“Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics” is a humorous documentary about LSD that ends up being as disorganized as the subject matter suggests, which is probably appropriate. Loosely centered around some often contradictory tips for managing hallucinogenic experiences, this film is really just celebrity drug stories, animated or reenacted by a core group of comedians. A few rumpled scientists weigh in on the psychological benefits of these drugs, but the funny, silly stories are the main attraction.
Adam Scott and Nick Offerman are our hosts on this trip. Offerman plays a scientist, while Scott, in faithfully recreated ’80s regalia, plays the host of a tongue-in-cheek after school special. He warns of the dangers of LSD, which clearly are not a concern to the creators of this documentary, as long as you follow some rules the participants lay out. Most importantly: Do not drive.
Sting starts us off with his very sincere description of his LSD experiences, which he makes a sweetly convincing claim are profound spiritual experiences that make him a better man. This sounds silly, but Sting makes it sounds somehow reasonable, even as he describes having deer blood poured onto him while he’s blindfolded, under the auspices of induction into a peyote cult. In his dulcid English tones, he assures us that even that gruesome scene works out for the best if one brings the proper attitude, and his winsome cartoon avatar seems no worse for the wear.
The late Anthony Bourdain makes no such claims of self improvement as he describes a youthful journey into the heart of darkness, inspired by a slavish devotion to Hunter S. Thompson and his hedonistic lifestyle. His story is recreated with actors rather than cartoons and concerns some misadventures with some lady hitchhikers. Any scrap of new Bourdain footage is worth watching, especially when he’s spinning a good yarn of debauchery. Of course, he comes across as one of the only people in the film who isn’t trying to exaggerate or sound cool because he was simply the coolest man ever, and he seems to be recounting something that actually happened.
Other participants sound more like high school students bragging about their groovy trips and cool times, like Nick Kroll getting covered by seaweed in Malibu and Rosie Perez getting dosed on a dance floor, leading to a wardrobe malfunction. I think the viewer appreciation of these different interviews depends on your interest in the celebrity — these are not necessarily the most riveting stories ever told.
Many of the participants are comedians, including Sarah Silverman, Brett Gelman and David Cross, but probably the most famous person in the film is the late Carrie Fisher. Unsurprisingly, Fisher had a vast library of drug experiences from which to choose. She describes these times with her wry perspective, as someone with no illusions about the highs and lows of these activities. She says she had special acid outfits and certain acid makeup, and she took literal acid trips around the world in order to take acid trips.
In her open and matter-of-fact way, Fisher points out that her problem lay not with psychedelics but with opioids. It is sobering to think Fisher is now dead from drug abuse while both Bourdain and his hero, Thompson, have both died from suicide. But this is certainly not a gritty documentary about the dark side of drug use; it’s just a collection of anecdotes.
No judgement is stated or implied in any of these cases, except for the recurring edict: Do not attempt to drive a car while partaking of psychedelic drugs. Even the cherubic cartoon version of Sting knows that.
Ben Stiller is the only participant who admits to being inexperienced and openly dorky about it. He says he only did it once, it scared him and he ended up calling his dad. While others thought they were walking in Van Gogh paintings or enhancing the physical act of amour, Stiller fully admits that once was enough for him and he probably could have just watched this documentary instead.
However, “Have a Good Trip” is not thorough, evocative or even funny enough to substitute for any particular experience other than spending a short hour and a half chuckling. It’s perfectly serviceable but offers little in the way of a point of view. And if these comedians are going to embellish their drug trip stories — as one would sort of have to just by the nature of the haziness of memories — they could have made them more interesting. It’s worth watching, but “Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics” ends up being only half-baked.
“Have a Good Trip” is currently streaming on Netflix.
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