I’m never not excited when a new Jackass movie comes out. It’s gross, sophomoric humor cries out to my childhood and has me not taking movies too seriously. So I was highly anticipating a new concept in the franchise with the de facto leader Johnny Knoxville in makeup going cross country with a child. With that new direction, it has legs I was surprised it had. The old man gag was one of my favorite running jokes in the Jackass films and I’m glad this was chosen for a new movie. They’ve really gone as far as they could with Jackass going on three films, not including the unedited footage. It just wouldn’t be right with the untimely death of Ryan Dunn. If one is a fan of Jackass, crude, gross and offensive humor, and practical jokes on an unsuspecting public you can go no wrong here. Bad Grandpa is one of the funniest and ballsiest (no pun intended) comedies I’ve seen in ages.
A movie of this magnitude and notoriety that relies on a very small cast would need actors perfectly picked for their roles. Choosing anyone besides Johnny Knoxville as the titular Grandpa would be tantamount to utter stupidity. He never tires to go all out and push the boundaries of good taste. His great improvisational skills and comedic timing against an unsuspecting public always impress. But allowing oneself to be in disguise and completely envelop a character unbeknownst to the public is like any role he has ever done. He makes the character Irving Zisman more alive than anyone else ever could have. The character is so utterly ridiculous; it’s even more shocking to see him interact with regular people like it’s no big deal. It would not have been as funny if it was a middle aged man. Humor like this wouldn’t translate as well. The extreme age gives it a hilarious new dimension.
Of course the movie would fall apart if it didn’t have the perfect sidekick to go off on. Jackson Nicoll as the grandson Billy could not have been more perfect. The mixture of old and young make the perfect comedic combination, offering situations that no one would ever see from that age group. The confidence, acting ability and willingness to go all out at such a young age was mesmerizing. He being only nine years old is befuddling to say the least. Who in their right mind would think a nine year old kid would effectively fool a mass of people? I wouldn’t think to see the Jackass crew work with children in this capacity on such a huge project like this for a litany of reasons. But mainly because I couldn’t see a kid hang with the crew like one of their own.
But he holds his own unlike any kid I’ve ever seen. He wears the Jackass name like a badge of honor, making it his own. The story is one note, formulaic, and has been done before. Sacha Baron Cohen has done the gag-the-public-while-on-a-road-trip scenario to varying success. More standard movies have also followed this formula. But none of that hinders the story or makes you enjoy it less. Family members unwillingly taking a young child cross-country, and having a deep reflection of their feelings is standard movie fare. But it surprises you with how much heart is instilled. By the end you can’t help but smile and feel good.
If one has been living under a rock for over a decade, you know Jackass is crude, disgusting, offensive and basically stupid. The gags and skits were all of these and more as I was continuously laughing from beginning to end. There wasn’t one segment where I wasn’t laughing my ass off or in tears. Obviously the jokes, gags, and skits would be different than the ones shown in the three films and TV series. Those were all over the place and basic insanity with no rules or structure. When you’re in a set format, you have rules to follow and can’t go back to what people know or have seen before. It’s hard to pick a favorite one from the bunch as I loved them all. The funeral, shopping and beauty pageant were all excellent. Nut shots, fart jokes, penis jokes and shit humor are aplenty but as with all things Jackass, they are never overdone to take away the story. I was kind of surprised to see so many young kids at the theatre, but I remembered that I was watching Jackass as well as R rated movies at a young age also. A lot of the jokes will go over their heads but the gross out humor will more than subdue them.
Knoxville and Nicoll have amazing chemistry together, providing the most endearing duo in a long while. It’s a combo that would not have worked with anyone else and a miracle that a kid would have the fortitude to simply breeze through a Jackass movie. The direction from Jeff Tremaine flowed naturally. There wasn’t a part in the movie that felt slowed down or useless. Everything worked to show their purpose effortlessly. One of the best strengths of Jackass is that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It knows exactly when to bow out and never causes you to look at your watch. By the time it’s over, you wish it was longer but it simply could not have gone on any longer. 90 minutes is more than enough time to pack in all the gross antics.
Beginning to end Bad Grandpa shocks, disgusts, and causes one to burst out in riotous tears. Lowbrow in the highest order, it doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not. It unapologetically goes to the beat of its own drum. It’s not often you see comic anarchists like this in the mainstream and of this high quality. I will always enjoy movies like this as it makes me not take movies too seriously. I know what I’m getting into and I want to be entertained by any means necessary. Bad Grandpa fulfils that request and punches it in the balls. Even though the characters are insulting, gross and offensive, you can’t help but like them and want to hang out with them. Anyone that ridicules and rightfully lampoons the gross abuse of child pageants is a world renowned hero in my book. Five jimmy taps out of five.