Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Directed By:  Jeff Tremaine

Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, and Georgina Cates

I must confess that I have never seen a Jackass movie before.  While I have seen Johnny Knoxville and his cohorts on MTV, I never actually spent money or time on a feature length film.  I was pleasantly surprised by Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. The film, though crass and certainly appealing to the lowest common denominator, is quite amusing.  Moreover, if you take a step back from the ridiculousness of the film, it is an interesting social experiment.

The fictional premise behind the film is that Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) is an 86 year-old man whose wife has just passed away.  Old man Zisman is thrilled that his wife has died as he can now go out and have sex with someone else.  Just as he is laying her to rest, Irving’s daughter Kimmie (Georgina Cates) arrives at the funeral and drops off her 8 year old son Billy (Jackson Nicoll).  Kimmie is headed to prison for drug-related issues, and she needs someone to take care of Billy.  Irving is dismayed to be saddled with a kid just as he is about to hit the singles’ scene again, and he reaches out to Billy’s biological father in North Carolina.  Billy’s father agrees to watch Billy in the hopes that he will get a monthly check from the state.  So Irving sets off on a cross country trip to deliver Billy to his father.

The characters of Irving and Billy then interact with real life, unsuspecting people as they make their journey across country.  They stage pranks during ladies’ night at a black strip club, shoplift at a local market, crash a bingo game, enter a creepy toddlers and tiaras style pageant, invade a wedding for food, interact with the biker group Guardians of the Children, along with a host of other pranks and gags.

On its face, Bad Grandpa is ridiculous but it makes perfect sense.  Senior citizens and children tend to get away with saying and doing horrible things because they are viewed as too elderly or too young to know any better.  So the idea of having a super old, perverted Grandpa sexually harassing innocent people across the country works on all levels. The shtick would not work, however, without Johnny Knoxville’s full commitment to the role and his ability to improvise.  He is masterful at putting people in incredibly uncomfortable situations and then improvising in the midst of a gag.  Surprisingly, young Jackson Nicoll also fully commits to his role as Billy and he is equally as impressive in his ability to improvise with unsuspecting adults.

The true stars of Bad Grandpa, however, are the prank victims.  The average Americans’ reactions to Irving and Billy are at times hilarious, and at times baffling.  It is a comedic study in human behavior.  How would or should people react if an elderly man tries to pleasure himself in a vending machine and gets stuck?  How do people react when a grandfather tries to ship his grandson in an oversized mailing box?  Or how do women respond when sleazy Irving pays one creepy compliment to them after another? I was continuously amazed that Irving was not beaten up and/or did not have the authorities called on him.  The pairing of Irving and Billy with helpless, random people is comedy gold.

Unfortunately, the film does have some pitfalls.  Because the movie is premised on stunts and pranks, it is literally an hour and a half of one prank after another with the budding relationship between Irving and Billy used as filler between pranks.  Bad Grandpa is at times choppy and abruptly cuts from one scene to the next.  Moreover, many of the scenes feel incomplete because the prank ends too suddenly without enough of a focus on the reactions and aftermath of the duo’s stunts.  Furthermore, if you are not one to see fake excrement on walls or elderly private parts, the film’s crude content may just repulse you.

All in all, I enjoyed Bad Grandpa for what it is—an extended prank reel with a grandpa/grandson relationship story mixed in.  Bad Grandpa earns a .06% rating.  Enjoy a beer with this one, and make sure you stay through the credits for the behind the scenes footage.