Though Sacha Baron Cohen may have, as of late, taken over the shtick of playing pranks on innocent people, no one does it better than the Jackass crew.
Review (with Spoilers)
It has been years since we last saw a movie from the Jackass crew, and during those years a lot of acts have picked up the slack, but no one beats the Jackass Crew. However, it should be noted we only get Johnny Knoxville in Bad Grandpa, but considering he was one of the funniest amongst them all, it really isn’t something to complain about.
Characters & Story
Thus leads to us talking about the story & characters. The Bad Grandpa is an 86-year-old man named Irving (played by Johnny Knoxville), a recent widow who has a drug addict daughter and now is asked, as his daughter is due to go to prison, to take his grandson to his dad’s in Raleigh, North Carolina. Naturally, though, there is a lot of hijinx on the way there. Between stealing, strip clubs, and just messing with random people on the street, both Irving and Billy (played by Jackson Nicoll) find a way to combine the innocence of a child and the actions we’d never expect from the elderly to create a movie which stands amongst Bad Santa in terms of excellent kid performances in adult situations movies.
Though I was never a huge fan of Jackass on TV, I always found myself getting dragged to their movies and laughing, and this one was no different. Though I only counted a little over 20 times, I pretty much chuckled throughout. And despite this being a movie with a very loose storyline, it surprisingly worked and had just enough heart in it to make you forget, if for a moment, that Knoxville and Nicoll weren’t just two practical jokers. In fact, I’d even say at times, you’d think Knoxville was trying to make Irving more than an old perv, but give him some layers. Make him someone who felt something for his grandson; was lonely; and despite how he acted about his wife, truly loved her regardless of how much they bickered. And this isn’t to say Nicoll didn’t also put some effort into his performance, but in a way he seemed like he was parodying other child actors in movies, like Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine, amongst other notable roles. I will say, though, he is one funny kid and though I do think some situations he wasn’t informed on what was going on, for the ones in which he had a script to go by, he was definitely doing his best to keep up with Knoxville.
But perhaps something which is sort of a mix of praise and criticism, is that sometimes you aren’t sure whether a situation is fully staged or if truly Knoxville, and/or Nicoll, truly just walked into a/on a location and the reactions we see are genuine. The reason I say this is because the camera angles and the way the scenes are shot, seem just too good for most of the people we see to not be paid actors, or in on the situation. However, it really is hard to figure out, in films like these, what is staged and what is reality. I will say, though, this is the type of film which does exploit a culture a bit. One being southern culture, and the other being Black people. Now, the southern culture bit is played on, though not too heavily, but when it comes to the Black people in the movie, a good portion of the laughs come from them reacting to Nicoll and Knoxville and while I don’t see it as a major issue, it could give some pause.
Overall: Rental/ VOD
Though it does take a certain type of maturity to enjoy Jackass films, there is a reason why they have been around for over a decade and can still make hits. For while Bad Grandpa isn’t as over the top as previous movies, I will say that it seems they are beginning to refine their pranks and are actually trying to put a story to them. Hence why I think it is worth renting or seeing on VOD. Even though it is weird to associate maturity with Jackass but, to me, it does seem as the men get older they are maturing and refining their movies so it isn’t a bunch of random pranks, but pranks which can have an actual story associated with them. Making it so that perhaps, in the future, we may see the rest of the crew continue their stunt pranks, but perhaps with increasingly better narratives making for a film which really does blur the lines between reality and acting.