Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013)

Bad GrandpaAt the funeral for his late wife (played by Catherine Keener, presumably returning a favour to Where The Wild Things Are director and Jackass executive-producer Spike Jones), Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) is reunited with his grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) when the boy is abandoned by his mother who is herself on the run from the law. Deciding that the best course of action is to deliver the boy to his deadbeat dad on the other side of the country so that he can make up for lost time with the ladies, Zisman — lumbered with his wife’s corpse after an incident at the funeral home — sets off with Billy in tow. Along the way, they have various run ins with disgruntled store merchants, malfunctioning rides and some kindly Hell’s Angels.

The once prolific Jackass brand has since faded into relative obscurity, dragged into the depths of irrelevant obscurity along with MTV and just about everything else that was big in 2001. That hasn’t stopped it from spurting to life for the occasional reunion: in 2002, 2006 and 2010 the cast managed to garner enough interest to release three feature films, the last of which somehow pulled in $170 million at the worldwide box office. And the movies were not without their moments: Jackass 3D in particular was able to deliver skits and stunts that would not have been possible on television at the turn of the millennium.

Bad Grandpa, however, isn’t a straight Jackass feature, but more a spin-off that drops the compilation and ensemble aspects of the franchise proper in order to focus instead on a narrative involving Knoxville and his Fun Size co-star Nicoll. Rather than breathe some originality into the set-up, Bad Grandpa simply invokes substantially less flattering comparisons to Borat, Bruno and — to a lesser extent — The Dictator. It may be sweeter and more focused than your average episode of Jackass, but it lacks the bravery and bite to compete with Sasha Baron-Cohen’s trilogy of provocative socio-political commentaries.

The main issue is that while Borat and Bruno also involved pranks and deception, they did so with a sense of purpose. In the majority of cases the skits alighted upon some discrimination or injustice that the audience was left to question, drawing attention to the prejudices of small-town America. Bad Grandpa has no such ambitions, instead flattering the bystanders by designing situations that reveal only the best in people. The closest the film comes to critique is in Zisman’s attempts to post his grandson across country and later to enter him into  a pageant: both are amusing, but neither pursues any sort of probing investigation.

An old man falling over or a little boy saying inappropriate things in never not going to be funny, and there are a number of gags in Bad Grandpa that will undoubtedly make you laugh. However, none of the skits are worthy of wider analysis (or even repeated viewings), while the inter-connective tissue is robbed even of its sponteneity by the fact that it has obviously been scripted beforehand to serve the paper-thin (and even more pointless) narrative.

2-stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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