Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, Greg Harris
After the death of his wife, 86 year old Irving Zisman (Knoxville) has been given the responsibility for looking after his grandson Billy (Nicoll) after Billy’s drug addict mum has gone on the run to avoid being arrested (again). After learning he can get a payout of $600 a month for looking after Billy, Billy’s father Chuck (Harris) agrees to look after him, but only if Irving travels across America. So begins a road trip across America with plenty of hidden camera pranks on unsuspecting members of the public along the way.
After 2010s Jackass 3D I think we could all be forgiven for thinking it was Knoxville and friend’s final cinematic outing, and so I must admit I found it quite a surprise to see Knoxville go it alone and don the prosthetics for an entire feature length feature solely based around his Irivng Zisman character. As a one-off these were mildly amusing, but for an entire film may be pushing it, especially as it is Knoxville going it alone.
The fact is that everything possible has been done with the whole candid camera format, and though as much as it can be fun to see an un-expecting general public have pranks played on them, to keep that going for 90 minutes is quite a challenge. Unfortunately Bad Grandpa fails miserably as it a film that is predominantly boring and predictable with only the very occasional mildly amusing moment. Basically, the few mildly amusing moments are in the trailer, so my advice to anyone who wants to save 90 minutes of their valuable time; just watch that and do not even worry about the ‘film’.
I appreciate this film is supposed to be a bit of fun and not be taken that seriously, I also enjoyed the previous three Jackass films for what they were and do not mind a bit of puerile juvenile humour. However, when the jokes are so boring, lazy and simply unfunny then the film has failed. The main problem is that there is neither a genuine element of surprise nor any intelligence. Where as a film like Borat of course had the juvenile humour, it also had satirical intelligence and when Borat engaged in a quick witted conversation with everyday people it was their responses that were genuinely funny/ a little scary. However in Bad Grandpa both the gags and people’s reactions are boringly predictable. For example, when Irving gate crashes a wedding reception there is a room full of wedding guests and a suspiciously fragile table with an equally fragile high wedding cake and mountain of filled wine glasses. I think everyone can guess A) what is going to happen and B) what people’s reactions may be when some old codger turns up and wrecks the place. There is a huge stench of complacency throughout as everyone involved thinks that puerile humour, smashing things and then showing people’s unsurprising reactions is enough to make a 90 minute comedy.
Johnny Knoxville has in my opinion proved with both Jackass and his film roles that he can be a likeable and quite charismatic screen presence, and both he and Jackson Nicoll do what they can. In fact it is Nicoll that provides the few mildly amusing moments when he tells real people about his mother’s drug habit in a matter-of-fact way, but again it all feels so obvious and lazy. What makes Bad Grandpa even worse is that there is a painfully lacklustre attempt at a narrative to keep essentially these series of sketches together, and even worse: a character arc for Irving! Playing a huge part in this is a scene in a bar with Billy’s dad and a group of bikers. It is a really cringe worthy scene to watch, but not in a good way, just in that it is so horrifically bad and ill judged, and certainly never ever funny. Of course much has been made of the beauty pageant part of the film, and only those behind it (including Spike Jonze who really should know better) know if it is an attempt at satire or just being puerile. Either way the fact it is in the trailer takes away any slight element of surprise, and of course it has been done before in Little Miss Sunshine and like the rest of the film is painfully predictable, boring and certainly not funny.
A perfect example of a film having its best (well, least awful) bits in the trailer; If you have seen the trailer for Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa then save yourself 90 minutes as it is a lazy, complacent, painfully boring and excruciatingly unfunny insult to cinema.