Director: Jeff Tremaine
Writers: Jeff Tremaine, Johnny Knoxville
Stars: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, Greg Harris, Georgina Cates
Release date: October 25th, 2013
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Running time: 92 minutes
Best part: Knoxville and Nicoll’s chemistry.
Worst part: The bodily function jokes.
Normally, the most successful movies find an amicable balance of entertainment value and intelligence. With Oscar season approaching, we seek out particular movies to inspire and enlighten. However, this season also yields a crop of laugh-out-loud comedies. Sure, these two ‘genres’ clash over viewer interest. However, they each have their overwhelming benefits. This year, MTV’s Jackass crew has returned. Whether their return excites or frightens audiences, its fair to say they’ve had a significant impact on pop culture. Specifically, the stunt crew launched careers and buried livelihoods. This series, appreciated and aped by adolescents throughout the mid 2000s, set records and defied logic. So where to next for this advantageous gold mine?
To keep the phenomenon fresh and vibrant, Johnny Knoxville and the gang needed to take it in a new direction. Despite Knoxville’s character Bad Grandpa already being a fan favourite, the latest cinematic Jackass instalment focuses on this golden oldie throughout its 90 min run-time. This premise is certainly a shaky one. Spending an entire Jackass movie with one character could’ve run this series into the ground. Fortunately, like its main character, Bad Grandpa maintains its high-spirits and enthusiasm. Despite the glorious humour, this instalment starts out on a low note (in a sense). Irving Zisman (Knoxville) sits in a waiting room to hear news of his wife’s health. Creepily studying the suggestive pictures in a waiting room magazine, he is thrilled to hear of his wife(an unrecognisable Catherine Keener)’s passing. With his wife leaving him blue-balled since the 1990s, Zisman is eager to share his love with everyone in existence. This disgusting old-timer, however, is stuck with an irritating dilemma. Thanks to his daughter’s up-coming jail-time, he’s forced to look after his 8-year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll). Labelling him a “cock-block”, Zisman must support his grandson’s endeavours and needs. Striking a deal with Billy’s shady redneck dad Chuck (Greg Harris) to obtain custody, Zisman drives Billy across America to drop him off. Along the way, Zisman and Billy encounter several colourful characters and destructive tendencies. Despite the uncomfortable familial situation (one of many difficult moments here), Zisman and Billy form a surreal and destructive bond.
Part of the mid-00’s surge of mockumentary-comedies, Jackass is a bonafide success. Along with the long-running TV series, the movies quickly reached critical and commercial success. Despite its 13 year existence, the masses turn out each time to witness these concerning individuals and sycophantic experiments. With Ryan Dunn’s tragic death in 2011, Steve-O’s comedy career in full swing, and Bam Margera prominently writing, directing, and skateboarding, the Jackass series was seemingly passed its prime. However, out of the ashes, Knoxville and co. have developed an interesting twist on the Jackass ‘legend’. Believe it or not, a Jackass movie with discernible plot-points and multi-dimensional characters actually exists now! This courageous effort, marked by several baffling stunts and bold performances, may bring this series back into full swing. Despite the societal preconceptions and sickening toilet humour, this series commendably sticks to its guns. Sure to have many bored housewives up in arms (“Won’t somebody please think of the children!?”), Bad Grandpa delivers yet another assault on the senses and brain cells. Despite its disturbing jokes and stereotypes, there is more to this gross-out comedy than meets the eye. Like Sacha Baron Cohen’s material (Borat, in particular), Bad Grandpa aims to ruffle feathers, churn stomachs, and shorten fuses. Despite lacking a satirical edge, the movie explores society’s tolerance levels. Despite social media’s crippling cultural stranglehold, this beer drinking 8-year-old and perverted old-timer aptly test our behaviour toward these two contrasting age groups. Bad Grandpa also touches upon a bizarre and stupefying legacy. Dealing with physical, mental, and emotional turmoil, Bad Grandpa stresses Knoxville’s distorted life perspective. Despite voiding the previous three movies’ major stunts, Knoxville’s optimistic outlook and maturity levels are placed in the spotlight here. The story, mixing zany stunts, a road trip, and a kooky buddy team-up, is filled with been-there-done-that concepts. Despite the predictability, the story soon becomes filler for this instalment’s many elaborate set-pieces. Despite this, certain scenes are surprisingly touching (but not in a creepy way!). Funnily enough, a protective and well-meaning bikie gang provides this movie with some much-needed sincerity and heart.
“Nope! If I was fixing it you’d see me fixing it but, did you notice how I wasn’t fixing it?” (Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville), Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa).
Despite the humanistic moments and zippy characters, the humour is strangely hit and miss. Bad Grandpa, going up against Jackass 2‘s terrorist prank and Jackass 3D‘s portaloo flinging sequence, can’t raise the stakes. With significantly fewer pranksters, Knoxville restricts himself to sustainable yet clever set-pieces. Here, Zisman preys upon class, gender, and race, and serves them up on a silver platter. His disastrous antics push boundaries and cause several heated debates. His behaviour, defined by outrageous gross-out humour, places Zisman on a pedestal whilst comparing him to the stunned faces and concerned citizens surrounding him. With Zisman penetrating a vending machine, shoplifting, and tricking people into carrying his wife’s corpse, Bad Grandpa hurriedly launches into awkward moments and kinetic slapstick humour. One scene, involving a dingy strip club, will scar and debilitate viewers. Unfortunately, Bad Grandpa cuts several jokes short before they can reach their potential. In addition, the movie’s marketing spoils several potentially intriguing gags. The Little Miss Sunshine-esque beauty pageant sequence (capping off this instalment) and kiddie ride stunt sorely lack punchiness and nuance. Courageously, Knoxville puts 110% into this slimy yet engaging character. Offering a “serving of Irving” to every black woman within his personal space, Zisman’s inappropriateness and guile help deliver the movie’s standout moments. Move over Bad Santa, Bad News Bears, and even Bad Boys, Irving Zisman now owns that word! Thankfully, Nicoll also provides a charismatic performance. Searching each city for a father figure (one of the movie’s best gags), Billy proves to be a significant foil. Billy’s wit-fuelled and questionable antics provide suitable relief from Zisman’s saggy body-parts and curmudgeonly attitude. The lead characters’ chemistry lifts Bad Grandpa above expectations.
With such disastrously unfunny comedies as Movie 43, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, and Identity Thief released this year, Bad Grandpa is a breath of fresh air (somewhat). Refreshing, shocking, and heartening – the movie, saved by fun performances and clever gags, is a roller-coaster ride of bodily functions, sadistic pranks, expletives, and embarrassing pratfalls. Just avoid the trailers at all costs!