Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa Review
by Daniel Rester
Johnny Knoxville and his Jackass crew, including director Jeff Tremaine and producer Spike Jonze, have decided to give the character Irving Zisman his own film with Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. The character was first brought to life by Knoxville in segments of the previous Jackass films, but here he is given a story to work with. The creators’ main focus is still doing stunts and surprising people in public, but the addition of a plot marks a new and interesting turn for them.
Zisman is an 86-year-old man who finds sexual freedom after his wife passes away. However, such a freedom – which involves getting his junk caught in a vending machine on accident – is put on hold when he learns he must take his grandson in after the boy’s mother goes to jail. Zisman is put in charge of delivering the boy, named Billy (Jackson Nicoll), to his father, who is on the other side of the United States. This leads to many misadventures and bonding for the two, with Zisman keeping his perverted personality intact throughout the journey.
Grandpa packs moments that are alternately hilarious, surprising, gross, and bland, making for spotty comedic entertainment. Knoxville still pulls big punches in a few scenes, including a standout one involving a strip club, but at other times he just does the same old song and dance. We get our fair share of penis, sex, and fart jokes — and a couple of ridiculous stunts – from Knoxville, but most of it just feels tired.
It is nice to see the Jackass crew stretching their creative boundaries, but they do less with the Zisman character than desired if we are to truly care about the “plot.” The development of the two leads is stripped to basics, and the story is thin as well. And instead of going the Borat (2006) route with such a messing-with-real-people character and exposing such things as xenophobia, racism, homophobia, etc., Knoxville and company simply touch on child abandonment; they mostly stick to crude and childish jokes in a surface-level way.
Nicoll is worth a mention. The kid is a real talent, actually, managing to take funny jabs at Knoxville and keep straight faces when necessary. It’s a bit discouraging to see such a young boy handling this material, but he does it in a way to keep us on his side – leaving the rudest and most insane stuff to Knoxville.
Jackass fans will likely enjoy Grandpa a bit more than others, but even they may be disappointed at times (the other show members do not make any appearances). Knoxville and Nicoll are fun to watch, and the film does provide outrageously funny moments, but it’s all paper thin in a deadening way — and it often delivers as many flat jokes as great ones.
Rating: 2 ½ out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: B-)