Release Date: October 25, 2013
Director: Jeff Tremaine
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 7.5/10
Ever have an OMG moment where you simply can’t believe something crazy just happened? A woman falls into a mall water fountain while talking on the phone. Someone gets out of their car and forgets to put the parking brake on. A celebrity stands in the middle of an intersection shouting at the top of the lungs while wearing nothing but their boxer shorts. Some events just seem so outlandish that a knee-jerk reaction may be to look for the camera. The creative team behind the Jackass franchise return with a little film called Bad Grandpa. In this blend of Jackass and Candid Camera unsuspecting onlookers are the stars but there is actually more to this film then the skits alone.
80 year old Irving Zisman, who has been recently widowed, is entrusted by his daughter to take his grandson Billy to meet his father. During their multi-state road trip Billy and Irving get into one humorous situation after another. As their journey continues, and antics grow crazier, a touching bond between grandfather and grandson begins to develop.
After all the abuse Johnny Knoxville has put up with over the years it’s amazing to see he and the team have found another avenue to exploit their given talents. The Jackass trilogy earned its laughs from the outlandish antics and abuse that the boys put themselves through. As cringe worthy as many stunts were laughter was found in the misfortune of others. In Bad Grandpa it’s all about the reactions of real people in real situations, albeit staged ones. The stunts don’t need to be as extreme and there really aren’t as many extreme ones as most would expect. Most of the bits are about physical and situational comedy. In many cases you couldn’t have asked for a better reaction to Irving and Billy’s antics. Many individual’s reactions were rather surprising and unexpected, some apparently catching Knoxville off guard but his great comic timing made it funnier. If you have seen the theatrical trailer for this film rest easy knowing that the funniest bits were not revealed.
The story that holds it all together is a decent tale that is actually sweet and touching from time to time. It works thanks to the chemistry between Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll, who plays Billy. There’s even a moment in the film where Nicoll says something and Tremaine captured Knoxville, not Irving, cracking up and made it part of the film. If you took out the comedic situations this would be a very light family film but no one wants to see that. Written by the Jackass team and a pair of writers from Mad TV, they have pieced together what could be a new direction for the franchise. A story can be written and then the bits are dropped in. Fortunately all the bits in this film felt natural, at least in terms of the story’s trajectory, and weren’t overdone.
While not as funny as the films that came before it there are a number of laugh-out-loud moments. It does start out slow with a wide range of humorous bits but as it moves long the bits grow funnier and funnier. Thanks to the performances of the leads you don’t lose interest while between the comedy bits. If the old formula is done it looks like the new direction the franchise is taking has given it a boost.