It's Jackass meets Borat, with a little bit of The Man Show Boy and Little Miss Sunshine thrown in.
That's really all there is to Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, the latest from Johnny Knoxville and Co. Rather than do a straight up Jackass 4, Bad Grandpa has a loose plot stringing the various gags together. While it's a pretty basic story, I appreciated they actually attempted at one. It made the film feel less random, and the gags felt like more of a byproduct of the story they were trying to tell.
After the death of his wife, Irving Zisman (Knoxville) is tasked with taking his 8-year-old grandson, Billy (Jackson Nicoll), back to his father. As they travel across the country, they make various stops where a variety of pranks and stunts are pulled on unsuspecting bystanders.
Unfortunately, some of the best laughs are ruined in the trailer, so the less you've seen of it, the better. Even knowing those scenes were coming, it made me smile when hearing the audience's reaction. There were still plenty of moments that I got a good laugh out of, or got me rocking in my seat. A lot of your enjoyment of Bad Grandpa is going to depend on how much you enjoy fart, shit and dick jokes. If you're easily grossed out, Bad Grandpa is not the movie for you. The pranks are a little uneven; some are really inspired, while others are predictable or variations on ones you've seen them do before. Even if the prank doesn't always hit, the reactions from the witnesses are always great.
As I mentioned earlier, while simple, I actually appreciated the story elements. It was sweet to see Irving and Billy slowly bond over their journey. The story by Knoxville, Spike Jonze, and director Jeff Tremaine balanced these elements well. I never found myself getting bored with the story, and it provided a break from all the hijinx. If this had just been a string of pranks, then I think it would have gotten old quick.
I actually thought Knoxville was pretty good in the role. They are doing a great job with the old man makeup these days, but he sells the old man schtick well. You don't see any times where it looks like Knoxville is on the verge of being identified. Jackson Nicoll was a real scene stealer. I don't know much of his dialog was scripted or feeding him lines through an earpiece, but he has pretty good comedic timing. There's a scene later in the film where he says something that you can tell got a genuine laugh out of Knoxville. Knoxville and Nicoll had good chemistry and it looks like they were having fun.
One thing that always pops in my mind when watching something like Jackass or Borat is the balls you need to pull this stuff off. I'd be too afraid of getting my ass kicked going into strange places, approaching people and making inappropriate comments. It goes to show you what a kid or an old man can get away with that a 35-year-old man wouldn't be able to. Even still, there's more than one part in Bad Grandpa where you have to assume they had to break character, and let everyone know they were making a movie or things were about to take a really bad turn. There are some funny moments in the credits where you can see that most were good sports about it once they were let in on the joke.
Bad Grandpa isn't a game changer or really bringing anything new to the table, but it has a good amount of laughs for those that enjoy the type of humor seen in Jackass or Borat. Grab some friends, a few beers, and check out a matinee.
3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars