Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place: movie review

A hippie trip pieced together from rough footage, 'Magic Trip' may have limited appeal for the general public.

In 1964, Ken Kesey, already famous for writing “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” set out across America in a psychedelically painted bus with his self-described band of Merry Pranksters, including Jack Kerouac’s road buddy Neal Cassady at the wheel. They filmed the trek, starting out in the West and ending up at the New York World’s Fair, but it took documentarians Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood until now to assemble a movie out of the almost 100 hours of highly variable 16-mm footage and nonsynchronous sound.

The result may have value to '60s sociologists, ethnologists, superannuated hippies, and Kesey fanatics, but for the most part what is on view is a jumble of scenes featuring pranksters getting high on grass and LSD. This journey was chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” and perhaps that’s enough. For me, the best part were the shots of the World’s Fair – "the World of Tomorrow” – where I rambled as a kid when the world seemed a lot bigger. Grade: B- (R for drug content, language, and some nudity.)

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