Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is the fourth film in the Jackass series, and the first to adopt a single plotline as opposed to comprising of many sketches. The protagonist – Johnny Knoxville’s ‘Grandpa’ Irving Zisman – was a character frequenting previous Jackass films and television episodes, but this film showed me just how old a grandpa can become. Everyone who is familiar with Knoxville’s Irving will have only witnessed a few minutes of his screen time in previous Jackass work. In Bad Grandpa, concentrating solely on the story of the silly, selfish, sleazy grandpa causes the character to become stale. It’s just sleaze and sleaze and sleaze for a long time.
The film follows Irving as he goes on a road trip with his grandson Billy – and, of course, grandma in the trunk – to give the little guy over to his lousy white-trash father. Don’t save all your judgment for his dad, Billy’s jailbird mother and grandpa initially don’t care about Billy either. However, an unusual connection is soon formed as grandpa and grandson share an immaturity indifferent to age; this silly sense of humour serves to tickle the viewer and confuse/shock/horrify the naive public in this hidden camera set-up.
Although the pleasant enough story is filled with a good number of laugh-out-loud moments, there are unfulfilled connotations brought with the stupidity of the Jackass name. The result is a conflict between traditional, ridiculous, improvised Jackass humour and the contrived, dampened down version in Bad Grandpa. The series of funny events must fit together to form a coherent plot.
There were fart jokes aplenty but a serious lack of reckless stunts.
Simply put, Knoxville has taken on a grand task; the film embodies Knoxville’s desire to put his Jackass mind to a fully fleshed out narrative. Despite this maturation of form and plot, it was sometimes jarring against the retained childish attitude to humour. As a result it was still silly, but no longer stupid. There were fart jokes aplenty but a serious lack of reckless stunts.
The evident ageing of Irving and Knoxville (perhaps not all of those wrinkles were plastered on in make-up) makes Billy a welcomed piece of fresh meat, used to identify the potential age range of base humour. Jackson Nicoll, the child actor who plays Billy, does a fantastic job at not only bouncing off of Knoxville’s character, but also taking the lead at times and holding his own. One such example is his surprising entry into a beauty pageant.
Little Miss Sunshine did the same thing first, and better.
His performance in the talent section totally rips apart the vile superficiality of pageants, and is one example of how innocent people’s reactions are half the fun of the film. But, it has to be said: no matter how good Billy’s pageant talent scene is, or how many times grandpa and Billy drop grandma’s body, Little Miss Sunshine did the same thing first, and better.
Knoxville is admirable for trying to reach out of the constraints of the Jackass low-quality pit into a full-length narrative arc. Bad Grandpa is less gross, and vastly more appealing to a wider market than older Jackass television and film. Taken on its own, Bad Grandpa is likely to be an hilarious 90 minutes. However, the clips in the credits were happily reminiscent of old Jackass unscripted humour. The fourth film in the Jackass series merely lacks the astounding foolishness and disregard for health that makes the old gang so special, and especially idiotic.