Director Jeff Tremaine and Jackass regular Johnny Knoxville are back with Bad Grandpa, a film that focuses on one wild Jackass character as he sets out on a road trip with his grandson. Bad Grandpa is your typical Jackass production, offering up plenty of fart gags, dirty humor and generally light-natured fun. It’s also the most lopsided Jackass production too. Bad Grandpa is an entertaining film and one that Jackass fans are going to enjoy, but it’s far from their best film yet. For every one joke that lands about three or four follow with flat delivery and that’s what holds back Bad Grandpa from being as memorable as the previous Jackass films.
Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) is an 86 year-old grandfather… or just Johnny Knoxville dressed up as an old man. Irving must travel across America with his “grandson” Billy (Jackson Nicoll) to deliver him to his father, while Billy’s mother goes away to serve hard time in jail. Irving has never been much of a role model for young Billy, which means this unlikely road trip is now a bonding experience for both men as they learn about each other, themselves and the real value of family and friendship.
Bad Grandpa is the latest Jackass production, which just so happens to only really star Johnny Knoxville and occasionally Spike Jonze (as the Old Woman). The rest of the crew is missing, yet Knoxville and his young co-star Jackson Nicoll manage to make the film feel like a full-fledged Jackass production from top to bottom.
This is mostly because of their on-screen chemistry and fantastic delivery, which results in some truly amazing reactions from the dozens of on-lookers. The Jackass films were funny because the crew spent most of the time creatively humiliating each other on-screen, whereas Bad Grandpa is mostly Knoxville and Nicoll doing whatever they can to get innocent bystanders to react or get involved with whatever crazy stunt they are trying to accomplish.
Bad Grandpa is more Borat than it is traditional Jackass and that’s alright, because Jackass director Jeff Tremaine has worked with the crew and their styles enough to know what works and what just doesn’t cut it.
Bad Grandpa has moments of pure comedic genius. Knoxville and the team admittedly stick to fart, poop and old man testicles jokes, but they’ve somehow made this type of immature and downright stupid humor into an art form. I’ve never laughed harder at a man “shitting himself” before, yet the Jackass crew knows exactly how to play on this simple humor over and over without it feeling too dry or old.
Knoxville and the crew focus more on the bigger gags and less on the smaller ones, which creates a bit of disconnect between sequences. Bad Grandpa is a funny movie and one that fans of the series are going to enjoy regardless, but it’s also the most discombobulated Jackass production yet, because there’s no real structure, aside from the film’s very loose plot.
Things move randomly and at a sluggish pace sometimes, resulting in some jokes that work amazingly well and others that fall flat to the floor. The good joke to bad joke ratio is slightly uneven, making the film feel a little less special than some of their other works.
The Jackass crew has been known for nailing down this style of humor and yet Bad Grandpa definitely slacks in some areas. I’m not sure if this is because the rest of the crew is not involved with this film or if the idea of stretching this one character this thin just wasn’t a good idea, because Knoxville really makes it work and makes the character feel unpredictable and fun, yet there reaches a point where things fall into place and the film wraps up without much closure or purpose.
Jackass has always worked better as a TV show in my mind, because holding someone’s attention is difficult, especially with their limitations. As a show, Jackass provided enough new stuff each episode to keep you coming back for more, but as a movie everything has to feel much more compact and linear. Bad Grandpa doesn’t suffer from too many ideas or concepts getting mushed into one, but it does suffer from having characters and a story that just doesn’t really go anywhere.
This makes certain bits shine, while others feel like tossed in afterthoughts.
Jeff Tremaine directs the film as good as anyone could have and Knoxville and Nicoll provide plenty of laughs and awkward situations. In the end, it all boils down to how much you enjoyed the previous Jackass material and how much you’re willing to pay to see more of the same.
Bad Grandpa is harmless fun that will definitely make you chuckle and occasionally laugh pretty hard, but it’s all too familiar at this point and sooner or later you’re going to get bored and start wanting more and I just don’t think Knoxville, Tremaine or the rest of the crew have it in them to step up the game to a level any higher than what they’ve been working on for the past decade.
Bad Grandpa – 7/10