Rating: (2.5 stars)
Nick Offerman wears a white lab coat as he introduces the documentary “Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics,” but the faint smile that the actor — playing a nameless “scientist” — struggles to suppress betrays the lack of solemnity of this film. As goofy as it is good-natured, “Good Trip” aims to entertain, not educate, as it presents a star-studded parade of celebrity reminiscences about taking hallucinogenic drugs. Mostly, it succeeds.
The famous folks who have been brought in front of the camera by filmmaker Donick Cary, a writer and producer known for his work on “Late Night with David Letterman,” “The Simpsons” and “Parks and Recreation,” come mainly from the world of comedy, and include Sarah Silverman, Nick Kroll, Rob Corddry and Paul Scheer (with the last two playing each other, in reenactments of their drug trips). Along with some amusing animations, such reenactments include a scene featuring Brett Gelman as a talking acorn, in a story told by the late actress Carrie Fisher. Other subjects include musicians (Sting, A$AP Rocky and others); pioneering LSD researcher — and LSD user — Timothy Leary’s son Zach Leary; doctor, author and advocate for alternative medicine Deepak Chopra; the late chef, author, raconteur and TV host Anthony Bourdain; and, in a perfunctory nod to the world of non-boldface names, psychiatrist Charles Grob.
It’s Grob who talks about the potential of psychotropic drugs in medicine, especially as a treatment for depression and other mental illness. Sting seconds that notion, calling his overall experience with tripping — both the good and the bad kind — “valuable.”
More often, however, the stories range from the crazy — if less than consistently hilarious, as Offerman promises at the top of the film — to the downright scary at times. Bourdain spins a wild tale in which a young woman drops dead, from drugs he and his friend provided. That unhappy ending is an outlier: For the most part, the stories in “Good Trip” end without incident or long-term damage. Overall, the gist of the film is that media coverage of hallucinogen use is often hysterical. A running gag is a satire of an “Afterschool Special” in which teens (played by Maya Erskine of “Pen15” and other actors) are shown taking drugs and immediately jumping out of the window.
In addition to all the anecdotes, the film offers a handful of tips for safe tripping too, some useful, and some not so useful:
Don’t do acid and drive.
Control your set (i.e., the people you’re tripping with) and setting.
Don’t ever look in the mirror — or, alternatively, do look in the mirror.
And, as Marc Maron says he was once told, during a bad trip: Just hang in there, man. According to Maron, that’s advice he still gives people today, although it sounds pretty banal.
Is tripping for everyone? Clearly not, says A$AP Rocky, who tells one of the film’s funniest stories — and the one most inappropriate for a family newspaper. According to Ben Stiller (whose frequent comedy collaborator Mike Rosenstein is the film’s producer) the actor has only ever tripped once, and that was more than enough. “Probably could have just watched this,” he jokes.
TV-MA. Available via Netflix streaming. Contains lengthy discussion of drugs, a little sex talk, and one story about an overdose, with some strong language sprinkled in. 85 minutes.