Theatrical Review: Bad Grandpa
86-year old Irving Zisman’s wife has just passed away and the old man couldn’t be happier. He’s now ready to sow his oats with other women, but soon finds he has another problem that he has to deal with. His daughter, a drug user, is about to be sent to jail and now she wants Irving to watch over her son, Billy. Irving does this but with the idea of taking Billy cross country to be with his father who’s not exactly the most stand-up of individuals his own self. Along the way, Irving and Billy have their own set of adventures… so to speak.
That’s the “glue” for the movie Bad Grandpa, a full-length film from Jackass creators Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine and Spike Jonze which itself is based on a series of candid camera situations that have been seen in past Jackass productions. If you’re at all familiar with Jackass, then you already know what I’m talking about, but for the uninitiated, these pieces take Jackass frontman Johnny Knoxville, apply elaborate old-age make-up to him and then have him and a young boy serving as his grandson get into some pretty ridiculous (and often raunchy) situations that gets the most amazing of reactions from unsuspecting onlookers. They’ve been some pretty funny segments in past Jackass movies, and now, Knoxville, Tremaine and Jonze are following Sacha Baron Cohen’s lead from his Borat and Bruno movies, and have created this full-length feature and it’s hilarious.
Now of course, the ridiculousness of these situations are certainly a big part of the humor, but the other thing that certainly adds to this has to just be the sheer danger of what could happen out of these when they might go too far. That’s certainly evident in a couple of parts of the movie; one involving Zisman getting into a confrontation with a guy after having destroyed a giant penguin attraction for a diner and another in which Billy’s father is just about to face off against a group of bikers while claiming his son. Getting to these points is certainly very funny, but you can’t help but wonder what happens afterwards. Well, here, you actually get a chance to see some of that in a terrific end credits sequence that not only shows some alternate situations, but pulls back the curtain and lets you see a little bit behind the scenes, including all onlookers being told that they’re part of a movie. This actually adds tremendously to the end enjoyment of the film- those of us who are familiar with the set-up now get a much more complete picture of just what it takes to make this sort of production, not just cast-iron balls, but also a lot of fairly elaborate planning.
Knoxville is terrific here and he certainly fools everyone that we see him coming into contact with. He’s definitely playing a cartoon character and even with the “glue” holding all of these stunts together, there is a relationship that’s built with Billy, a twisted relationship though to be sure. But still, Knoxville’s always fun to watch. Jackson Nicoll plays Billy, and though most of the gags here focus around Zisman, Nicoll gets his moments too. I suspect that most of what’s done with Nicoll is along the lines of how gags are done on TruTV’s Impractical Jokers show (in my opinion, one of the funniest shows on TV today), basically with Nicoll wearing an earpiece of some sort and being fed lines from the production team. But even with that, Nicoll still gets one of the drop-dead funniest moments in the movie involving an obviously staged beauty contest along the lines of what you might see on TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras.
Bad Grandpa at least for me is one of the funniest movies, if not the funniest movie that I’ve seen all year. Yeah, it’s humor is way on the lowbrow side of things and there’s nothing wrong with that at all, especially when you consider just how elaborate some of these set pieces had to be. It definitely earns it’s “R” rating as well, In particular with a couple of scenes that… no forget it, I won’t say any more you should see this for yourself, but trust me, it’s “R” is deserved. I saw this with a group of three other friends last night and we all had a terrific time with this. Certainly recommended for Jackass fans of course, but I think they’ve crafted something here that even goes beyond that and even just a touch further than Sacha Baron Cohen’s films, especially with it’s end credits sequence. Don’t miss this one…