Look, you know what you’re going to get out of Bad Grandpa. Going into it I anticipated plenty of poop, child neglect, and horny old man jokes. And that’s exactly what I got. If anything, Bad Grandpa is sort of commendable in the fact that it pretty much delivers exactly what you’d expect. No better or worse.
Bad Grandpa, if you are unfamiliar, is the latest Jackass movie, starring only Johnny Knoxville in old man makeup and a little chubby boy who plays his grandson. Most of the rest of the cast is made of normal people who aren’t in on the joke. IT COULD HAVE BEEN YOU OR ME!!! Anyway, unlike the other Jackass movies, which were just a series of random pranks/stunts for 90 minutes, Bad Grandpa was a series of loosely tied together pranks/stunts for 90 minutes. It actually has a continuous story to it. And by golly, to my surprise, it even tried to be borderline heartwarming at times.
If you wanted to extract even a tiny nugget of intellectual value out of this movie, it’s that it is actually a pretty rewarding social experiment. It sees just how far people will go to live by the “respect your elders” credo. In one prank, Knoxville runs over a large promotional penguin with his car in front of a restaurant, and when the tough guy owner comes out to confront him, Knoxville refuses to fix it. He then goes as far as to openly mock the restaurant owner and insult him to his face. The owner wants to beat the living crap out of the old man, but doesn’t, because he’s an old man. Had it been young Johnny doing the same routine, he would have left with a pummeled face. A lot of the bits are like this, putting Knoxville in a scenario that would have yielded much different results had he been a different age. I guess that’s the point of the movie; seeing how much an old guy can get away with without getting beat up, or in trouble.
Not all of the jokes worked out as well as they would have liked. There was an elaborate set up of a biker gang that they probably wish got a lot more intense, even if it was the only time in the film when I legitimately got scared for an actor’s safety. It was too integral to the “plot” to cut out, so we are forced to watch basically the entire thing. Other quick bites, like the flashback of Johnny Knoxville pulling a large fish out of the water that had a dildo attached to it, were so painfully stupid that they kind of got a pity chuckle out of me.
But the biggest problem, comically, with the film is that most of the bits are cut short. Right when they start to get really juicy, they find a way to avoid having it go on any longer. It felt like every joke in this film was far too controlled to hit its full comedic potential. And the fact that they showed reaction shots from all of the victims during the credits being told “HA! YOU’RE ON SCARE TACTICS (Oops, I mean, JACKASS)” just proves the point that no one in this film was really pushed too hard. To me, one of the funniest elements of these Jackass (or Borat) type prank movies/shows is the assumption that the people who become the butt of the jokes go home and think that they saw something genuinely crazy that day. I like thinking about the psychological trauma that Johnny Knoxville is inflicting on people. Trauma that perhaps goes unanswered for the rest of these people’s lives. “Oh Merle, you won’t *believe* what I saw at the diner this morning…” or “Did I ever tell you about the time that I saw an old man knock over his wife’s coffin? It was crazy!” But when all the jokes get cut short and it’s revealed that they were relieved of the tension of the joke probably two minutes after it happens, it just sort of takes the balls out of the material. I say that figuratively, of course, because there’s still plenty of literal balls in the material.
That being said, this movie still got pretty consistent chuckles out of me. I may even have let out a couple of hearty laughs. The child beauty pageant bit was hilarious. Taking this movie in at its low-brow face value, it’s full of lots of funny stuff. As much as it feels like this whole thing could have existed in the bleak, dumbed-down future of Idiocracy, Bad Grandpa is still a welcome comedic addition to have in theaters. I mean, as long as *every* movie that comes out isn’t about a guy in old man makeup with testicles hanging out of his underwear crashing his car into things, then I think, as a society, we’ll be just fine with having this one movie do it. And another thing that goes without saying: a Jackass project that doesn’t feature even one second of Bam Margera should instantly be considered a success.
7 out of 10