Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Crude and Sexual Content throughout, Language, some Graphic Nudity and brief Drug Use
Directed by: Jeff Tremaine
Written by: Spike Jonze, Johnny Knoxville & Jeff Tremaine
Starring: Johnny Knoxville & Jackson Nicoll
BAD GRANDPA really comes down to Johnny Knoxville doing a Sacha Baron Cohen routine. By that description alone, you pretty much know if this is in your taste or not. Taken as a whole, the movie isn’t nearly as hilarious and downright nasty as BORAT or BRUNO. It’s not supposed to be though. This was brought about from a hit TV series on MTV after all. In this sense, you can tell the difference. BAD GRANDPA is juvenile in its sense of humor and aims for the low-brow crowd.
The loose excuse for a plot follows Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville in prosthetic make-up as a 86-year-old man) as he treks across the country to deliver his grandson, Billy, to his deadbeat dad. This narrative is nearly non-existent and real footage of pranks perpetrated by Irving and Billy are inserted throughout (including as flashbacks and memories in the plot). In a movie like this though, one doesn’t expect to receive a real plot or even smart set ups. This is a compilation of potty humor and sex jokes that accomplishes what it set out to do. It makes you laugh and that’s about it.
For a movie that was primarily filmed through hidden cameras, BAD GRANDPA looks surprisingly professional. The real captured reactions are priceless, especially in the more obscene moments. My personal favorites involved an argument at a funeral home, Irving visiting a strip club, and a bit at a beauty pageant that comes in the climax. Some of the scenarios also seem like the prank being executed was meant to be with those exact people and at that precise moment. I’m sure some exquisite planning went into one scene set in a bar full of bikers. The real reactions amplify the laughs to be had in every prank or stunt performed.
While there are more hits than misses, some of the jokes aren’t funny. One moment in particular seemed out-of-place and like Knoxville & co. thought it was far more hilarious than it actually was. The real downfall of BAD GRANDPA is when the film tries to be sappy and heartfelt. I understand that it was driving forward some of the skits, but these bits felt like they were aiming for an emotion that was unearned. Knoxville gleefully executes some pretty damn funny things as the “old asshole” (as he describes himself in the credits). One usually worries about child actors, but Jackson Nicoll is phenomenal as Billy. He does a great job and gets some huge laughs from his dedication to the pranks being had.
There’s not a whole lot else that one can really say about BAD GRANDPA. It’s funny and enjoyable while it lasts. Don’t expect any real staying power or a strong narrative, because that’s not the kind of movie that it is to begin with. This is a bunch of guys just screwing around, having fun, and recording the hysterical reactions from average people who have no idea what’s going on. If that sounds like it’s up your alley, by all means, give BAD GRANDPA a look. Be sure to stay through the credits too as there are some more goodies.