Bad Grandpa Comedy

Pin the Tail on the Film Review: Bad Grandpa

October 25, 2013Ben MK

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Take a road trip with a Jackass

Technically, the full title of this movie is Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa -- so if you're familiar with the Jackass movies or TV show, then you'll know the kind of shenanigans it has in store for moviegoers. It's also a little different, because it's a Jackass movie with heart -- well, sort of -- and less bodily fluids. But is that enough to take what's essentially a 5-minute gag and turn it into a 90-minute feature?

If you've seen any of the previous Jackass movies, you'll recall Johnny Knoxville's and Spike Jonze's fondness for dressing up as the elderly and shocking unsuspecting bystanders with their wildly inappropriate behavior. In Bad Grandpa, Knoxville once again dons the layers of wrinkly prosthetics to become a curmudgeonly, crass and rude senior citizen, named Irving Zisman. Irving's a retiree whose wife has just passed away; and he's thrilled to find himself suddenly free to do as he pleases. Irving's also a grandpa (if you hadn't guessed from the movie title), and the only thing standing in the way of his newfound freedom happens to be his grandson, Billy (Jackson Nicoll). Billy's mom has just left her son with Irving, and now it's his job to take Billy to Raleigh, North Carolina to stay with his deadbeat dad. Of course, Irving doesn't really like Billy, but maybe -- just maybe -- through the course of their trip he can learn to love him.

And that's where the Jackass formula come into play; it uses this simple plotline to string together a series of gags involving Irving, Billy and a slew of unsuspecting citizens they meet along the way. Replace the bumper segments setting up the stunts in the previous Jackass films with brief scenes of plot exposition, and you have the general idea. Consider it Bad Santa, reverse engineered and told through the framework of Borat or Brüno (minus the scathing social commentary). But maybe that's over-thinking things a bit, because the storyline here definitely takes a backseat to the gags. There are a lot of them, running the gamut from Kids Say the Darndest Things type of humor to typical Jackass stunts and NSFW pranks. It's a bit of a mixed bag, because some of the material feels recycled and not all of the gags reach the same heights, in terms of shock value.

The good news is that Nicoll holds his own against Knoxville, because the payoff of a good portion of the gags depends on him coming off as cute and loveable while doing or saying things that make everyone else cringe. Also good news: the trailer for the film doesn't give away all of the pranks. It spoils the payoff of one of the film's biggest gags, but there are a couple more memorable ones that will delight viewers -- including one where Irving visits a male strip club and gets in on the action. But that's also the bad news, in that there are only a handful of memorable gags in the film. The rest are only so-so, eliciting some chuckles but not enough to make anyone do a spit take with their popcorn or soda. There's a lower dose of graphic toilet humor too, compared to other entries in the Jackass franchise -- which can be good or bad, depending on who you ask.

The Bottom Line

Bad Grandpa tries to do something different with the Jackass formula, by structuring its pranks around a storyline. Ultimately, though, it's neither here nor there. Not surprisingly, the plot exists just to get the film from point A to point B. However, the gags don't quite pack the same punch as earlier films either. It'll keep you chuckling throughout -- that's for sure -- but it probably won't leave you breathless from laughter. You may still enjoy it if you're a Jackass fan, but you'll have a better time with the earlier films. [★★½]

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