at large. It’s right up there with Nathan for You and On Cinema at the Cinema as a TV comedy that should be essential viewing for those interested in programs that play with the genre’s conventions. And Eric Andre’s comedy is nothing if not unconventional: Imagine a talk show hosted by Satan where celebrity guests (some who are in on the joke, some who are woefully unaware of Andre’s shtick) undergo various humiliations like watching their host eat his own vomit or unleash a swarm of rats on the stage. In between these interviews from hell are interstitial prank segments that are somehow even more bizarre. (One that instantly springs to mind is Andre walking around in a costume filled with milk and cereal on a New York City subway and screaming “Drink from me!”). It’s Tim and Eric by way of Jackass, and it’s also quite brilliant.
Bad Trip (premiering today via Netflix) is Andre’s first big starring vehicle, and it’s helmed by nearly every creative force from his TV show (including series director Kitao Sakurai, behind the camera here as well). Taking a page out of the 2013 Jackass spinoff Bad Grandpa, the movie purports itself to be a road-trip comedy when it’s really nothing more than a delivery mechanism for Andre’s signature hidden-camera pranks. So even if the half-hearted plot is just there as filler, that shouldn’t be a problem as long as the gags deliver, right? Well, regrettably, those gags will likely prove underwhelming for seasoned fans of The Eric Andre Show, as several are taken right from the show itself, and the most memorable bits are spaced too far apart to justify the feature length.
It feels unnecessary to dive into story details, given they’re entirely superfluous to the few genuinely inspired moments scattered throughout Bad Trip, so let’s keep it brief: Chris (Andre) and his best friend, Bud (Lil Rey Howery), both work dead-end jobs they hate and all-in-all lead fairly miserable existences. One day at work, Chris spots his high-school crush, and when he asks her out, she tells him she’s only in town for a day and headed back home to New York City for a gallery show at her art museum. In quintessential Dumb and Dumber fashion, the pair takes an impulsive cross-country road trip to follow her back home so Chris can win her affections. The one thing in their way, however, is Bud’s homicidal sister, Trina (Tiffany Haddish), who freshly escapes from prison to realize her brother and his friend have stolen her beloved car for their trip.
Bad Trip borrows so many elements from so many superior comedies that it’s impossible to imagine Andre and his crew weren’t completely aware that the plot is nothing more than a Frankenstein fusing of Dumb and Dumber and Bad Grandpa. Where this falls short, however, is that there’s never a single moment in which Chris, Bud or Trina feel like they exist in the real world. Thus there isn’t any way for the viewer to feel invested in the outcome of their tumultuous trip. The story is as generic as they come. But the movie doesn’t attempt to parody or provide commentary on the formula, only mimic it in the laziest way possible.
As for the street pranks which Andre did such a wonderful job crafting on his Adult Swim program, there are merely a couple setpieces that truly stand out. One takes the gorilla rape gag from Trading Places (or Old Dogs if you’re a real sicko) to a logical extreme that one could only expect from a madman like Andre. The other details Chris’s drunken night at a bar where his public behavior turns from embarrassing to concerning and finally to outright traumatizing for any of the real people who were there and unlucky enough to witness it. Those sequences are sure to remind fans of the waste of potential that Bad Trip ultimately personifies. Personally, I’d recommend saving yourself the disappointment, and just check those scenes out in a five-minute YouTube clip.