When Bud and Chris need a car to get to New York City, they “borrow” the bright pink Crown Vic that belongs to Bud’s sister, Trina (Tiffany Haddish), who Bud fears but is relieved when she’s put in jail for breaking house arrest. And yet soon enough, Haddish crawls out from under a prison bus, having broken out and starts looking for her car. When it’s not where she stored it, she hunts Bud and Chris up the Eastern seaboard, making for some incredibly funny, abrasive scenes of her confronting people about whether they’ve seen them or her car that has “Bad Bitch” written on the window. Haddish bulldozes into every set-piece, exemplifying the film’s over-the-top spirit. When talking to progressively uncomfortable strangers, she doesn’t miss a beat and she relishes the opportunity to appear dangerous; when she steals a cop car and burns out of a donut shop parking lot, it’s one of her many triumphant moments.
“Bad Trip” is a collision of great improvisational actors and authentically bewildered reactions from people unaware that they’re now in Chris’ story—which makes Michaela Conlin’s performance as Maria all the more an essential middle to its Venn diagram. She enters the movie also as an innocent bystander, but that’s a deceptive comic energy that plays out in very funny ways as she pushes back against Chris’ delusions. In Chris’ prank-based daydreams, Conlin matches André’s intensity; that she has to play it straight in later scenes adds to the tension she creates, like when Chris tries to profess his love to her.
Just how funny is “Bad Trip”? After two viewings, it’s one of those comedies with a stable laughing average and high replay value, even if it doesn’t always hit you as hard. It knowingly plays a hit-and-miss game, and some scenes don’t entirely work (like a grocery store drug trip that plays out like a soft tribute to “The Eric Andre Show”), while other pranks go for discomfort more than big laughs (like when Chris gets gas springing all over a gas station). But the movie has speediness on its side, with pacing that takes the plotting from one prank to the next, often including crowds of people in the latest big dramatic confrontation that comes from Bud and Chris’ expected emotional arc. (A sudden car crash sequence is particularly well planned out, with cameras and extras ready nearby.) It’s a steady build to its ultimate destination of NYC, and every major set piece is constructed to bubble with discomfort before then skyrocketing over the top. An early scene at Chris’ smoothie shop job only begins with him making the drinks without spoons—it escalates to awkward tension with disgusted, annoyed customers, and then boom, a laugh-out-loud, gory finale that hits with impeccable, unexpected timing.
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