It has been said on numerous occasions that comedy is the most subjective of all genres for a filmmaker to try and tackle. To do so on a limited budget often proves to be an insurmountable object for young filmmakers to try and tackle. You’re fighting then for the audience to not only accept your film as legitimate and equal to what they expect from a Hollywood project, but you’re also simply dealing with the mechanics of making a comedy that will keep every one laughing. Tripping Forward is a project where the filmmakers actually manage to do a really good job of tackling both of these issues in a head-on fashion, but do it while being nonchalant. Mind you, this isn’t as low budget of an affair as many screeners I often find myself reviewing, after all it features appearances John Kapelos and Ed Begley Jr., but it is still most certainly outside of The System. Tripping Forward, as you will be able to guess after my plot description in a moment, is a comedy that may ultimately prove to be a guilty pleasure of sorts. The comedy is low brow, the characters are over the top and the drug humor might be a bit pandering. Despite those issues, it is still a fun film with many memorable character and moments. However, you’ll know whether or not this one is up your alley as soon as the character of Tripp is introduced.
Tripp and Ford are two down on their luck entertainers. Ford Coleman (Chris Fogleman) is an out of work actor making the rounds between acting class and an endless number of auditions. Tripp (William Gregory Lee) on the other hand is an out of work musician who could care less about scoring another gig and is more enticed by the idea of getting his hands on whatever drug he can find. The unlikely pair stumble across a get rich scheme in the narcotics trade. Tripp finds a rich supermodel who receives a key of cocaine every month for free and is willing to sell it to the boys every month for half the price of street value. With that, the pot gets sweeter as this supermodel is willing to pass along contacts for all of her supermodel friends who might turn out as potential customers. With these names and numbers in hand, the boys are looking to get paid and laid; in which ever order comes first. However, Ford soon finds love in the form of Gwen (Amber Benson) – the quirky but sexy girl from his acting class that actually digs on his goofy ways. Will Ford betray her trust or will the two get in and out of this devious lifestyle without anyone even noticing?
Although I ultimately liked the film, it sure does start off by putting a bad foot forward. It opens with Ford being interviewed on a Inside the Actor’s Studio-esque program, where we get all of the conventional riffs on that as you may expect. The sequence of course turns out to be a dream and is supposed to be funny due to the irony of his real life situation, which is that of a nobody, but the concept is so contrived that all comedy has been beaten out of the technique at this point. However, I will say that the sequence proves to have a saving grace in the form of an incredibly hot female who starts bumping and grinding on Ford who utters perhaps the best line in the movie: "I bet you have huge bouncing balls to smack my ass with". How many movies can get away with such a blatantly vulgar line? Although the sequence was predictable and I was surely set up to hate it at that point, this line of incredibly dirty dialogue made me pause and give the film a second chance. Surely a movie that has a line like that has some worth to it? Although it won’t win any kind of prestigious awards, Tripping Forward proves to be a fun romp.
At the heart of Tripping Forward its greatest attributes are its characters and the performances of those who give them life. William Gregory Lee as Tripp deserves special mention as the true dynamic that will either make the film work for you, or drive you utterly insane. His character is that walking stick of dynamite that ultimately will cause complete and utter chaos in every single scene he manages to find himself in. Walking around in speedos and playing the character to the hilt, Lee is spastic here and absolutely hilarious. Chris Fogleman as Ford is the straight man in the situation, but also manages to deliver some of the heart that actually makes the story work. Granted, there isn’t an incredibly amount of drama at work here and it follows a lot of genre conventions (how many times will we see a reasonable guy be talked into, with relative ease, putting himself into compromising positions that cause his girlfriend to leave him) but the relationship between the characters of Ford and Gwen actually come off as sweet and dare I say touching. This is no doubt due to the performances from both entertainers, as the chemistry between the two seems very real and the acting workshop sequence that the two have together is pretty amazing.
This drug obsessed take on Hollywood haggling, like a contemporary and low brow take on Swingers, will not prove to everyone’s cup of tea. However, it has some heart to it and overcomes its use of stereotypical situations and characters (an Asian hottie who kicks butt with martial arts… really?) by carrying that heart on its sleeve. Also, the character of Tripp is absolutely insane and worth watching. You can read more about the film at their official website: