Review by Camden Ferrell
Drunk Bus is the feature-length directorial debut of John Carlucci and Brandon LaGanke and the debut for writer Chris Molinaro. This is a funny yet simple indie comedy-drama that succeeds thanks to its acting and witty script.
In this movie, Michael is stuck in a monotonous loop, driving the late-night campus “drunk bus” after his girlfriend leaves him to go to New York. On this bus, he connects with a recently hired security guard, a large, punk-rock Samoan man. This simple premise has a lot of potential for great character interaction and development, and it’s a concept that doesn’t rely on too many gimmicks.
Molinaro’s script blends some raunchy and lowball humor well with some more clever and well-developed jokes. This combination works really well considering the setting of a campus shuttle. He also does a decent job of characterizing each character fairly well through their use of humor and non-verbal actions.
The best part of this movie is its acting. Charlie Tahan plays Michael, and he is a very charming lead. There are times where his act can seem kind of repetitive, but he is typically a strong lead, and he has some great deliveries. Pineapple Tangaroa plays Pineapple, the bus security guard. He has some great chemistry with Tahan, but he has a handful of jokes that don’t really properly land, but he still gives a solid performance nonetheless. The movie also features some good but fairly forgettable performances from Kara Hayward and Tonatiuh Elizarraraz.
This is yet another movie that deals with post break up depression in some capacity, but this movie handles it differently. It doesn’t create a caricature of sadness, but it definitely shows the more bleak and routine cycles of depression. This is seen in the constant loop of Michael’s routine, driving the bus, dealing with the same frustrating riders, and going home only to repeat the cycle. It’s one of the better parts of this movie, and it addresses this common idea in a fresh way.
Carlucci and LaGanke execute most of the scenes fairly well. They are able to pace each scene on the bus in a different way, and this prevents the film from meandering too much. They also balance moments of comedy, drama, tension, and romance, and even though it’s not perfect, it’s sufficient.
However, the movie does have its flaws. Some jokes in the film are not the most tasteful and somewhat disrupt the momentum of the film, and it feels very questionable. This is a rare occurrence, but it’s a glaring offense when it happens. It also sometimes drags in certain moments, but it’s usually not for too long.
Despite its flaws, this movie has plenty of charm, heart, and fun. It’s a harmless tale about breaking your own boring cycles in life and taking risks with what you do. It may not be the most original message, but it’s a well conveyed one.
Drunk Bus was set to debut at the cancelled 2020 SXSW Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.