Johnny Knoxville takes his Jackass show on the road
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Starring Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll
Directed by Jeff Tremaine
R, 92 min.
Released Oct. 25, 2013
After its debut in 2000 on MTV as a half-hour series of candid-camera pranks, rude ’n’ crude practical jokes and outrageous, knuckleheaded, often dangerous stunts, Jackass became a pop-cultural rocket ride for head hoax-master Johnny Knoxville and his motley crew of cutups, spawning several TV spin-offs and three movies.
Now Knoxville is back in a fourth, reprising a character that will be familiar to fans who made his franchise first a cult hit and then a much broader commercial franchise.
In Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, transformed by facial prosthetics, layers of makeup, grey hair and pastel polyester pants, Knoxville, 42, plays a randy octogenarian on a cross-country road trip with his grandson. The “grandpa” character had made appearances in skits and stunts in his previous movies and on the TV series.
This movie, however, expands the typical Jackass format of disconnected kamikaze skits by concocting a plot throughout which Knoxville’s “Irving Zisman” and his young charge, Billy (9-year-old Jackson Nicoll, terrific) spring a variety of hidden-cam pranks on unsuspecting people—just like in the previous movies and TV show. (Knoxville, one of the screenplay’s six writers, reassembled his Jackass team of director Jeff Tremaine and producer Spike Jonze for this project.)
Just how funny—or not—you find it all will depend on how far Jackass antics of yesteryear tended to move the needle on your personal laugh-o-meter. If you guffawed before at the Jackass-ery of people being surprised, shocked or angered by being prodded beyond their comfort zones, you’ll probably guffaw again at these shenanigans in a funeral home, doctor’s office, convenience store, bingo hall, restaurant, biker bar, wedding reception and all-male strip club, where Knoxville’s character lets it all hang out in his tighty whities (which aren’t quite tight enough, as it turns out); and as Irving and Billy bring a bumping, grinding grand finale to a kiddie beauty pageant.
Be warned: Knoxville has a thing for body parts, and body functions, that you’ll never, ever, see on America’s Funniest Home Videos.
So, on the other hand, if you don’t think there’s anything funny about a 87-year-old man who appears to get, ahem, a delicate part of his anatomy stuck in a soda vending machine, and the reactions of the people around him when he asks for their help in extracting himself—well, maybe this isn’t your kind of flick.
When Jackass launched on TV, its format was a brash, gonzo, in-your-face update on Candid Camera, the 1960 series that pioneered the idea of putting ordinary people in outlandish situations, then showing how they reacted. Now, more than a decade later, the idea not’s so brash or so gonzo, especially since Sacha Baron Cohen and his Borat movies have taken the idea to such scatological, wrecking-ball extremes.
Knoxville’s a funny guy, willing to go a long, long way for a laugh, and this is a funny movie…sometimes. But the gags are hit and miss; the ones that fall flat seem to be weighed down by the contrivance of the plot, which makes everything feel overly forced, especially when you see how much fun the crew seems to be having in the behind-the-scenes outtakes during the credits.
Those three minutes of pull-back-the-curtain docu-giggles suggest Bad Grandpa would have been better if it had dropped the whole plot charade, invited the audience in on the joke from the beginning, and let good times roll.
Ah, yes, just like the good old-fashioned, hit-and-run Jackass days of yore.
—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine