Review: Crass hidden camera pranks yield 'Bad Trip,' worse movie

Eric André, Lil Rel Howery and Tiffany Haddish star in Netflix stunt comedy that aims low and lands even lower

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

It's "Candid Camera" with gross-out gags in "Bad Trip," an insipid, unfunny hybrid of ABC's hidden camera show "What Would You Do?" and Tom Green's notorious 2001 comedy "Freddy Got Fingered." 

Except "What Would You Do?" at least pretends to pose questions about societal issues and pays attention to the reactions of those being provoked, and "Freddy Got Fingered" questioned the boundaries of narrative and the definition of good taste. "Bad Trip" isn't concerned with much outside of its own outrageousness, and the lazy sense of self-satisfaction that comes from acting a fool while the camera's rolling.   

Eric André and Lil Rel Howery in "Bad Trip."

In the extremely loose, razor thin storyline, comedian and provocateur Eric André is Chris Carey, a Florida loser who sees his high school crush Maria (Michaela Conlin) and decides to follow her to New York to ask her out. He enlists his pal Bud (Lil Rel Howery) to join him, and since neither of them have a car, they steal a vehicle from Bud's sister Trina (Tiffany Haddish), who doesn't need her wheels since she's currently doing time.

The road trip is the story, since every stop along the way is an excuse to stage an incident in front of unknowing bystanders and capture it on camera. The gags are predictable, low-hanging fruit scenarios: a visit to a zoo finds André's character being sodomized by a gorilla, a trip to a country bar finds André drinking too much and vomiting everywhere, etc. Are we laughing yet? Most people aren't, they just take out their phones and start filming. Thirty years ago, these incidents may have provoked interesting reactions. Now, people just see them as opportunities for their own content. 

In "Borat," Sacha Baron Cohen used a similar hidden-camera structure, playing a foreign reporter whose cultural ignorance was used as a tool to expose America's racism and prejudices. He was the star, but America was the subject.

There's no similar second layer here. In "Bad Trip," André and company are just acting stupid to see what people do when people around them act stupid. The answers aren't in any way insightful or revealing. They're just, well, stupid.  

'Bad Trip'

GRADE: F

Rated R: for crude sexual content, pervasive language, some graphic nudity and drug use

Running time: 86 minutes

On Netflix

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama