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Movie Review: 'Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa'

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Starring Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll
Directed by Jeff Tremaine
Rated R

I think it might be safe to assume that Jackass 3D might be the last true Jackass film we get.  Not only because of the death of Ryan Dunn, but with #3, you really started to see guys who realize that as they get older, throwing yourself into harms way isn’t as fun as it used to be. Youthful exuberance turns into playing things just a little bit more cautiously.    That last couples of sentences are somewhat bittersweet, as I really like Jackass, with that 3rd movie being my favorite.  Hopefully I’m wrong and a 4th movie will show up at our doorstep in a couple years time. But until that times comes, Johnny Knoxville, the one in the group who still showed us that youthful exuberance twinkle in his eye, is charging forward, albeit one with a little bit more purpose than just having a bull kick you in the head.  Irving Zisman, the foul mouth inappropriate elder gentlemen of the Jackass films (and the product of some of the funnier moments of those films) gets a spinoff with Bad Grandpa.

Let me just start by saying that if you like the Jackass films, you will enjoy Bad Grandpa.  For the rest who may be on the fence, Bad Grandpa goes for a different angle, one that while holding true to the ethos of Jackass, attempts to show that the Jackass universe can be funnier than just stunts involving male genitalia and feces (but don’t worry Jackass fans, Bad Grandpa won’t let you down in that department).  And while it may seem like Jackass light, Bad Grandpa is actually a better constructed model that could go a couple more films.  They just need to make sure not to give away the biggest laugh of the film in the trailer.

Bad Grandpa cribs from the Borat playbook to create a narrative while throwing themselves into moments that make the unsuspected onlooker very uncomfortable.  Zisman (Knoxville) has just lost his wife, which is a relief to him as he can now get out there and mingle with the ladies.  But during his wife’s funeral, his daughter and grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) arrive with the daughter pawning off Billy because she is headed to prison.  Irving doesn’t want the kid, because he’ll just end up being a “cockblocker” when he goes out on the prowl.  Irving decides to take the kid to North Carolina where is dad lives.  And off they go, getting into adventures, faking people out, shitting on the walls and bonding.  I don’t need to tell you how the movie ends.

While some of the bigger laughs in Bad Grandpa are ones that have been in the Jackass canon since its days on MTV, some of the better laughs come when Irving and Billy aren’t trying to create something elaborate, but just playing off one another as they fool every Tom, Dick and Harry who just happens to cross their path.  Nicoll, as Billy, has a pretty sweet deadpan delivery, which in a good comedy can go a long way.  Knoxville, while not being the funniest dude on the planet, is at his best while just playing it loose and off the cuff.  I would tell you about specifics, but that will just take away from seeing Bad Grandpa, just like Jackass, you need to go into these movies, not knowing what is going to be thrown at you.

But where the movie falters is getting too caught up with the narrative part of the story.  While I liked it and actually found a couple of moments more sweet natured than I ever expected, the movie tends to drag when the narrative comes into play.  Had they avoided a set structure, I don’t think anyone would’ve complained as doing so may have led to this film being way funnier than any of the Jackass films.  With it, the laughs are a little too intermittent.  Luckily for us and the film, with a 90 minute run time, you don’t have the opportunity to let things drag out to the point where it becomes unbearable to watch.   With Bad Grandpa,  if this is the start of something new, it’s a good first start.  And like the Jackass films, I’m optimistic that future endeavors will be funnier than the last. 

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