Jackass never had a lot of recurring sketches, so (outside of a Chris Pontius “Party Boy” movie) the franchise, which started as a TV show on MTV in 2000, could have ended with the passing of Ryan Dunn. Enter Irving Zisman, Johnny Knoxville‘s old man character. Partnered with a small child, the new Jackass film Bad Grandpa could be offensive without being intensely physical (Knoxville is 42 at this point), while still carry on in the spirit of the show. The results? As to be expected.
- Director: Jeff Tremaine
- Screenwriter: Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine
- Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll
- Cinematography by: Lance Bangs, Dimitry Elyashkevich
Irving Zisman (Knoxville) is recently widowed, and wants to sow his wild oats when he finds out his daughter is in the midst of legal troubles and is about to go to jail. Irving doesn’t want to take care of his grandson Billy (Nicoll), so he arranges for the father to take the boy. But getting Billy to his father requires a road trip, which gives the two just enough time to get into hijinks and bond.
- Have you seen Jackass?: If you’ve seen the movies or the show (or all of it, possibly repeatedly), then seeing Knoxville get thrown through a window or go into a strip club with male strippers is what you expect/come for, but for those with no experience with the show or movie… well, the magic is going to happen right in your face (though it’s not in 3D). The film is crude, and features male nudity and scatological humor, and both old and young people saying deeply inappropriate things. If you find that/Knoxville funny, you will laugh your ass off.
- What’s the secret to great Comedy?: Timing. And as crude as the jokes may be, the makers show they know how to stage a gag. Often these films are about the shock and surprise elements (comedy and horror have a lot in common), but here there’s definitely a craft to how this stuff is put together. It helps to have talents like Knoxville, but it’s Nicoll who impresses the most as the young Billy. You keep looking at his ears to see if someone’s feeding him dialogue, if he remembered what he was told and says it well, or if he’s just a hell of an improvisor.
- Quotable: Irving Zisman is a fount of crude and terrible dialogue, most of which will probably become repeated ad nauseam. This isn’t Borat-level bad (maybe because there’s no accent), but some quotes could easily saturate pop culture.
- Transgressive: This is one of those elements that either works for you or doesn’t, but as the trailer shows, one of the jokes is on beauty pageants and involves Nicoll dressing up like a girl and doing a full strip routine while Irving makes it rain. Is this offensive? Well, yeah. But…
- So, it’s a movie: Jackass as a television show and as a movie benefited greatly from not having a narrative. That’s not to say it didn’t have structure, but the makers just didn’t have to follow anything for too long. Knowing Knoxville and seeing his eyes, which sometimes telegraph that he’s in on the joke, make it a little difficult to settle into the rhythms of the film because you’re used to them explaining/acknowledging the set-up. The film is kept tight, and the narrative of Irving and Billy becoming close is done in short, swift strokes (and usually is shown through inappropriate ways), but it takes a while to settle in to the fact they’re going to play it straight until the credits.
If you’re a fan, you might miss seeing some of Knoxville’s regular cohorts, but Bad Grandpa delivers everything you could possibly want out of a film like this. Saying that downplays the craft, of which there is a lot on display, but it’s the craft of delivering a great fart joke. That said? Farts are funny.
Bad Grandpa opens October 25.