US Release Date: 10-25-2013
Directed by: Jeff Tremaine
- Johnny Knoxville, as
- Irving Zisman
- Jackson Nicoll, as
- Greg Harris, as
- Georgina Cates, as
- Kamber Hejlik, as
- Jill Kill, as
- Pageant Reporter
- Madison Davis, as
- Juggalo Girl
- George Faughnan, as
- Juggalo Guy
- Grasie Mercedes, as
- Marilynn Allain, as
- Jack Polick, as
- Funeral Worker
- Spike Jonze, as
- Catherine Keener, as
- Marlon Davis, as
- Quintin Duncan as
Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll in Bad Grandpa
Bad Grandpa takes its cues from such films as Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat and Bruno, which of course took cues from such classic television shows as Candid Camera. There is an actual scripted plot here; an old man takes a road trip with his eight-year old grandson from Nebraska to North Carolina to give him to his father after the boy’s mother goes to jail. The trip is filled with staged mishaps and shenanigans that involve unsuspecting participants.
If you have seen the trailer for this movie or other Jackass films, you know what to expect. Even though this movie features a minor, the jokes are often adult in nature and immature in delivery. Not all of them work, but enough do. In fact, some moments had me laughing harder than I have in years. I do not want to give too many details away so as to allow you the full enjoyment.
Most set ups occur with Johnny Knoxville as 86 year old Irving Zisman, either alone or with Jackson Nicoll as his grandson, shocking or putting some innocent person, or persons, on the spot. One of the funniest bits being when Irving goes into an all-black male strip show and flirts with the ladies. For some reason, African Americans are often the victim of Knoxville’s practical jokes.
I am not sure how completely staged the scenes with Jackson Nicoll as Billy, talking to strangers are but the kid pulls it off. No doubt, some of his lines were added in post-production as several of them are spoken from a distance as an additional punch line. Either way, he plays it sad when need be and over the top in the film’s most talked about scene at the little girl's beauty pageant.
Bad Grandpa tries for a bit of heart with the relationship between Irving and Billy. It works for the story line, especially in the biker scene, but this movie is all about the laughs. Let your inner teenager out and go see this film. Sure it is about as mature as a drunken sailor back from a six month submarine cruise, but we all need to act that way once in a while.
Jackson Nicoll and Johnny Knoxville in Bad Grandpa.
As usual when the Oscar nominations were announced this year there were a few snubs and surprises, but perhaps the most unlikely name to appear on the list of nominees was Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. Not because it didn't deserve the make-up nomination, because the old man make-up on Knoxville is fairly impressive, but simply because it's a Jackass movie.
I've never been a big fan of these "fake the general public with comic character's shenanigans" type of comedies. I often end up feeling sorry for the people being fooled. It's also difficult to tell exactly what's staged and who's in the know. In every scene there are cameras hidden everywhere, so some people in the store or the bingo hall or the strip club must be aware of what's happening.
Having said that though, there are some funny moments in this movie. For some reason the sequence where Knoxville plows into the giant penguin and then refuses to fix it, made me laugh quite a bit. The scene at the little girl's beauty pageant is one of the funniest scenes, but all of the best laughs in it were given away in the endless previews. Although the final scene when Billy finishes his dance and one woman in the audience begins to clap before stopping when she realizes that no one else is clapping, still made me laugh out loud.
I agree with Eric that the attempts at heart never really work. In fact, the whole plot structure seems rather pointless. We know it's all a joke, so why not just show the scenes being set up and then performed? Trying to make half the film scripted and half staged seems a little silly.
As for that Oscar nomination, it really was earned. Knoxville is completely transformed into an old man and it's easy to see why he goes unrecognized for the entire film. It looks very natural and realistic. It will be interesting to see if the Academy will be able to reward such a film on Oscar night.
Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll in Bad Grandpa.
Bad Grandpa's combination of scripted storyline with shock-the-public hijinks never quite jells. The fact that some of the setups seem rigged doesn't help. For this kind of humor to work the audience needs to be 100% sure that the people being pranked are completely clueless, otherwise the gags just seem lame and desperate. Like the previous Jackass movies they should have shown the gags being set up and followed them up with reaction shots once the victims realize they've been duped.
Or better yet, I would have preferred seeing what the talented twosome of Knoxville and 9-year-old Jackson Nicoll could have pulled off in an entirely scripted movie. Irving and Billy are fairly interesting characters but the script, what there is of one, just doesn't give them enough decent material to work with. They repeat the same jokes over and over. Irving makes sexually inappropriate advances to every woman he encounters while Billy keeps up variations on the refrain of how bad a guardian his grandpa is or asking adult male strangers to be his father.
As Eric mentioned, Knoxville pointedly chooses African-Americans as one of his favorite targets. It is never explained, for example, why the majority of the attendants at his wife's “funeral” are black. Did Knoxville, director Jeff Tremaine, and writer Spike Jonze all just think that their reactions would be innately funnier than the reactions of white people? After a while this begins to smack of racism, especially Irving's constant remarks about how much he loves “chocolate milk”. Grandpa likes black women, how hilarious! (not really)
OK so I did laugh during the little girl's beauty pageant scene. The wig, makeup and dress on Billy are hilarious and he has those stripper dance moves down pat. But it is a joke that would have worked better in a completely scripted scene. These toddler beauty contests are grotesque and ripe for parodying after all. It is one gag, however, that isn't made funnier by seeing Jackson Nicoll rehearsing the dance in the parking lot during the end credits outtakes.
Despite a few intermittently funny moments, and some misplaced attempts at heart, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is unable to sustain either enough of a storyline or the right amount of quality jokes to support a feature length movie. I do agree with Scott that it's deserving of the Best Makeup Oscar nomination.
Photos © Copyright Dickhouse Productions (2013)