by Brandon Thomas
When you’re sober, drunk people are annoying. Drunk college students are infinitely worse. But drunk college students on public transportation? The absolute worst. Entertaining, but still the worst.
Thankfully Drunk Bus leans harder into the entertaining part of the drunkenness, and leaves the annoying portions on the cutting room floor.
Michael (Charlie Tahan, Ozark) isn’t a college student anymore, but he’s still intimately involved in campus life. See, Michael drives a bus on campus during the late shift. Affectionately known as the “Drunk Bus,” the route typically consists of inebriated students and the more colorful townies. After Michael is assaulted during one of his shifts, his boss hires a tatted-up, punk rock Samoan security guard named Pineapple (Pineapple Tangaroa) to keep the peace. The two men couldn’t be any more different, but they quickly strike up a friendship that leads Michael on a path of rediscovering who he is.
I’m of the mind that a good comedy is typically light on plot. Sure, there should be an overall story being told, but no one is asking for anything as comically complex as Tenet. That being said, Drunk Bus hits the sweet spot for me by being more of a character study that also borders on being a hangout film. There’s situational and physical comedy to be sure, but the majority of the laughs come through the interactions of these characters.
Speaking of characters, there are more than a few memorable ones. Directors John Carlucci and Brandon LaGanke pepper interesting personalities with equally interesting faces throughout the film. The standout being the imposing Samoan, Pineapple. Tangaroa is relatively new to acting, yet he brings a naturalistic charm to the role. He and Tahan find fast chemistry that has to work with as much screen time they share.
Characters with names like “Fuck You Bob” and “Devo Ted” also charmed me to my core. An elderly character that says nothing but, “Fuck you!” and a middle-aged drug dealer who’s really into Devo might sound one-note – and they are to a point – but they also help define this ridiculously eclectic world the filmmakers have conjured.
Drunk Bus dips its toe into cliche now and again, but, really, what comedy doesn’t? The strength of the film is its dedication to character and letting those relationships feel real and lived in.