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 411mania » Movies » DVD/Other Reviews

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa - Unrated Blu-Ray+DVD+Digital HD Review
Posted by Chad Webb on 01.28.2014

Johnny Knoxville: Irving Zisman
Jackson Nicoll: Billy
Greg Harris: Chuck
Georgina Cates: Kimmie
Kamber Hejlik: Doctor
Spike Jonze: Gloria
Catherine Keener: Ellie
Directed By: Jeff Tremaine
Written By: Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine, and Spike Jonze
Story By: Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine, Spike Jonze, Fax Bahr, and Adam Small
Theatrical Release Date: October 25, 2013
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 28, 2014
Theatrical Cut Running Time: 91 minutes
Unrated Cut Running Time: 102 minutes

Rated R for strong crude and sexual content throughout, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use.

The Film

My opinion of the Jackass franchise has always been the same. The movies are good for a laugh or two, but beyond that they’re not worth remembering. The reason for this is that the comedic pranks and stunts this eclectic group unleashes rely on shock value, and when that wears off it ceases to be as funny as it was upon the initial viewing. Also, a little of them goes a long way. Bad Grandpa continues that trend and fails to break any new ground. That being said, this fourth feature does deliver a few hilarious gags and Johnny Knoxville looks fantastic in makeup, wrinkles, loose white hairs and all.

Bad Grandpa is an odd animal though. Knoxville and company have concocted a storyline that revolves around 86 year-old Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) and his 8 year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll). This aspect is scripted. The plot follows Zisman, whose wife (Catherine Keener) has just passed away. Irving is ecstatic about this because he is now allowed to pursue other women and be free. His plans change when his daughter Kimmie (Georgina Cates) shows up with her son Billy and orders Irving to take care of him because she is going back to jail. Irving’s only option is to hand off Billy to his scumbag father Chuck (Greg Harris), who initially refuses to help until he learns that he can collect $600 per month as help. And so the road trip begins with Irving driving his grandson to Raleigh, North Carolina to hand him off to his father. Along they way the two get involved with various hijincks and bond.

Knowing the story, most of the people you see are not in on the joke. There are a few scattered throughout that are of course, but Bad Grandpa only succeeds by surprising normal folks who have no idea what’s happening. Yet, we the audience clearly knows what is unfolding behind the scenes. We are laughing because we understand that underneath Irving’s three - five hour makeup job is Johnny Knoxville and that Billy is actually child actor Jackson Nicoll. If the goal was to fool all the viewers into thinking this is a genuine old man, the critique would be different, but that is not the case. I mention this because the insertion of the artificial storyline, which is just for us to see, is superfluous and uninteresting.

In Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen made a mockumentary and thus the execution and our expectations were not quite the same. Plus, in that film, we weren’t sure who was in on the joke and who wasn’t. Nowadays we know the routine. I just found it strange that Knoxville was aiming for sincere drama as padding between gags when that wasn’t really needed. Does anybody truly care about the story with comedies such as this? I doubt it, but they want us to be invested nonetheless, even when Knoxville and Nicoll are the only ones on camera. People watch this material for the crazy, crude set pieces and the elaborate skits. Up until this point the Jackass movies have survived on linking a bunch of gags into one big feature. Why they chose to tack on a predictable premise that was destined to be forgettable is somewhat puzzling.

Flaws aside, I did laugh out loud during Bad Grandpa. The funeral, the beauty pageant, and the encounter with the bikers are among the film’s highlights. Knoxville and Nicoll have innate chemistry as a comedic duo. Not all of the bits are triumphant however. Several of the smaller ones fall flat, and what damages our reaction is that director Jeff Tremaine transitions away too fast so as to move on to the next segment and that undercuts the effect. I’m not sure how hysterical the Irving Zisman character was on the TV show, but this strikes me as an idea whose best moments appeared in the trailer and TV spots. Many writers have mentioned that this installment is tamer compared to past Jackass adventures, but that’s fine by me. I don’t expect this group to keep upping the ante forever. I just wish for something that stands the test of time.

