Drunk Bus is an unlikely coming of age story. Still hung up on his ex-girlfriend and working as bus driver at his alma mater, Michael’s life (Charlie Tahan) is at a stand still. Seemingly content doing the same routine day in and day out, the recent college grad spends his nights driving the night route on the “drunk bus,” i.e. the bus that takes drunk college students to the bars, parties and back to their dorms.
When a few accidents cause his employer to hire an American-Samoan man to work security on his route, named Pineapple (Pineapple Tangaroa), Michael is first against working with the intimidating and heavily tattooed man. Encouraged by Pineapple to stand up for himself, the two bond over doing donuts in abandoned parking lots and hanging out with some of the bus’s riders. As the two bond, Michael starts to question his current reality and sees that participating in life is worth it.
The relationship between Pineapple and Michael is where Drunk Bus gets its appeal. Tangaroa’s performance is oozing with natural charm and a real-life older brother quality. Though his character’s entire arc is to bolster Michael on his journey to take ownership over his life, Tangaroa makes it work stealing the show. Kara Hayward, who you may remember from Moonrise Kingdom, gives a likeable and believable girl next door performance as Kat, a frequent bus patron. Will Forte pops up frequently as the uncredited voice of Michael’s supervisor, making fart jokes and inappropriate quips over the radio. It’s a delightful voice performance that unfortunately goes too far in one scene.
As a lead, Charlie Tahan’s performance is pretty straight forward and grounded. While he suits the painfully awkward Micheal, he lacks the nuance to successfully navigate the character through the plot’s more questionably problematic moments. However, watching him work with Tangaroa makes you forget some of Drunk Bus’s more cringey moments.
While this film is a feel good ride and genuinely funny, there are a few plot points that take Drunk Bus off course, especially in it’s final act. There’s a sex scene where a woman gives consent while sleep-talking, where the ethics of the interaction become a little questionable. There’s another plot twist towards the end that upon hindsight needed to happen, but was executed awkwardly. While it’s a comedy’s job to push the envelope of what’s acceptable, Chris Molinaro’s script straddles that line to the point where you question how the film is going age.
A surprisingly tender, cringe inducing comedy, Drunk Bus’s charm overrides its problems. With Charlie Tahan and Pineapple Tangaroa’s chemistry guiding the way, the film is ultimately worth the ride.
Drunk Bus is available on demand. Watch the trailer below.