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Magic Trip

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Ken Kesey's Bus in Magic Trip
Ken Kesey's Bus in Magic Trip

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Time to get on the bus. Alison Ellwood and Alex Gibney's spryly superficial documentary tells the tale of the 1964 cross-country road trip taken by writer Ken Kesey and his "Merry Band of Pranksters" on a psychedelically modified school bus nicknamed "Further." The ostensible goal for the West Coast--residing author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was to attend the New York World's Fair, but it was the magical mystery tour---fueled by both the countercultural sentiments of the time and lotsa lotsa LSD---that became legend. Journalist Tom Wolfe chronicled the trip in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (a crucial piece of Pranksters history, glaringly absent here), while Kesey and his cohorts---Kerouac muse Neal Cassady among them---brought along several 16mm cameras and tape recorders, intending to immortalize the excursion.

That footage and audio (more than 100 hours of it) was never substantially shaped until Ellwood and Gibney came along. And indeed, those snippets of the Pranksters acting all endearingly freaky-deaky, along with some revealing recordings of Kesey in thrall to Lucy in the Sky, are the main reason to see the doc. At best, the film makes us feel like we're fellow participants in this hallucinogenic odyssey (motormouth Cassady often seems to be addressing his stream-of-consciousness monologues directly to us). But the directors rarely go beyond the experiential to provide larger, lasting insight into the journey's generational and historical importance. As such, the comedown from this Trip is a real bitch.

Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich

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Written by Keith Uhlich
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