I get the sense that Johnny Knoxville is at a crossroads in his career. He wants to move from Jackass, but another part of him wants to cling to that as well. In attempting poignancy he definitely has more to prove and should fully embrace that. Bad Grandpa is an uneven mixture of both sides of Knoxville’s psyche. It is admittedly amusing, but the momentum of each bit gradually diminishes. The pitch seems to be filtering Jackass through Borat or Bruno and Bad Santa. That could have worked, but the standard hidden-camera approach handicaps the narrative ambitions. If the Jackass clan wants to test their skills at screenwriting again, they need to be more committed. If not, simply stringing together random sketches will adequately satisfy everyone who cares enough to pay for a ticket.

--As for the “Unrated Cut,” it runs approximately 11 minutes longer and the majority of this added time is extended versions of existing scenes. Knoxville and Tremaine do supply us with two new scenes, neither of which is all that spectacular. This is one of those unrated cuts that doesn’t earn the title but on a technicality.--

The Video

I feel like none of the Jackass movies really lend themselves to a pristine Blu-Ray transfer. You will notice an improvement picture-wise between the standard DVD included here and the Blu-Ray, but because we’re dealing with various assortments of cameras, the image is hardly consistent and there are plenty of soft, blurry spots to detect. On the bright side, the details are all solid, and the colors are very accurate. It is unfair to demand image quality that blows your mind akin to Gravity on IMAX, but at the same time, deductions need to be made. The Blu-Ray is your typical 1080p High-Definition with a 1:85:1 aspect ratio.

The Audio

The sound department suffers from the same flaws as the video does. Again, the performances and the footage they can obtain have a priority over top of the line audio or video. This is understandable. In all honesty, the audio is fairly conventional, if a little unbalanced. The most noticeable blemish is that the music on the soundtrack comes in a bit loud between segments whereas the microphone communicates their lines a tad low, so you might want to keep the remote control handy. Thankfully the dialogue is clear, lucid, and relatively sharp considering the circumstances. I had no trouble hearing anyone, which is the primary requirement I ask for in comedy DVDs. The Blu-Ray has English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and a Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Both the Blu-Ray and the DVD also have Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks in English, French, and Spanish. You’ll also receive subtitles in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese on both.

The Packaging

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is distributed in a standard slim-line blue Blu-Ray keep case with an embossed slipsleeve cardboard cover on top of that. The inside of the front and back covers house the discs. You also get a sheet with the code for the Ultraviolet download, which features advertisements of other Jackass releases on the back. In addition, you get a Ticketmaster coupon.

The Extras

Behind the Scenes (34:44) – This is just as fun as watching the movie. Here they dissect eight sequences in the film, show you how they were conjured up, constructed, and carried out. You also see some reactions after the people were informed it was Knoxville shooting a movie. These are also in the end credits of the feature and are one of the best parts. But this extra is fun and you learn a great deal about what the cast and crew had to do to obtain the footage they needed.

Alternate Marks (19:51) – These are alternate moments where either Knoxville (as Irving) or Jackson Nicoll (as Billy) are talking to people and engaging them in funny, outlandish conversations. Not everyone plays ball like they wanted to, but there are some neat exchanges here.

Deleted Scenes (6:09) – They include three scenes, which aren’t necessarily “deleted,” but rather extended or alternate versions of sequences that made it into the movie. They are “Street Magician,” “Chair Kick,” and “Shopping Cart.” They are ok I suppose, but what is baffling is that the closing credits reveal a character from previous films that was not in this one. If this person was involved with this movie, where are those scenes?

The Film: 6.0/10.0
The Video: 7.0/10.0
The Audio: 7.0/10.0
The Packaging: 8.0/10.0
The Extras: 7.5/10.0

The 411: Comedy movies that use hidden cameras and pull pranks on random people are amusing and worth the price of admission on a night when you have nothing to do and are in the mood to chuckle, but offerings like Bad Grandpa are never strong enough to establish longevity in my opinion. Once the shock factor wears off, it never reaches that level of hilarity again. It only dissipates. Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Niccol make an entertaining duo, but the storyline that is inserted as filler is bland as can be as was better left out. The Blu-Ray is average overall. The audio and video quality is a mixed bag, but that comes with the territory of this style. You do get over an hour of extras, which are pretty fabulous actually, but a commentary would have been cool. This is the ideal movie to rent only, unless you are a die-hard Jackass fan. You have plenty of humor, but not enough of sticks. Check it out if you’re curious, but don’t go out of your way.
Final Score:  6.5   [ Average ]  legend


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