Review: Bad Grandpa
PLOT: When a young boy’s mother is sentenced to prison, it is up to good old Grandpa to bring the child to his no good father. As the two share a prank fueled road trip, they find an unexpected bond through a series of wildly funny pranks on a clueless public.
At one point in the latest prank fueled hijinks adventure from Johnny Knoxville there is a real sense of danger. It involves an actor playing an abusively hateful dad who displays his lack of tolerance in front of the wrong crowd. It is such an unnerving scene that I found it hard to believe the prank wasn’t completely staged. Certainly it isn’t a first to wonder how on earth something doesn’t go horribly wrong in prankster cinema, yet this was particularly tense. This awe-inspired insanity helps make BAD GRANDPA a shockingly funny ninety minutes that will have you shaking your head at the unbelievably bold humor which plays out. Even still you may find yourself rooting for the films odd couple leading men, Irving Zisman (Knoxville) and his grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll).
With the previous JACKASS films – as well as the MTV series – the comedy relied simply on the pranks or stunts. What sets BAD GRANDPA aside is the inclusion of a narrative. The story revolves around a young boy named Billy whose mother is going to prison. Thankfully Grandpa steps in in order to bring him to his father. The parents are the epitome of white trash and of course Gramps is far from the greatest role model. As the two travel cross country, they get into a number of strange and oftentimes hilarious adventures. As outrageous as Knoxville may be, this entire experiment would not have worked nearly this well if it wasn’t for Nicoll. The young actor – who had previously appeared in FUN SIZE with Knoxville – connects almost too well with the “86 year old” whom he takes this journey with. And yes, the kid steals the show.
The many exploits include a rigged kiddie ride, a wedding disrupted and a funeral gone wrong. As well there are a number of scenes not in the trailer that are utterly hilarious, moments that I won’t give away. However, if you have watched the trailer, one of the highlights is most definitely a children’s beauty pageant… you will never think of “Cherry Pie” by Warrant the same again. Nicoll takes on this challenge without abandon and it works. Yet it is the reaction of the parents who parade their young girls out in real life which is what makes it all the more uncomfortable. At one point, one of the contestants and her mother describe it being a little weird that a grandfather is bringing his “daughter.” This entire sequence is one of the most insanely riotous moments ever created by the good folks behind JACKASS.
As we get to know both Billy and Grandpa, there are a number of scenes of the two together in a car usually getting on each other’s nerves. This is the only time where the film sometimes doesn’t live up to its potential. The two actors work extremely well together, yet these bits of dialogue lack genuine heart and occasionally feel like filler. We get early on that Gramps is a jerk of an old man who begins to really truly love his grandkid so there is nothing all that surprising or impactful here. In fact, the moments when they are not annoying each other and suddenly become a “team” of sorts, it worked far better. Even still, what we really want to see is a series of outrageous antics that will have us laughing in the aisles and thankfully there is enough of that.
This year there have been a handful of really terrific comedies including THE WORLD’S END as well as THIS IS THE END. And while BAD GRANDPA may not be my favorite of the three I have to say if you are in the mood to just laugh, this is simply the funniest movie of the year. Knoxville is of course terrific as Zisman – a character he has taken on a number of times in the past – but it is young Jackson Nicoll’s fearless performance that really steals the show. It is also exciting to see Knoxville and company expand the idea behind JACKASS and create a story that mostly works. In the end, Irving Zisman and Billy make for a uniquely entertaining modern day “Odd Couple” with tons of the trashy stuff that JACKASS fans have come to expect.