Drunk Bus emerges as a fun entry in the long line of coming-of-age comedies. This time, it centers on Michael (Charlie Tahan), a college grad stuck in the mud as a campus bus driver who transports those too wasted to drive. At first, he only takes the job because it is one of the two highest-paying available to students, with the second being nude modeling. Now, Michael is stuck in a loop. His roommate is an obnoxious registered sex offender (Zach Cherry) who loves bragging that his piss smells like movie theater popcorn. Michael is strung along by his religious ex, Amy (Sarah Mezzanotte), forced into virginity because she’s saving herself for God. When Amy returns home without warning, she won’t even let Michael spoon her without a fuss: “What’s that doing here?” Amy says about his boner, “Go jerk off in the bathroom.”
Michael’s omniscient bus dispatcher (Will Forte) teases him with the possibility of a promotion, but this could glue Michael to the small town of Kent for good. When a strange, friendly and Samoan-American security guard, named Pineapple (a captivating turn from Pineapple Tangaroa), starts frequenting the bus, Michael forms an intimate platonic bond with the stranger. Instantly, Pineapple starts tossing life-altering advice Michael’s way: some of it is helpful and some of it is totally bonkers. Pineapple observes of Michael: “You’re like a ghost. You’re not living in Kent, you’re haunting it.” He quotes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and is filled with words of wisdom. Pineapple acts as personal body guard, and no one causes trouble when he’s around. Michael’s friends refer to him as “the bro whisperer,” and they love his swagger. “We gotta get you laid. Make sure the parts fit before you commit,” Pineapple muses of Michael’s virginity. The unexpected friendship will change the course of Michael’s repetitive existence forever.
Charlie Tahan and Pineapple Tangaroa are both incredible. Pineapple helps Michael come out of his shell and realize his buried dreams of being a photojournalist. The surprisingly strong connection between Michael and Pineapple is convincing and layered with the authenticity of truth that can only come from reality. Drunk Bus is actually based on the life of director Brandon LaGanke and his experience driving a campus bus with Pineapple Tangaroa, his actual security guard. Tangaroa uses his massive physicality and a disarmingly chill persona to flesh out the fictional Pineapple into an exaggerated and amplified version of himself. Like any bus, there are regulars on deck, with the most specific being FU Bob, a curmudgeonly older man whose hidden talent shines with beauty in the final act. Altercations with drunken collegiates, frat bros getting their comeuppance, tongue piercings, a drug dealer obsessed with Devo, the bond of Michael and Pineapple and a crazy, wild and hilarious sex scene make Drunk Bus a memorable fun time. There is also a silly after-credits scene with Will Forte worth sticking around for, which provides one final surge of comedy.
Drunk Bus stops in theaters and on demand Friday, May 21st.