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Drunk Bus

****
2020

‘…funny is the right word for this feel-good film, a comedy that should work for the Superbad crowd in terms of depicting bad decisions and wayward behaviour…’

Where were you in 2006? Back in the days of flip-phones and Netscape, you probably couldn’t have it much worse than Michael (Ozark’s Charlie Tahan). He’s working as a campus bus driver, ferrying boozed and drugged up students around a freezing Rochester New York, with the attendant vomit-stains and fractured feelings about life that predictably result. But fortunately for us, John Carlucci and Brandon LaGanke’s film is a bromance comedy, and one with a big redemptive arc. While set in a recognisably real world, Drunk Bus is a more sophisticated story that a quick survey of the contents might suggest; this is a coming-of-age story that hits right notes in depicting the trials of growing-up.

We may not be able to pick our family, but we can choose our friends; Michael probably wouldn’t have made the burly Pineapple (Pineapple Tangaroa) top of his list of potential best buddies, but the Samoan is assigned to Michael’s bus when an irate customer steps over the yellow line to give Michael a black eye. Pineapple is a big lad, and has evolved a deck of homespun homilies and wisdoms to impart to Michael, namely ‘None of this actually matters.’ Michael is bound up with his job, his girlfriend in New York, and various other issues; Pineapple’s route one approach to solving problems via head-butting seems deceptively simple in comparison. Can Michael find a way to snap out of his dwam and find true happiness?

The opening half-hour of Drunk Bus is largely set on a bus for of drunks, but this is no Bacchanalian revel in bad behaviour; Michael’s role in getting the kids to their destination is unappreciated, and he’s effectively sidelined as a sad-sack servant, forced to bear the indignities of flying food missiles and other physical threats. Pineapple manages to lead Michael to a transformation of sorts, but also leads the story in a different direction as he introduces Michael to an underbelly of illegal campus life, notably comic Dave Hill in a funny turn as a Devo-obsessed drug dealer. The credits note the film is ‘inspired by real shit’ and for once, the stories featured feel like they’re inspired by real events.

And yes, funny is the right word for this feel-good film, a comedy that should work for the Superbad/Adventureland crowd in terms of depicting bad decisions and amusingly wayward behaviour, but holds an admirable line in terms of maintaining our sympathy for Michael and developing our understanding of his responsibilities. With not one but two killer Star Wars jokes in the script, and many amusing moments in the developing relationship between Michael and Pineapple, Drunk Bus is a minor comic gem and comes recommended to anyone who knows the bitter-sweet comedy/tragedy of everyday campus life. My experience was largely in Albany rather than Rochester, but I can vouch for the details shown here as being accurate ie it always feels like there’s a party going on somewhere, yet it can feel pretty cold if you’re stuck outside.

Blue Finch Film Releasing presents Drunk Bus in the UK on Digital Download from 24 May 2021.

Thanks to Witchfinder for advanced access to this title.

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  1. see? around that time I went to a campus show of Jorge Cham, an often touching (If you were doing a phd) comic artist who often veered strongly into the sentimental and romantic aspects of collegiate life, which, I often scoffed at while setting next to possibly the best girlfriend I’d ever have! During a QandA session at the end of his entertaining powerpoint presentation (the main skill of any PhD is the power point presentation) a young young woman stood up and complained — in unsettling ways — that the bus drivers were paid more than she was and that she was doing “important” research . . .
    Cham to his credit immediately blurted (on his feet) bus drivers are important. It was probably the most impressive part of the show.
    As a blue collar loser my whole life getting the PhD was supposed to open a door or at least a window into some kind of arena where my david attenborough inspired interests could pay off. They didn’t.
    This film sounds like the right track for me!

    • I think this film may well speak to you directly about your own experience. We’ve seen plenty of movies about finding out who you are and what you want to do in life; Drunk Bus feels like someone’s experience, and makes a strong case for bus drivers being important. As I believe they are. hey, i think pretty much everyone who makes a contribution is important, and it annoys me that society sees one group as more important than another. I’m horrified at the way education is missold to students today, it’s become a Trump university type con job. At least movies can teach you a thing or two…

  2. Albany? Were you a driver or passenger on the drunk bus? Or just a general observer of life? You never had public servants like this back in the pre-entitlement world. Sounds an interesting concept.

    • Passenger; not allowed to drive buses in the US, although I could always have done a Sandra Bullock and snuck in as the best option. But yes, I did observe campus life, and yes, it was like this film.

  3. 2006. What a year. I happened to be in hiding in Juarez just after the *thing* went down. Was staying with my grandma and her donkey. Actually, a Scottish man, around 70 I would say, approached her and started screaming “Bunty!” repeatedly. Donkey gave him a good kicking, but it was a scary experience.

      • He reminds me of a slimmed down, buff Israel Kamakawiwoʻole.

        We initially met on Xanga, another blogging platform. I was comment surfing (hopping from blog to blog based on the commentors) and she wrote about a medieval wedding she’d attended. We became online friends, met in real life at one of my friend’s wedding and were married within 12-18 months.

    • I was there in the 90’s. Great campus, great sandwiches, cool place. This movie is set later. What was upsetting you in 2006?

                    • Not digging, you brought it up! If no information is forthcoming, we’ll just have to speculate…

                    • 1. Came last in a Patrick Stewart lookalike cometition.
                      2 Found your cameo was edited out of King John (1906)
                      3. Wig blew away and into Niagra Falls
                      4. Plastic wheelie bins remove most social opportunities.

                      Am I close? Maybe a combination of those?

                    • 1) Patrick Stewart was actually one of the runners-up in an Alex Good lookalike competition.
                      2) Wasn’t edited. The combination of my charisma and smoldering sexuality combusted the old nitrate stock.
                      3) As bald is beautiful (something everyone agrees upon), I despise wigs.
                      4) Wheelie bins promote social activity. Which you would know if you ever took the garbage out. Or left the house, for that matter.

                    • 1) Pics? If there’s no pics, it didn’t happen. Apparently.
                      2) Who told you that you had either of these things?
                      3) Why were you called Wiggy Good back in 2006, and what trauma befell you? YOU brought it up!
                      4) What if I locked the bins and you couldn’t get in for your trash-humping sessions? What would you do then, eh?

                    • 1) Of course there are pics. Patrick and I went out to the pub later for some shepherd’s pie. Good times.
                      2) People are saying.
                      3) Wasn’t aware of that.
                      4) What fascinating revisionist history. From the first words in the “review” posted: “Where were you in 2006?” That is, you brought it up.

                    • 1. Great. let’s see these pictures. Or it’s a LIE!
                      2. No-one is saying that. Not without laughing, anyway.
                      3. Alex Good; King of Wigs was a popular show of the day.
                      4. Did I ask you to share some salacious gossip about your outre behaviour? That’s on you, Bunty. Your choice. So what is it? Crime? Social disaster? Your move, Bozo.

                    • I don’t share private pics of me hanging with celebs. You know that. You asked what I was doing in 2006. Then you became all about wanting to know salacious gossip. Very strange behaviour. I mean, for a normal person. For you, just another day.

                    • Do you understand that my postings are intended for the general public, not personal enquiries aimed at you?

                      I asked my readers what they were doing, paraphrasing the famous tag-line ‘Where were you in ’62?’ and updating it to the film in question.

                      Like the rest of the world, I have no interest in the squalid, fetid rituals that you consider to be your social life, but thought I should make sure that you were not in distress.

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