★ Bad Grandpa is one of those movies that's so devoid of any shred of human decency, you feel like you need to cleanse yourself afterwards. My way of doing so is to write this review and hope that someone out there will avoid this film and instead watch a different one. Any movie will do, because the chances of finding something more reprehensible than this one are slim.
I'm not a big fan of the "hidden camera capturing bystanders reactions to crazy behavior" films. (You'll notice I didn't call them "innocent" bystanders...but I'll get to that later). But if crazy stunts and crowd reactions were all this movie tried to be, it still wouldn't be a good film. The gags are crude, uninspired and unfunny. Right off the bat, Bad Grandpa (Johnny Knoxville) gets his genitalia stuck in a vending machine. People pass by and stare. Few try to help him. How and why has he gotten himself into this predicament? It doesn't matter. We're supposed to be laughing at the crowd's reactions and how shocked they are at such bad behavior.
But the gags aren't all that going on here. There's a "plot" that involves a young boy named Billy who goes on a road trip with his Bad Grandpa and learns how to be a Bad Grandson. I felt bad for the kid. Not the character, mind you, but the child actor. Someone should have stood in the way of his involvement with this picture.
When Billy and Bad Grandpa are talking, you wonder if the kid really understands this is all meant to be a lark. There are some times when his face really makes you question that. In fact there are times where he looks confused, bordering on being traumatized. If he's acting in those scenes, he's the best actor in the film.
At one point, Billy asks, "Are we going to get in trouble for this?" And later he tells Grandpa to, "Watch your mouth." It's sad that the child finds himself in the position of being the most mature one in the room.
There's nothing redeeming about the story. No one learns a lesson, and the road trip these two take only serves to move us from one stunt to the next. I would have rather seen how they set up the gags and the aftermath of the stunts, rather than following the story of these two "characters."
I went into Bad Grandpa ready to have a good time. It was my friend's birthday, we had a few beers and were ready for a laugh. After the vending machine scene, my friend leaned over and said, "He's not called good grandpa!" But as the movie went on and people around us got up and walked out of the theater, I began to wonder. Is the movie trying to say something about the fact that our society is becoming more accepting of rude and dangerous behavior? Many passersby in the film attempt to distance themselves from these quickly escalating uncomfortable situations, and those that don't are quick to laugh off the bad behavior simply because Grandpa is "old," as if that makes it okay. But the fact that he's endangering a young boy in the process should have had at least one person calling the police.
There's a scene where Bad Grandpa attempts to mail Billy at the post office in a giant box. And sadly, there's a moment when it looks like the postal workers might actually let it happen. Instead, they let Bad Grandpa leave the building instead of reporting child abuse to the nearest authority. It's a "look the other way" attitude that is severely unhealthy, and if this movie is any indication, is rampant in our society.
If Bad Grandpa was trying to say anything about that I'd be happy to give it more credit, because that's a societal problem we see constantly throughout the picture. But the film isn't smart enough to make such statements. It's simply content spray poop on the walls of restaurants and then run out without paying the bill.
In a few of the scenes there are people who have their faces blurred. These are the people who were smart enough to not sign the agreement to be in the film and decided to distance themselves from this thing altogether. The number of faces that are happy to be in the movie shocks me. Especially given the way some of them react to what's happening.
I don't know what's sadder, that our society has devolved so much that a movie like this could be made, or that a movie like this was made and has grossed over $92 million. To be fair, ten of those dollars are mine.
In a moment that sounds more like Knoxville gloating than a line his character would say, Bad Grandpa says, "You can get away with most anything. All you gotta do is try." But when that involves ruining someone's wedding or drastically impacting a kid's childhood by involving him in lying, larceny, and risky behavior, just because you can do something, isn't reason enough. There are more noble pursuits out there. One of them is making a decent movie.