Twitter Plot Summary: Jonny Knoxville’s Bad Grandpa goes across country to play pranks on an unsuspecting public. There’s a plot in there somewhere.
Director: Jeff Tremaine
Key Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll, Zia Harris, Georgina Cates, Spike Jonze, Catherine Keener
Five Point Summary:
1. Establishing the story within the first 5 minutes… and that’s it.
2. That scene from the trailer where he flies through the window.
3. Gross-out humour.
4. More gross-out humour.
5. It might have been in the trailer, but the beauty pageant is still moderately amusing.
The Jackass TV series and subsequent movies spoke to the modern MTV audience, so naturally there are certain preconceptions one might have before you even consider walking into this film. Rest assured, those preconceptions are right on the money. It’s another Jackass film albeit with 50% less pranks and 50% more pointless story. The story, as it goes, sees Knoxville’s Bad Grandpa character Irvin Zisman left in charge of his 9 year old grandson Billy, literally moments after Zisman has found out that his wife has died. He decides that the best option is to take Billy back to his father who lives a few states away and so a road trip movie takes hold. As the journey progresses Zisman starts to appreciate having his grandson around, in particular as it seems to help his efforts with the ladies.
Whilst this story plays out, it’s just an excuse to play pranks on real people and try and string it all together into a narrative akin to Little Miss Sunshine. If you’ve seen the trailer then you’ve seen all but a couple of the worthwhile pranks. The ones not in the trailer are the gross-out ones that would only show up in a red band trailer, and to be fair if they had included them there would be nothing about this movie to recommend, they’re best left for you to experience yourself. Even with this in mind, the American sense of gross-out humour lacks a certain something in my eyes, that something which defines the likes of Guest House Paradiso and, before that, Bottom. It’s funny and crude, sure, but they’re not jokes that will stand the tests of time, nor do I think they will retain their humour. At least the people involved in the film were self-effacing enough to allow their segments to appear in the film – I can imagine that there is a lot of material that didn’t get past the lawyers and contract people.
I applaud them for having a go a trying to combine a story with stunts, but narratively it’s paper thin, in particular in the final third of the story where the narrative possibilities dry up and they’re basically stalling for time to hit feature length. It needs a bit more substance in this respect in order to be a worthwhile venture. I’d go so far as to say that they try (and fail) to replicate the success of Borat, however that worked because it played on American (specifically small town American) fears and misunderstanding of foreigners. I’ll admit that I did laugh from start to finish, but that’s more to do with my childish sense of humour than anything else. Just because I laughed doesn’t mean it’s a good film, it’s merely passable. But if you’re a fan of Jackass and the three films the team have previously made then there is plenty to recommend. For the other 95% of the audience who don’t appreciate toilet humour then you’ll have no interest in this.
Favourite scene: The beauty pageant. 90% of it might be in the trailer, but it was still amusing.
Quote: “What’s your stripper stage name? I’ll just call you Cinnamon.”
Silly Moment: The ladies night.