In West Grove, Florida, Chris Carey (Eric André) works diligently at a car wash when a man collecting his vehicle returns to the shop. The customer sits watching Chris finish up, and they make small talk until Chris stops dead in his tracks when his high school crush Maria Lin (Michaela Conlin), arrives on the scene.
Chris starts freaking out and mimes to the customer his excitement and apprehension. He goes back to finishing up the car to help her next and asks the customer to turn the vacuum on for him. When he does, Chris’s overalls are suctioned from his body, leaving him starkly naked in the middle of the driveway. Freaking out, and with his crush only meters away, he leaps into the customer’s vehicle right as she approaches. The customer is flabbergasted.
The new Netflix film Bad Trip is a hidden camera narrative film, blending reactions from real people encountering these characters as they are filmed in the real world. It’s fantastic!
The lead cast, which includes Lil Rel Howery and a viciously outrageous Tiffany Haddish, is committed and courageous. Director Kitao Sakurai, whose vision is explained in the closing credits, has achieved an incredible feat of capturing wild scenarios played out to unsuspecting, everyday people and creating a cohesive story around the ridiculousness. Just watch as Chris dreams he’s marrying Maria, and at the wedding ceremony, when the priest says he can kiss the bride, Chris, and the priest begin making out in front of a group of perplexed, uncomfortable attendees.
How did the producers make it happen with all these real people? Well, the magicians reveal some of their secrets, and it’s all in the locations of the hidden cameras and the choreography of the actions. The twenty-nine producers and writers, Dan Curry, Eric André, and Kitao Sakurai, must be credited for pulling off some crazy situations. By the film’s end, you might wonder how easily you could be fooled into falling for one of these outlandish hidden camera moments.
Filmed over four years, Bad Trip is about chasing love, and potentially for all the wrong reasons. After a chance encounter with his high school crush, Maria Lin, at his job in a juice bar, lovable loser Chris Carey decides to drive north to New York City to attend her gallery show. Along for the ride is his best from Bud Malone (Lil Rea Howery), who helps Chris steal Bud’s imprisoned sisters’ hot pink cruiser. Trina Malone (Tiffany Haddish) escapes from prison and, upon finding out that Bud and Chris took her car, tracks their movements to reclaim it. To say she is dangerous is an understatement. She’s on a mission for justice, and it doesn’t matter who gets in her way.
Carelessly oblivious to the fact that Trina escaped prison, Chris and Bud encounter strangers who they make cringe with maximum effect. Each person is a new victim of the hidden camera treatment. Bad Trip consistently surprises with how far they go, like when Bud uses a portable potty outside a restaurant and asks a patron to help him out when he falls into the toilet bowl. Howery, André, Haddish, and Conlin are game for everything. Even in the face of danger, they maintain their character’s personalities and ensure the scene doesn’t break until they’ve left. Then the producers can come running in for all the signatures they need. It’s an accomplishment that pays off, even in a second viewing.
Trina, who has been hanging on to the underside of a correctional detention bus, scares a man washing graffiti off the wall of a building in one hilarious scene. She falls to the road, asks him to help her escape, and lingers so long that he becomes brutally uncomfortable that he might be caught seeing her escape. After an officer asks if he’s seen anyone, the graffiti cleaner, incredulous, suggests the officer go in one direction. As he disappears down the street, Trina returns to thank the graffiti cleaner for helping her. “Runaway, please,” he pleads. Watch as Haddish lingers longer and longer, making him squirm for his safety.
Bad Trip is a masterclass in improvisation and dedication to the moment. When Trina tells some ladies the police won’t help her find her car, so she rips off a police car door and drives away, leaving the women with their jaws on the floor. Or the confrontation between Chris and Bud later in the film, which is mediated by a decent Samaritan who tries to get them to make up.
It all works, and it’s incredibly effective. Bad Trip is one hell of a fun ride.