Magic Trip (2011) - Rotten Tomatoes

Magic Trip (2011)



Critic Consensus: Magic Trip is overall unenlightening, though there's an inherent novelty and joy in seeing the unearthed footage of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters.

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In 1964, Ken Kesey, the famed author of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," set off on a legendary, LSD-fuelled cross-country road trip to the New York World's Fair. He was joined by "The Merry Band of Pranksters," a renegade group of counterculture truth-seekers, including Neal Cassady, the American icon immortalized in Kerouac's "On the Road," and the driver and painter of the psychedelic Magic Bus. Kesey and the Pranksters intended to make a documentary about their trip, shooting footage on 16MM, but the film was never finished and the footage has remained virtually unseen. With Magic Trip, Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood were given unprecedented access to this raw footage by the Kesey family. They worked with the Film Foundation, HISTORY and the UCLA Film Archives to restore over 100 hours of film and audiotape, and have shaped an invaluable document of this extraordinary piece of American history. --(C) Magnolia Pictures
R (for drug content, language and some nudity)
Documentary , Special Interest
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Critic Reviews for Magic Trip

All Critics (60) | Top Critics (21)

Helps us to dive headfirst into both the journey and period and decide for ourselves whether to take it or leave it.

Full Review… | November 15, 2011
Time Out
Top Critic

Records a lot of silly misbehavior but only minor merriment.

Full Review… | September 2, 2011
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

It's the movie "Yellow Submarine'' should have been but didn't know how to be.

Full Review… | September 1, 2011
Boston Globe
Top Critic

"Magic Trip" is neither as magic nor as trippy as the culture quake that it documents, but it's a valuable flashback and a pleasurable contact high.

Full Review… | August 26, 2011
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

This is the story of sunny, casual West Coast visionary utopians, told from the inside out.

Full Review… | August 25, 2011
Seattle Times
Top Critic

It isn't exactly boring. But it's hard being the designated driver at someone else's bacchanal.

Full Review… | August 19, 2011
Washington Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Magic Trip


Far out, man. A great honest look at Kesey, his pranksters, their road across the US and influencing the mainstream and counter-cultures.

Nick Radcliffe
Nick Radcliffe

This wonderful documentary depicts the heritage of the radical action group The Merry Pranksters, as a series of almost flicker-like visions and voices. With the 16mm color footage being actual, Magic Trip is more than just a psychedelic home movie. It is an initiatory ritual towards a method of de-programming instead of programming. "Further" will you go...

Branden William
Branden William

On a visit to New York City in 1963 to attend the premiere of the stage version of his novel "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest," Ken Kesey witnesses the construction of the World's Fair site and starts to plan a cross country trip the following year when it will be opened.(What? No Mets game in the new stadium?) At the same time, as Kirk Douglas recalls in his autobiography "The Ragman's Son," Kesey was already showing the tell-tale signs of taking LSD that he had begun as part of a government experiment a few years previously. That would provide the fuel for his friends on the journey, The Merry Pranksters, in a converted school bus, driven by the legendary Beat Neal Cassady who would be fueled by speed. As I recall from reading "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" by Tom Wolfe(strangely not mentioned here even though it covers the same territory) in high school(Did I ever mention that I had the coolest history teacher ever?), the filmed footage which makes up the bulk of the documentary "Magic Trip" was brought up. At the time, that footage was not edited down into a manageable length and we can clearly see why as most of it looks so rough that it should come as no surprise that it was filmed by amateurs on drugs, with the exception of the World's Fair footage which looks cool. The documentary uses after the fact interviews to piece it all together and it sort of works to make a case for Kesey and his friends being not only a second generation Beats, but also the root genesis of the hippies. However, in the end, we only find out the fates of Kesey and Cassady and the divergent directions their lives would take them.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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