Director: Jeff Tremaine
Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, Spike Jonze, Georgina Cates, Catherine Kenner
Written by: Johnny Knoxville, Spike Jonze, Jeff Tremaine, (story) Fax Bahr and Adam Small
Running Time: 92 mins
Release date: 23th October 2013
I have to admit that the Jackass movies are a bit of a guilty pleasure to me. The antics of the boys from MTV smashing, jumping, hitting and generally hurting themselves all in the cause of a laugh may seem infantile to some and they weren’t all laugh-out-loud funny but when they were, they were better than most scripted comedies. So the team are back…well, leader Johnny Knoxville is, at least, with a full length feature based on a character that popped up occasionally on the TV series, that of 86-year-old Irving Zisman. However, what worked as a very short skit on a show doesn’t work for 92 minutes. in fact, it becomes pretty tiresome quickly.
Irving Zisman’s wife has died and on the day of her chaotic funeral, he is left with his grandson, Billy. He is forced to deliver the boy to his biological father who lives miles away, while Billy’s mother is thrown in jail. So begins a road trip in which the old man plays a series of pranks on the unsuspecting public, ranging from shop lifting to destroying property to allowing the 8-year-old boy to drink beer in public, with the Grandpa constantly after sex with, well, anybody.
Ok, let’s forget about the plot because it’s really only there to hang a succession of “incidents”, each one as bizarre, often tasteless as the next. What made the Jackass movies fun was that while some of the stunts were incredibly stupid, they were, at least, original. Bad Grandpa is like going over old ground with a new character.
So we have an old man acting like a kid, who is sometimes rude, sometimes obnoxious, sometimes childish. It’s a staple of comedies over the years. You just have to look at Ruth Gordon’s Ma in Every Which Way But Loose as a perfect example. A foul-mouthed, finger showing old woman who got the biggest laughs because she was old and she swore. So seeing Knoxville, dressed up as an old man isn’t that funny to start with.
Then we have the stunts which are almost carbon copies of the kind of nonsense we have had to endure in shows like Candid Camera or Beadle’s About. After a few of them, some that fail to hit the mark badly, you begin to realise that the film isn’t going for the big laughs but the occasional chuckle. That’s all it really deserves. Some don’t even deserve a smirk (a pretty gross sequence in a restaurant that starts with childish wind-breaking, ending in a disgusting release of body fluids is a particular low-point) just groans. One moment in the film borrows massively from the film Little Miss Sunshine.
The major problem with the film is summed up in one word: Borat! Sasha Baron Cohen’s creation thrown into the general public was hilarious and showed how hidden camera antics can really work. Yes, it’s funny to see the public being shocked but you cannot just rely on that. It needs a character that can turn to the camera and be verbally funny too. Bad Grandpa’s so-called “tender moments” between Irving and Billy aren’t that funny and for every stunt, it slows the film down.
It’s a shame because Knoxville and co-writer/producer Spike Jonze can, when on form, really produce the goods. Here they have missed the mark badly. It’s not good enough to have one or two chuckles in a film this long and what they may think is funny, unfortunately, unless you are five-years-old (and they won’t be seeing this film any time soon) it’s a disappointment.