2021, NR, 100 min. Directed by John Carlucci, Brandon LaGanke. Starring Charlie Tahan, Pineapple Tangaroa, Sarah Mezzanotte, Martin Pfefferkorn, Kara Hayward, Zach Cherry, Frank Iero, Dave Hill.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., May 21, 2021
Every smart college kid knows: Always get respectfully friendly with your late night bus driver, because it's a terrible job dealing with your drunk, privileged ass. But not every bus driver wants to be your buddy. Michael (Tahan) is one of those guys who's hanging around his old college town just because he doesn't know what else to do, other than take a job shuttling blitzed students around the late night loop while pining for his ex-girlfriend, Amy (Mezzanotte).
He's a maudlin pile of mush under a knitted cap, pallid and unengaged, always looking forward but always going in a very symbolic circle. However, he's thrown off-route – and Drunk Bus finds a new gear – as Pineapple (Austin tattoo artist Tangaroa excelling and charming in his first major role) stomps on to the bus. After Michael gets cold-cocked by a hot-headed student, the dispatcher assigns him some rough-and-tumble security: and if Pineapple's bulk, full-face tattoo, and domineering presence weren't enough to keep the students in line, he's also alarmingly adept with a good old fashioned headbutt. "That's your answer to everything," Michael whines. "Because it works," Pineapple grins, but Michael's wrong. Pineapple has a lot of answers, built on his resolute fearlessness about everything, and calm demeanor.
First-time feature directors John Carlucci and Brandon LaGanke (who drew on his own experiences as a college bus driver and his college friendship with the real Tangaroa for the story) doesn't veer far from the established "unlikely friend" equation. But that's OK, because whether it's The Odd Couple, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, or Rush Hour, what you're watching for is how the two protagonists antagonize each other when they're forced together by fate. In this case, it's with a surprising low-key charm, with Pineapple bringing his gutterpunk Yoda vibe into Michael's carefully-constructed world of misery, and both getting a little learning from the experience. It's not if Michael gets out of his rut (or when he gets to chasten Pineapple a little along the way), but how, and it's a fun ride with him until he reaches that destination.
Like any bus trip, an assortment of oddballs get on and off, with the constantly abusive Fuck You Bob (Pfefferkorn), potential new love interest/pickpocket Kat (a hilariously sardonic turn from Hayward), and a "blink and you'll miss it" cameo from My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero. There are some entertaining stops along the way, like a memorable appearance from metal-friendly comedian Dave Hill in a low-key stoner riff on the drug dealer rip-off sequence from Boogie Nights (just with a lot less violence and a pun that will make New Wave fans chortle and choke at the same time). So what if it's a familiar route? In this case, familiarity definitely doesn't breed contempt, but instead something like the warm glow of bumping into an old friend for the first time.
Available on VOD now. Read our interview with Pineapple Tangaroa, "On The Drunk Bus With Pineapple Tangaroa," May 21.