JACKASS PRESENTS BAD GRANDPA
***1/2 (out of 5)
October 25, 2013
Johnny Knoxville as IRVING ZISMAN
Jackson Nicoll as BILLY
Greg Harris as CHUCK
Georgina Cates as KIMMIE
Directed by: Jeff Tremaine
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I’m not proud to admit it (though I’m not exactly ashamed to admit it either) that I quite enjoy the “Jackass” movies. They’re not high art, but damn if they aren’t funny. However, when I heard they were spinning off one of the character shticks into an entire film, I was skeptical.
The ribald and inappropriate old man Irving (Johnny Knoxville) was always good for a laugh stuck among all the outrageous gags in the “Jackass” films, but I didn’t know if he could carry an entire movie himself. However, it turns out that he can, and in a weird way, it actually makes a better film than the eclectic and scattershot “Jackass” movies that came before it.
The movie, believe it or not, actually has a story to it. Knoxville plays Irving, whose daughter dumps his grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) on him. Irving has to drive Billy from Lincoln, Nebraska, to Raleigh, North Carolina, to live with his father. As the two embark on the multi-state road trip, they end up getting into a series of shenanigans that amount to Jackass-style pranks on unsuspecting members of the public.
“Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa” has an unexpected amount of heart as Knoxville and Nicoll improvise through some touching character moments. It helps that the pranks and gags we see aren’t really that mean-spirited but rather perpetrated for an outrageous reaction from unsuspecting members of the public.
One of the greatest things to come from this movie is that it is less likely to inspire annoying copycat prank attempts by lesser-talented punks. There’s also fewer one-shot gags and less obnoxious cast members (read as: Steve-O and Bam Margera are not present in this film).
Still, like its “Jackass” pedigree, “Bad Grandpa” has plenty of outrageous moments with crass and offensive humor. There’s a lot of things in there that we really shouldn’t laugh at, but we can’t help it. Like a more extreme version of “Candid Camera,” “Bad Grandpa” relies on people’s reactions more than gross-out stunts, and that makes it a tamer film.
However, don’t mistake that comment for a family-friendly endorsement. This is a “Jackass” film, after all. It’s filled with body humor and sexual situations. If you hate these kinds of movies, but you go to it and get offended, you deserve it.
While “Bad Grandpa” exists for nothing more than a way for people to laugh, it actually stumbles into some irreverent moments that are smarter than they originally appear. One particular scene (which deserves a spoiler alert but does actually appear in the trailer, so it’s not that big of a surprise), Billy dresses up as a girl and enters into a “Toddlers in Tiaras” type of young beauty pageant. In his talent section, what starts off as a cute song turns into him grinding up against a stripper pole.
Of course, the reaction of the pageant moms in the audience is hilarious, but the entire bit reveals the overall hypocrisy in these events. Pageants of this kind often sexualize these young girls to a wildly inappropriate degree (including one performer in the scene who is wearing lacey Spanx under a miniskirt). However, when Billy takes that sexualization to the nth degree, it offends these women.
Bravo to Johnny Knoxville and his team for (possibly unintentionally) revealing this double-standard in these unsavory events.
And now, to step off my soap box.
In the end, “Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa” is meant to get the audience to laugh, and whether you want to or not, I dare anyone to watch this film without at least a few chuckles and surprises.