“Bad Grandpa” Movie Review

     It’s been exactly 10 years since the guys behind the “Jackass” films made their way from television to the big screen and with each successive film, they add to the already impressive total of $350 million in worldwide grosses.  It makes all the sense in the world to continue on with the series, but perhaps a new approach was in order.  After all, they’ve already used every possible gross out gag and stunt several times over, why not  rethink things a little?  With “Bad Grandpa”, Johnny Knoxville and company elected to do so, sort of, with the re-introduction of his often used Irving Zisman character injected into a “Borat” style narrative, which is part scripted, part set up with the people in the background not knowing a movie is being filmed.  In other words, to them, Zisman is a real person and they watch and react to the many crazy things he does and says.  To often; however, it’s the reactions of the innocent  that create the film’s laughs, rather than the actions of Zisman or the set ups by the filmmakers.

     If you’re a fan of the first three films and actually find this brand of humor funny, you may be a bit disappointed.  Compared to some of the stunts they’ve done in the past, the goings on in “Bad Grandpa” are for the most part tame and aside from a couple notable sequences, the film seems to move along at the pace Zisman does in one scene when his grandson is laboring to push him along in a shopping cart.  For a film like this to succeed in the comic realm, the actor playing the primary character must be a master of improvisation, consistently demonstrating the ability to come up with rapid fire dialogue timed at just the right moments.  Sacha Baron Coen possesses this skill and did so with undeniably hilarious execution while playing his “Borat” character in situations very similar to what Knoxville is doing here.  Knoxville and his longtime collaborator, director Jeff Tremaine, do a fine job putting Zisman into situations with comic potential, but Knoxville fails to deliver anything witty in response to the verbal reactions of the unsuspecting.

    Fortunately, Knoxville gets a great performance from his sidekick, Billy, who is played by Jackson Nicoll.  Not only is Nicoll a terrific piece of casting, but he possesses the ability to keep a straight face long enough to bring both the unknowing people in the film and the audience to a heightened level of uncomfortable feelings.  In one scene where he is alone on the streets looking for his Grandpa, he goes up to random strangers and asks them if they could be his dad.  A couple of these guys bite and Nicoll continues to reel them in further, nearly convincing them he’s serious and intends on going home with them.  Before anyone would pay to see a film like this, I would think they have already viewed the film’s trailer, which in large part, contains scenes from Nicoll’s performance posing as a little girl in a beauty pageant.  The fact he was able to fool those in attendance speaks volumes for his skills as a comic actor.

     So does the Irving Zisman character, Knoxville in makeup that makes appear to be 86 years old, deserve an entire film?  I think they likely ran out of ideas halfway through since 45 minutes in the focus shifts toward Billy and his custody situation rather than continuing to feature Zisman and his antics.  Knoxville’s character was really funny in smaller quantities during the “Jackass” films, but a 90 minute feature seems to wear out it’s welcome a lot quicker than they probably had hoped.  Curiously, none of the “Jackass” regulars make cameo appearances in the film, something that likely would’ve livened up the proceedings in parts where it was sorely needed.  I found myself laughing two maybe three times, but then realized I was caught in a film that was part rehash, part scenes I had already seen and laughed at in the trailer months before.  This compared to the combination of belly laughter and dry heaving caused by the other “Jackass” films and I determined “Bad Grandpa” simply doesn’t measure up. GRADE: C-