Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa Review
Posted by Terry Lewis on 10.25.2013
Jackass returns to the big screen with its latest entry, Bad Grandpa! But does the film have enough laughs to kickstart the franchise or is it time for the retirement home? 411's Terry Lewis checks in with his full review!
Johnny Knoxville - Irving Zisman Jackson Nicholl - Billy Themselves - The Great United States Public
Soooo, how much did you like those segments in Jackass with Johnny Knoxville dressing up as an old man? Not too much? Ooo, shame. Like me then, you won’t find too much enjoyment in this fourth big screen outing in Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.
Very recently widowed O.A.P. Irving Zisman (Knoxville, Movie 43) is looking forward to going back to his batchelor life, before his daughter dumps his grandson Billy (Jackson Nicholl, Fun Size) on him. Tasked with getting Billy to his arsehole dad, Irving reluctantly sets off on a roadtrip across America. Through many hijinx, the two develop a bond leaving Irving to doubt whether he wants to leave Billy with his dad.
Knoxville is clearly having a great time under the old man make up again. Good for him. He breaks character a few times later on which is nice to see a natural side under Zisman’s face. To be honest, it’s nothing new and it didn’t do much for me. He plays a stumbling, sexist, arsehole old guy well, there’s not much to say. Nicholl though is fantastic for a child actor in a rare breed. Going around doing all the mad stuff he does like asking a complete stranger to be his dad and the like with exquisite comic timing made him the real star of the movie.
You can probably guess the massive problem with the film already. If you don’t like the Zisman character, you probably won’t like Bad Grandpa. The thing is with Jackass in both TV and film formats, it was always a circus. If you didn’t like the clowns, there was always a guy being shot out of a cannon or there’s a lion tamer. Here though, its just the fire dancer dancing for 90 minutes straight. They do play about a bit with the old man character with some gross out gags or “oh silly old deluded man” but nothing of it is especially memorable. Even the most devout Zisman fans will be bored shitless of his antics after the first half with the repetition on display.
The humour still comes from people’s reactions to events and your mileage may vary to their responses in it’s believability. Some gags like Knoxville being launched through a window on a rocket kids ride prompts genuine reaction with people stunned and running over if he’s okay, yet it worries me mostly when his dick gets stuck in a soda machine for the film’s opening and literally no one helps him. There’s a guy in a 4x4 literally laughing his ass off. Bit awkward when it happens to him then in karma. There was one scene later on though and it raised the old issue of how much is put on in Jackass. The Bad Grandpa drives off from a biker bar after receiving some help from a biker gang, knocking over a rack of bikes. We cut to a gang of bikers storming out the bar before the next scene. Well how are they going to explain that one? It could have been put on easily with the editing with two different parts smooshed together but the obvious reaction is those are someone’s bikes, they’re damaged, the production crew I would doubt would damage someone’s property of purpose for a joke… it reeks of falseness and clawed at me for rest of the film. Still the reactions to Billy stripping at the child beauty pageant are anything but fake with a whole crowd of bemused parents and judges.
My housemate who I went to see this with isn’t too much of a prude but I can see what he means about the humour being fairly low brow. An exploding old man’s pants and a rubber fake penis getting trapped in a vending machine did not offend me at all, however when you see an animatronic fish with a human penis and balls being wiped on Knoxville’s face, he may have a point. It’s nothing original and it’s really cheap attempts at humour. If anything, it shows the lack of ideas in taking Zisman to a full length film. In fact, if you've watched the above trailer, you've spoiled all the best bits of the film for yourself. Such a cliche, but it really is one of those films where the best parts are spoilt in the trailer.
I’ll give Bad Grandpa some credit – it has a heart. In it’s own weird Jackass style, the granddad-grandson bond is given life. I actually got into Billy and Zisman bonding in a short space of time with the ending of Zisman launching out at Billy’s deadbeat cheer being a bit of a mark out moment after the interactions with an anti-child abuse biker gang. The plot was only meant to be an excuse to go from stunt to stunt but I want to believe there was some effort here.
The nicest surprise though is that it looks like a conventional film yet you can tell it still has the cinematography from the Jackass TV show and movies. A lot of the “west coast”/Knoxville film crew reunited to film this so it isn’t too much of a shock, but given that they’ve made the effort and gone full hog to make a proper non-documentary movie, the shot to establish character and storylines all feel odd soaked in the traditional Jackass style.
The 411: Alas, for a film like Bad Grandpa, a heart and a distinct film style is not what this film is here for. The fourth big screen Jackass outing is a one trick pony of the worst order in a lazy comedy which barely raises a titter instead of laughs. Johnny Knoxville and his kid sidekick are having a whale of a time clearly. Not many of us will be watching this.