“…seeing an old man speak what’s on his mind in a politically incorrect way is soaring…”
The third Jackass installment, released in 2010, was a strong film to potentially conclude the MTV film/Television saga that has now spanned thirteen years. The show, to my surprise, only last about a year, before ending in 2001 to pursue a life lived through theatrical films. Three films, several TV specials, and many direct-to-DVD releases later, we have the franchise’s first spinoff based off of the character that has been around since the first film. The character is Johnny Knoxville’s Irving Zisman, a shamelessly profane, unabashedly crude man in his eighties that lumbered around town either performing stunts or shoplifting items from grocery stores.
Knoxville, who reportedly spent several hours in the makeup chair to have a team of artists perfect the details of an elderly man (equipped with sagging genitals), now has a film counterpart entitled Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa to go along with that character. Out of all the possibilities for a Jackass spinoff, this is one of the best ideas to expand on. The skits with Zisman always clocked in as some of the top pranks of the film, and the relatable qualities of seeing an old man speak what’s on his mind in a politically incorrect way is soaring considering we all likely have a similar elder.
Contrary to what you’d assume, Bad Grandpa has a storyline with some actual melodrama, which makes it worthier to analyze like a film than a compilation of skits and pranks. The story concerns Zisman, who is taxing his grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) from Lincoln, Nebraska to Raleigh, North Carolina to live with his deadbeat father since his mother was sentenced back to prison on drug charges. Zisman couldn’t care less about the boy at first. He feels he cramps his style, especially when he’s hitting on random old ladies and guzzling down a twelve pack of beer in broad daylight. Then he sees just what an upfront menace the little deviant can be, and the two make the most of their cross-country road trip by pulling pranks on the public. Zisman’s wife has also just passed away, and he and Billy are hauling her corpse in the trunk to give her the burial she always wanted.
There are two angles in Bad Grandpa, one is the perfunctory storyline that is shot professionally and clearly scripted. The second is the hidden camera sequences, which are easily detected because of the camera’s abrupt placement and present blurriness in the videography. The hidden camera stuff is best left unspoiled. I will forewarn you that you haven’t witnessed all the humor and sight-gags the film has to offer in the trailer. This is one of the few comedies that houses most of its funniest bits in the film and refuses to reveal them in trailer.
Knoxville works very well as a foul-mouthed grandfather. He is a fearless performer, willing to do everything from have an obscure vending machine mishap to causing complete chaos at a night club. He has found his prodigy in Jackson Nicoll, both of whom co-starred in the forgotten 2012 film Fun Size. Knoxville took an immediate liking to Nicoll because he would always follow him around and physically assault him in some way. “This kid is a piece of work. He must be sent from heaven,” Knoxville commented on the boy and his gift of violence.
If you haven’t been a fan of Jackass, Bad Grandpa certainly won’t make you one. However, you may like it more seeing as it takes a more polished direction than its predecessors. It combines the hilarious hidden-camera, public humiliation qualities of Borat and the vulgar man and the innocent child chemistry of Bad Santa. If you combine the funniest things of two very funny movies, you, in turn, get A grade comedy that is confident and instantly clicks.
Review by Steve Pulaski, Lead Film Critic
Visit, and “like” us on Facebook