If you combine “Borat” and “Jackass” then you’ll get “Bad Grandpa”, the latest film from Jackass star Johnny Knoxville. Knoxville “plays” 86-year-old Irving Zisman (with the aid of some very impressive makeup) and travels across America with an 8 year-old boy, pranking unsuspecting civilians with hidden cameras. There’s an attempt at a plot involving getting the boy to his father in Raleigh, North Carolina but that is just an excuse to film in different locations.
There isn’t too much Johnny Knoxville isn’t willing to do; whether it is throwing himself through a window or getting…intimate with a soda machine. And in “Bad Grandpa” he does both those things among many other acts that would probably get me fired for typing. His portrayal of an unstable senior citizen is really entertaining and his verbal responses to some people are as funny as his physical stunts.
Kid actors can get annoying (see: The Conjuring) however we sometimes get treated to a performance by a preteen that is not only tolerable; it’s entertaining. And “Grandpa” gives us just that in possible comedy star in-the-making, Jackson Nicoll. Half the time he is on the streets by himself, walking up to strangers and asking to be let into night clubs. He has great comedic timing and chemistry with Knoxville, and says one thing to a bookstore employee that had me gasping for air.
The film’s largest flaw is that it actually tries to be a movie. The Jackass films knew they were more like documentaries and skits and so they edited them as such. “Borat” was able to be sold as a movie because Sacha Baron Cohen is willing to do anything and sell any bit of dialogue, including the transition scenes. But in “Bad Grandpa” they try and have this plot about Knoxville’s wife dying and the boy having to reach his distant father, which would be fine but it just felt awkward and took me out of the movie. They would have transition scenes of the two actors having conversations while in character only to go prank real life people in the next scene. It affects the flow of the film more than anything.
“Bad Grandpa” is by no means the next “Borat”, and it may think it is funnier than it actually is, but that doesn’t stop it from delivering some of the funniest scenes in recent memory. On two separate occasions, Knoxville did something so outrageous and shocking that the audience was literally crying and screaming and entire lines of dialogue were missed because the riot lasted for more than thirty seconds.
“Bad Grandpa” offers offensive humor and Johnny Knoxville hurting himself for our amusement, and we really can’t ask for anything more. It may have a overused style and forced plot but it manages to still give some fresh jokes and a bit of insight into American society and just how much we are willing to let older people get away with. So if you are willing to overlook the questionable narrative decisions, then “Bad Grandpa” is a very funny time.
Critics Rating: 7/10