His name is Pineapple Tangaroa, and his resume mentions Austin, Texas, sometime actor (“Puncture,” Song to Song”), “entrepreneur” and — implied — “local character.”
His face is one big tattoo, punctured by piercings that turn him into a walking visual effect.
And in “Drunk Bus,” his character, naturally-named Pineapple, taps into that cuddly sort of intimidating that Terry Crews and Dave Bautista have mastered, bulky and badass, with just a hint of stoner Seth Rogen.
Pineapple is brought on board the Kent, Ohio “campus loop” bus driven by recent grad Michael (Charlie Tahan), who gets picked-on so often that it’s crossed over into violence.
Pining away over the longtime girlfriend who “moved on” nine months earlier, downcast and hapless with women, ready to take the might-as-well-make-a-career-of-it offer pitched by his boss (the heard, but never seen Will Forte) who tempts his “protege” with awards and a full-time contract via radio. Michael is literally trapped in a “loop” of his own, indecisive creation. Pineapple sizes him up in an instant and resolves, in the manner of such coming-of-age tales, to do things about all that.
Tahan, of TV’s “Ozark” and “Gotham,” makes Michael that loser who can’t even manage to be the hero of his own story. That’s how this works, and that’s how Tangaroa, playing the quintessential Force of Nature mentor, walks away with “Drunk Bus,” a rude, laugh-out-loud on-and-off-campus romp that premiered, of course, at South by Southwest in Austin.
Not that stealing the movie proves all that easy. Screenwriter Chris Molinaro and first-time co-directors John Carlucci and Brandon LaGanke populate this “Pineapple Excess” with a “Night Tara” (Sydney Farley as a sexy coed who has night terrors), a pot-dealing “Devo Ted” (comic writer and actor Dave Hill), a profane and insane old passenger in a motorized wheelchair nicknamed “F–k Y– Bob” (Martin Pfefferkorn) and other frat bros and sorority girls with AA in their futures.
Michael’s got a boorish dolt of a “registered sex offender” roommate (Zach Cherry) and two true blue friends, gay Justin (Tonatiuh) and unregistered pickpocket Kat (Kara Hayward), none of whom are having any luck at all at shaking Michael out of his funk over lost-love Amy (Sarah Mezzanotte). Then a bullying passenger clobbers Michael, Pineapple is “hired,” and Michael and the movie are changed…forEVER.
Pineapple’s stocky, inked, pierced and wearing leather and chains. Any argument with with is over before it begins. “The Bro Whisperer” sizes the kid up and says “What you need is a do-over.”
That’s how Michael meets the pot dealing, pizza bagel loving Ted, obsessed with “the seminal art punk band that formed one town over.” Devo and “devolution” are what Ted is all about.
That’s how Michael learns at the feet of his new life coach. “A wise Samoan once said, “Change doesn’t begin when you get knocked on your ass. It begins when you decide to get on your feet again.”
That “wise Samoan?” “Dwayne the Mother-F—–g Rock JOHNSON.”
Pineapple’s a loose cannon rolling the decks of Michael’s late night bus circuit, picking up drunks who vomit or poop on board, rolling by a frathouse that throws equally disgusting things on his windshield. Pineapple’s the one who understands the kid’s fundamental hangups, that he can’t make a decision and that he “never shampooed the Wookie.”
Tahan makes a fine straight man for all these funny people surrounding him, with Tangaroa, Hill, Cherry and Hayward giving him hilarious takes to react to.
The laughs in “Drunk Bus” may come in familiar places, but there’s a genuine effort to flip the script just enough to avoid the standard traps in such farces. “Revenge” has no upside, “growth” comes from making “an actual decision in your life,” and “settling” — in love or career — is not something you do when you’re this far under 25.
Michael needs to grow up, or at least start the process. Michael needs to listen to this hulking, over-decorated conscience that’s bellowing in his ear. His friends know this.
“I already like him better than I ever liked you.”
And Michael needs to learn the limits of any mentor’s wisdom. At some point, you stop listening, because otherwise, you never escape the loop, you never get off the “Drunk Bus” and stagger off to your real destiny.
MPA Rating: unrated, violence, sex, drug abuse, profanity
Cast: Charlie Tahan, Kara Hayward, Zach Cherry, Tonatiuh, Dave Hill, Sarah Mezzanotte, Martin Pfefferkorn and Pineapple Tangaroa
Zach Cherry, Dave Hill, Credits: Directed by John Carlucci, Brandon LaGanke, script by Chris Molinaro. A FilmRise release.
Running time: 1:40